On the gaming front, Kickstarter has gained a lot of notoriety in a short amount of time. This is for good reason. Thanks to Kickstarter, Double Fine can scratch their adventure game itch and Shadowrun shall return. However, like any young, blossoming relationship, gaming and crowdfunding have to worry about getting past that ‘honeymoon’ period. If we’re not careful, the blissful early days of these funding, may not be around for long. While I’m no naysayer to the crowdfunding scene, I just want my beloved game industry to be careful. Things may not be as blissful as they seem.
Many of you may have already heard of the wonders that Kickstarter is doing in the game industry. For the uninitiated, Kickstarter, along with various other sites, is a website that is used a funding platform for various projects. From films, to books, to games, Kickstarter has created a way for many upstarts and projects to get the foundation they need. Specifically, it is providing many game developers with the funds they need to make their game. This is a wonderful time for the would-be developer to start making the game of their dreams, which I’ll discuss more later. However, we must remember that every cloud casts a shadow. For all the good that Kickstarter is doing, there are some pitfalls and obstacles that we may need to be wary of.
With the flood of projects, it’s easy to have a project never be seen. It’s a real possibility that I think should be pretty obvious from the get go. However, hearing all the success stories usually drowns out the sounds of countless failures. Not every project will succeed and be funded. I don’t mean to be a pessimist here, but it’s the reality and nature of crowdfunding. There just isn’t enough success to go around. If a project is noticed, it still has no guarantee that it will do well. Every project has an audience and sometimes, they will not be enough to push the project forward. We have to make sure to ask “Is this project too niche?”
I would like every project to succeed. I really would. However, there will be a day when a developer bites off more than they can chew. A lot of the recent success stories from Kickstarter are for successful funding. I have yet to learn what comes of the games that gain their funding, though. We may not be far off from the game that tried to do too much and just never comes to life. Everyone involved with the project would be upset, including the audience who paid out of pocket to see it. Even now, I see successfully funded projects that lose a major amount of funds in making sure they can give out all the prizes and rewards they promised. Funding is the first step and there’s still a lot of work to be done from there.
As funny as this is, there’s some truth to it.
Crowdfunding is a great way to have the little guy guy get his game made. What does this mean for the current industry big dog. While this situation is more of an extreme, if crowdfunding becomes the norm, we may see the death of the modern publisher. We may find ourselves in a world where every triple A title begins to ask for millions of dollars to be made. This wouldn’t be ideal, though. We already have so many games asking to be made and if more are added to the mix, it won’t fare well. We can’t fund every single project and, with publishers around, we don’t have to. The publisher enables plenty of other games to be made without relying on our money to get off the ground. There’s a reason that publishers exist and this is their most core purpose. Now, I know these all seem like minor concerns, but they need to be brought to light and addressed before things get out of hand. I think with some cautious ambition, crowdfunding could lead to many, many great things. In fact, let’s take a look at how it’s doing so already.
Crowdfunding provides a means to connect with an audience. A lot of the currently funded projects are mostly glorified pre-ordering systems. The people who fund a game already know about it. It’s a very effective word of mouth. Along with that, it also provides a definite number that a developer could present to a potential publisher if they would like some more help. Even if Kickstarter is just being used to provide a tech demo or proof of concept, hard numbers go a long way to showing interest in a game.
More Freedom and Control
When a game is funded by a publisher, there are many factors that need to be kept in mind. Is the game profitable? Is it too niche? Is too much of a risk? All of those questions go out the window once crowdfunding comes into play. If a developer wants to make their cooking/kart racing/space shooter/photosynthesis simulator, they have the freedom to do so. No longer is the developer chained by the requirements of their publisher. Without the milestones set in place by a publisher, one could take as long as they like to shape the game in the direction they would like. There have been plenty of horror stories of the big bad publisher swooping in and meddling with a game. Be it asking for changes, cutting funds, or even pulling a game altogether, a lot can go wrong when working with a publisher. A crowdfunded game doesn’t have to worry about that. The developers can work at their pace and make the game that they want. After it’s done, it’s still their game and they can work with it as they see fit, without feeling the need to make a sequel. They don’t even have to necessarily worry about making a profit. There may the day when we see games being made for the sake of the game again. There could be developers who just ask for the funding to make their games and want nothing else.
The Consumer’s Choice
This has now become themost powerful tool in the industry.
Most importantly, though, crowdfunding is allowing the consumer to truly vote with their wallet. We as gamers can choose to support the games we want to play. Now we don’t have to sit on our hands and hope that the game of our dreams happens to be made. We may be at the dawn of an age where gamers have entire libraries that they had a hand in bringing to life. As time goes on, we can hopefully work out the kinks in the system, allowing for crowdfunding without much worry of risk. It’s an exciting time for the gaming industry. I believe that as long we take it slow, the marriage of gaming and crowdfunding will provide only happy results.