By now most gamers have heard of Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other crowd-funding sites dotted around the web. For the unitiated they exist with one predominant brief – get stuff started – and allow anyone to set up a funding concept and ask the good people of the globe to get behind their idea. So far it’s led to dozens of successes, most famously Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Adventure pitch that both capture the imagination of gamers across the world AND almost single handedly brought crowd-funding into the mainstream, but this came at a price, a price that some would say was not worth the exposure. We now see established developers and designers using the site to get their established franchises/concepts off of the ground which some say may over shadow smaller, first-time developers who are fighting for exposure in an ever crowded market.
Regardless of this I genuinely feel that crowd-funding is more important a development within the game industry than social gaming, next-gen visuals and companion cubes put together. In short because it gives power to the consumer in a way that has not been seen since the bedroom coding days of early home computing.
See back then anyone with a computer, some coding skill and a lot of patience could make a game, and many did. These games could then be sold via the post, taking out adverts in magazines and shop windows to spread the word. Naturally many were simply ports/clones of other games – not because they were unoriginal , but down to the fact that it was easier to modify code than completely rewrite it. As a result of this freedom The Oliver Twins ended up making games with Codemasters and a legendary puzzler series was born. Dizzy – The Ultimate Cartoon Adventure launched in 1987 and was entirely made by just two people, Philip and Andrew Oliver. Planning the game out on the back of rolls of wallpaper it was a revelation to me when I played it. Fiendishly difficult but endlessly charming. Now a new update is promised if the Kickstarter total is reached, and I will be dipping my hand into my almost empty pockets to get behind the project. Now some would question why the founders of Blitz Games Studios the studio who recently worked on Epic Mickey 2 and the Puss in Boots video game would need external funding to make a game they wanted to make, but I think the answer is obvious. Dizzy is an old game. It has no real place in the pecking order of ‘current gen gaming’ when compared to the likes of Ratchet and Clank or Skylanders. Dizzy – as I’ve already stated – is a great game, but it isn’t commercially viable in terms of investment. Kickstarter gives the Oliver Twins two key pieces of information:
1) Do people actually want this game?
2) Will people put their money where their mouths are?
You see if you ask ANY retro gamer if they would like to see a new Miner Willy game from the original creator of the series and they will give a resounding ‘Yes’, but how many would actually go out and buy it? This is the issue. Desire and nostalgia have got a lot of games revamped and relaunched, but the process of getting the games to retail hasn’t always been profitable. Kickstarter offers a yard stick to gauge interest and to cover some costs early on. This gives the power back to the developer and the fan-base. Wouldn’t we all prefer to finance a Criterion game that isn’t overseen by EA executives? Wouldn’t we all like to see a crowd-funded AAA title romp home benefiting no one but the developers? Of course, and crowd-funding gives us this potential, whilst also giving new developers the chance to get their game made. As a direct result of Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Adventure pitch I have found dozens of promising looking titles that are begging for investment, and I see it as that. Investment.
Not in the company, or in the game.
An investment in a better future for gaming.
Every crowd-funded game tells the big publishers something about what we want to play, what we want to buy and what we love about gaming.
Every crowd-funded game puts us closer to a time when the term ‘voting with your wallet’ actually holds weight.
Gaming development was becoming stagnant, super-franchises were the only dead-cert profit making titles and we have seen studios sank by one or two under-performing titles, regardless of the development team’s skill or back catalogue. This is wrong, very wrong, and now these studios could feasibly reform and self-finance their own games again.
I love crowd-funding, despite the fact that it is relatively untested grounds, the potential it offers is too good to not get behind. Sure the Ooya might not set the world alight, but it was fully funded by crowd-funding and this shows that people were willing to pay into a new device. Oculus Rift performed as well, despite being a crazy 3D immersive helmet system. Dragons Den pits normal people against jaded business folk, but they aren’t the consumer, they care about profit and protecting their investment. As gamers we are being given the chance to invest in the future of gaming, not just in terms of end product but in terms of encouraging people to use crowd-funding to push their spark of inspiration through to the next stage. The name ‘Kickstarter’ is apt, it really can kick a development cycle into action. That initial funding is crucial and while EA and Activision are busy colouring in their old games for a new release our money can reward people for innovating.
Sure some projects will over shadow smaller ones in terms of press coverage, but that’s down to us to not just follow the herd. Get onto the sites, look at the projects and discover the philanthropic within.