By now I’m sure you’ve heard of the ridiculous success story that is Doublefine’s Kickstarter campaign. If not here’s the short version: DoubleFine wanted to make a new point and click adventure game. Instead of finding a publisher and/or investment firm to back the game financially, they started a Kickstarter campaign asking fans to donate money to fund the project. They set a relatively high goal of $400,000. At the time of writing this, the project has raised over one million dollars. Wow.
There are several reasons DoubleFine wanted to do this through Kickstarter. Games cost money to make. Downloadable indie titles from Xbox Live or Playstation Network can cost in the millions of dollars to create. To quote DoubleFine on the subject:
“To finance the production, promotion, and distribution of these massive undertakings, companies like Double Fine have to rely on external sources like publishers, investment firms, or loans. And while they fulfill an important role in the process, their involvement also comes with significant strings attached that can pull the game in the wrong directions or even cancel its production altogether.”
This is a brilliant strategy. Having the project promoted by the fans gives the studio 100% control over the final product. They don’t have to worry about outside sources demanding changes be made to the game or having the studio cancel a project for one reason or another. This also gives the studio the ability to experiment with game design and allows the creative juices to flow, since they do not have someone looking over their shoulder making sure the game being made will sell. Bottom line: this method shelters the game from outside disturbances and allows the developer to create, promote and release the game on their own terms.
[This event today got me thinking: what if other game studios utilized Kickstarter campaigns their games?]
I think that using Kickstarter as part of a business model could work well for the industry. There are a few cases where it wouldn’t be applicable.Super-hyped “AAA titles” would not be financially backed by donations because they wouldn’t need it. They have publishers and producers who know what they want and how to get those games to sell. They probably wouldn’t be allowed to have fan-financed support because of the control it would take out of their hands.
Speaking of those games, there are so many boring, cookie-cutter, “safe” games that get released every year. Kickstarting projects would allow developers to get creative, take risks and produce games that are really fun without having to worry about sales figures. With DoubleFine’s example, they already have all the sales information right there. There are two situations I can think of where Kickstarter could have been used to aid in the creation and localization of Japanese games that we may never see.
For one reason or another, there were three role-playing games released on the Wii in Japan, Europe and Australia that were not going to be released in the US as well. The fans begged Nintendo to do a US release but they would not budge on it. Operation Rainfall is a fan campaign that is trying to convince Nintendo to release the games to the US market. While they have succeeded in getting Nintendo to release Xenoblade Chronicles, the remaining two games are still up in the air.
Now, if all of the people who signed the Operation Rainfall petitions buy Xenoblade Chronicles, this would send a positive message to Nintendo and the remaining two games might have an easier time being released. Lets be real though: the internet allows people to say one thing and do another. The people who signed the petition have no negative consequences of not buying it, despite them telling Nintendo how much they wanted it.
Nintendo could utilize Kickstarter in this situation. It would allow people to put their money where their mouth is. If people really want to see it, they could donate to the campaign and that way Nintendo could actually see how much legitimate interest there is in the game. Operation Rainfall members would be able to see how much genuine interest their group has and could give them great incentives for donating more than the cost of the game. Nintendo would see actual sales taking place before the game was even released, ensuring that they aren’t pouring tons of money into localizing the game only to have all of the petitioners flake out and not buy the game. It gives peace of mind to both parties.
Note: I know in this case that Nintendo isn’t the developer, so its not a perfect example, but hopefully you get the main points I am trying to make.
A lot of people were disappointed that this game was canceled. There was so much hype for it on the internet and it seemed like people were genuinely crushed when the cancellation was announced. I’m not 100% on why it was canceled, if a reason was ever actually given, but I believe a Kickstarter campaign could have saved this title.
If Capcom had utilized this business model, they could see just how much interest there was in the game. Setting a goal just to get the game released in a small quantity would ensure that Capcom makes money off the game and consumers get what they want. If the campaign went over the goal, it could show Capcom how much people really love the Megaman games and convince them to keep working on them.
I’m not saying Kickstarter is an absolute must when starting up a project. However, utilizing Kickstarter as a tool for video game development is something I don’t think should be ignored. It provides information and extra resources to game developers and allows consumers to support the games they want to see brought to life or released in their respective market.