We've had two successful Kickstarter projects now and much fanfare about potentially being able to revive classic PC gaming genres, or even titles, through crowd source financing. The first is Double Fine Adventure; a project that sees to reunite Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert to make a classic old school adventure game and saw the public donate just under $3.34 Million to get it off the ground. Meanwhile, immediately on the coattails of this Brian Fargo has successfully raised the minimum required to see to it his project will be funded to create Wasteland 2: a sequel to a classic apocalyptic RPG from the late 80's.
So, a few thoughts today:
a) Kickstarter makes financing these things possible, but it's digital distribution avenues like Steam that makes them practical. Without this advent, these companies would run into the simple reality of finding themselves with a product but hindered by a distribution model that requires them to get buyers to be willing to purchase it. Steam eliminates corporate buyers and lets you go straight to the consumer; a good thing when you consider that Kickstarter just ate Gamestop's Pre-Order money to finance making the game. We'll get back to that later reality in a minute.
b) While these projects have been successful, they're both backing either noted creators and/or existing IP fan bases. While smaller projects have been financed through the method, we're still waiting on the new IP/unknown creator lining up $1M+ to make something that "can't be done under the studio system".
c) I'm hoping the DFA Pitch Video doesn't become the template by which all others are created because the Wasteland one shows you where copying it can go wrong when Comedy isn't your strength. Also, one suspects you're only going to be able to go "Big Gaming Hates You!!!!" so many times before the audience is going to tune you out. I'd like to see some different videos that play to the strengths of their creators and focus more on selling their game than bitching about market realities.
d) The truly interesting question here is this: are we simply letting Pre-Order money flow to the creators instead of Gametop, and putting it way up front instead of after the game is in the home stretch (Duke Nukem Forever notwithstanding), or will there be substantial purchasing power that remains on the backend. I'd say the answer will likely turn out to be 50/50 and likely comes down to how well the games are received when they are released. Which makes for an appendix question: if the end product turns out to be "crap", what effect does this have on people's willingness to continue participating in this "front end finance a game" model in the future?
Those are questions we really want to be able to answer to determine the long term feasibility of this business model but really can't until products start to ship.