So, yeah. That whole Double Fine on KickStarter thing is a runaway phenomenon. At the time of this writing, the project has topped $1.4 million in financial backers — having only asked for $400k from Double Fine’s fans. And now, the buzz all over the video game world is the single, inevitable question: What does this mean for the future of video games?
It’s mind-boggling when you think about it. Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Productions couldn’t get a single video game publisher to sign off on a new point-and-click adventure game, so he took the project to KickStarter and asked the fans to fund it. And fund it they have — more than tripling the project’s intended budget and topping $1M in pledges in just 24 hours. And this is only the beginning; the fundraising project will continue accepting donations until mid-March, so it’s possible that number could climb much, much higher.
So what does it mean?
Well, let’s temper our excitement for a moment. You can’t (yet) say that we now live in a world where big-name video game publishers are no longer necessary. Let’s not forget that had this been anyone but one of video gaming’s superstars (of which there are precious few), it’s unlikely the KickStarter project would have gotten this much attention. Indeed, there are plenty of unknown developers already trying to get their games funded on KickStarter — none of which can hope to touch the $1M+ donations that Double Fine has received. Another factor that makes this a unique situation is that Schafer (pictured above) is well known as one of the best adventure game makers in the business, and he’s merely asking for the funds to make another great adventure game. That’s something he hasn’t been able to do in a while, and the old-school gamers nostalgic for his point-and-click titles are of course all too eager to part with their money for a chance at a new adventure game from the master builder.
On the other hand, this situation does set a very important precedent. For the game studios out there with plenty of fans, this undeniably opens new doors. I’d say it’s only a matter of time (probably a very short amount of time) before we see other boutique developers bypassing publishers altogether and launching their own KickStarter campaigns. It’s a staggeringly attractive notion to them: full creative freedom to make the game they want to make, and they don’t have to split any of the profits with a publisher. It’s the best possible scenario from an artistic standpoint.
But is it the start of a revolution? Only time and major players in the industry can answer that. For some initial reactions, Edge Magazine has posted a fascinating compilation of reactions from numerous game developers, including Minecraft‘s Markus ‘Notch’ Persson, Epic’s Cliff Bleszinski, Id’s Tom Hall, and many more. And for his part, Tim Schafer has been Tweeting like a madman ever since the KickStarter campaign began. He’s understandably over-the-moon, but it’s far too soon for him to even consider the idea of going down this road again for another game in the future. He’s just focused on this project, as he should be. (Among other things, he’s all but confirmed that an iPad version of the game will be made.)
The other star of this drama has been the platform by which Double Fine achieved its success. KickStarter had an amazing 24 hours yesterday, including hitting $1M not only with Double Fine’s project but a second one as well — after never having hit $1M before with any project — and a few other milestones, which they chronicled on their blog. Obviously, they have to be hoping that this is the beginning of even bigger things to come.
I can’t predict the future, but as someone who was inspired by this situation to join KickStarter and back a project there for the first time, I just want the most creative game studios to get the chance to make the games that deserve to be made — publisher or not.
What do you think Double Fine’s crowd-funding success says about the future of gaming?