My name is Jared Whittaker, one of the hosts and Audio Chewbacca of the Super-Fly Podcast and PCW! Welcome to Game Changer, a weekly burning missive about all aspects of video gaming with a little bit of opinion thrown in for fun. Proceed with caution and tread lightly, gentle gamers. It’s going to be good time. Like the first time you saw Super Mario 3 good time.
Double Fine Productions, known for off-kilter video games like Psychonauts, Brütal Legend, Stacking and many other off the wall games, opened a Kickstarter campain to finance their next adventer game. They were expecting in the area of $60,000 for the project. At the writing of this article, they have raised in the area of $1,700,000. All donations from fans of the studio and gamers from all over the world. This was an amazing show of support for the game devoloper and a huge moment in gaming. If you like a company that makes a game that you are interested in, you could help out in the most direct way possible.
This is a landmark case in the gaming world. The cost of video game production is astronomical. Most video game budgets are comperable to most major motion pictures that are made today. The high price of development, marketing and other cost make every game “a make or break” deal every time it hits the shelve. If a game doesn’t perform well in the first month, it’s likely that the game will fall off the radar. It’s a tightrope that has to be in the back of studio’s mind. Money has to be a major focus for any studio making games on a major level. And that can be the downfall of companies. But with Double Fine’s Kickstarter success, it’s opened the door for other companies to get their projects off the ground.
The idea that fans can now suppport the projects that they were interested in playing is a very freeing and interesting prospect. Companies can now be more free with their projects and take more risks. Double Fine has a track record of making very different games then the Call of Dutys and the Halos that dot the gaming landscape. Psychonauts was a platformer that was set in a very bizzare world with crazy characters and and a very zany story. Brütal Legend was a crazy action game with some RTS elements sprinkled on top with a cast of some of the biggest names in heavy metal music. Stacking is an adventure/puzzle video game based on the Russian stacking matryoshka dolls. All very interesting concepts and amazing games, but generally not settings that most gamers would be automatically drawn to. All of Doulbe Fine’s games have sold lower than expected while garnering so much critical acclaim for their game’s interesting concepts and boundary-pushing gameplay. While there needs to be gaming studios that push the bounderies of gaming, when a low selling game could be the end of a studio, most studios will lean towards caution when deciding what project to go forward with. This new development could REALLY open up the independent scene as well as allowing established studios to proceed with more boutique projects that maybe mainstream audences wouldn’t be imediately accessible.
Here’s an example of how the Double Fine/Kickstarter deal could totally change the face of gaming. The amazing action series Star Wars: Battlefront was an great shooter/action/flying game set in the Star Wars universe was a great series of games that were all over the last generation of gaming consoles. When studio Free Radical Design went out of business, many of the people at Free Radical that were looking to find jobs, were showing ideas and elements for the series’ unreleased sequel, Star Wars: Battlefront III in their resumes. The game had a lot of interesting concepts proposed, including an alternate scenario in which Obi-Wan Kenobi was in fact, evil and was the ACTUAL last Sith lord and plotting against the Jedi knights. Now think about if the company that owns the licence for the game started a Kickstarter campaign, saying “Ok, we want to make Star Wars: Battlefront 3 but we need XYZ amount of money to do it. Here’s our concepts for the game. Here’s a trailer. Here’s a picture of evil Obi-Wan. If you want this, give us some money.” I can say for sure that if that were to happen, that game would made. Quickly. Add in the incentive offers for donating money that could be offered based on things that Double Fine offered, (Getting credited in the game, getting a copy of the game, being put IN the game as a characterful, ect) that project would go bananas with the amount of support that it would get. Hell, I would give ANY amount of money to have my likeness put into a Star Wars game.
Indie studios could benefit as well from this new way of funding. Trying to wow a big publisher to give money to a developer to make a game when a Halo or a Call of Duty is coming out could be very difficult since those games are going to make money hands down. A smaller studio or a less mainstream concept for a game could get overlooked in favor of a game that will make guaranteed money. A Kickstarter campaign could be a better way to get funding for new and different projects while not having to compromise their vision of what their game could be. It could be a very interesting time for gaming if business and big money are less of an obstacle for these smaller studios with different ideas about games to get these projects of the ground. I’m hoping that this becomes a big deal and a viable means for new studios and games can make a dent in the gaming world.
Would you give money to a video game project that you really wanted to see happen? Let us know.
Jared Whittaker plays a lot of games. Not as much as he’d like, but as much as time and money will allow. If you want to play some games with Jared, you can find him on Playstation 3; PSN tag: JFX. He is also on Steam and Battle.net as JFX316 and while he doesn’t have an Xbox 360, he has the coolest Gamertag in the world: Obiwan Jaborni. Feel free to add him as a friend or email him at JWhittaker@PanelsonPages.com. and on Twitter as JFX316