It's All Double Fine
Of the projects that have successfully
raised enough money to progress, one of the most talked about is Double Fine
Adventure. The quickest project to get to a million dollars, and the only one
to ever make it past two and three million, it's been heralded as a sensational
shift in the relationship between game developers and publishers, a shot across
the bows of an industry traditionally dominated by a top-down management
Double Fine, headed by industry veteran Tim
Schafer, has created a subversion at the very core of the system - the money
isn't coming from the coffers, it's coming direct from the audience.
As well as the game, the money raised goes
towards funding a documentary team, who are creating a film of the processes
and procedures that go into making the game. Different pitch levels gained
different rewards, ranging from a digital copy of the game, all the way up to
dinner and a studio tour with the creators.
In essence, what Double Fine is offering to
people who pledge is a different point of contact. Whereas before you took your
cash or your credit card to a retailer, which sells stock it's bought from a
publisher, which provides titles it's paid developers for, now you're coming in
at the bottom of the chain and getting some pretty enticing bonuses for doing
This move away from the traditional
publishing structure has been compared in some quarters to Radiohead's decision
in 2007 to release their album In Rainbows on a 'pay what you want' basis.
While both are certainly interesting new ways of paying for things online, it's
fair to say that neither are likely to abolish the publishing hierarchy any
You Get What You Pay For
For one thing, it's unlikely that the music
or videogame industry is going to change overnight. In fact, big publishing
businesses as a whole have been appallingly slow to react to the seismic shift
that the internet has created. In a world where information and entertainment
is only a click of a mouse or a tap of a screen away, physical products are
still being pushed as the bedrock of the industry.
For another thing, both Double Fine and
Radiohead are already massively established brands in their own right. They've
both built up followings through traditional release and marketing methods, and
both have a recognisable and defined presence within their respective fields.
Tim Schafer's reputation alone, having worked on the original Monkey Island
games, as well as a host of other classic adventures, would have been enough to
secure funding for a new point-and-click game. For an unknown developer, band
or writer, finding funding for your project is going to be far more difficult.
Of course, there are examples to the
contrary, success stories that fly in the face of the evidence, but that
doesn't change the simple fact that, as exciting as crowd-sourced funding is,
there are more projects that don't make it than do. Take a look at Unbound
Books. It works in a similar way to KickStarter, posting projects online and
allowing potential readers to pledge money to the ones they want to read.
The titles that get funding are often the
ones with celebrity names attached, or the ones from authors who have already
established themselves through other means.
There's a lack of quality control inherent
in the system too, at least with KickStarter. Almost anything can be pitched,
so almost anything can find its way to the public. This unedited stream of raw
concepts and ideas can lead to a disorientating mixture and, more importantly
can sully the reputation of a site in the eyes of a potential consumer. Popular
ideas will always find an audience, but downright ludicrous ones are more than
capable of ensuring potential backers won't bother heading to a site again.