By Jeremy Kahn
You may have heard of the over night success of Double Fine’s Kickstarter program. In less then 8 hours their project met their goal of $400,000. Then in less than 24 hours they surpassed one million. This massive, homegrown success story has repercussions not just in the video game industry, but also in the entertainment industry as a whole.
For a long time now point and click adventures have been going the way of the dodo, only a few games popping up here and there that actually stand out. Today more attention is paid to bigger AAA titles, while games fitting in the point and click genre are labeled as niche. Many publishers won’t even take a chance on games of this type, seeing them as too much of a risk.
For a while now Tim Schafer, Double Fine Studios founder, has tried to pitch the idea of a new point and click game, but to no avail. Knowing that there were still fans willing to pay money for a well produced point and click game, as well as desiring to make another one himself, he turned to Kickstarter.
Fans of both point and click games and Tim Schafer, flocked to this new project idea. If the total amount could be reached, Tim Schafer would go on to create a point and click game for the fans through his studio Double Fine. The total need was reached in less then a day.
This is proof that gamers know what they want, and if given the opportunity they will do whatever they can to achieve their goal. For a long time now it’s been said, and proven, that big publishers don’t listen to their fans needs. Rather they make what they think will sell, which results in less original and creative games. Fans have proven, however, that there is still demand for point and click adventure games despite what publishers say.
In addition to please the fans, this project marks a great new opportunity for developers in general. By using the fans, they can appeal to their desires in order to create games that may not have originally been seen successful. Imagine Capcom rethinking their decision to cancel Megaman Legends 3 if they could garner enough fan support through something like Kickstarter. Other games plagued with funding problems could do the same.
Here’s where we have to be careful though. Obviously the majority of the money for this project came from people both desiring a new point and click adventure game and trusting Tim Schafer to make it. Honestly, who wouldn’t trust him, seeing as he helped create such gems as “Day of the Tentacle” and “Grim Fandango.” Then there’s Ron Gilbert who’ll also be working on the project. He’s famous for helping revolutionize the point and click genre with games such as the famous Monkey Island series.
These two have proven to be masters in the genre. If other developers were to follow this example then they would most likely need some big names behind their project. If Yu Suzuki was attached, a Kickstarter campaign for “Shenmue 3” could be very successful.
With big names and popular franchises, more than enough fans would come to support the game being made. If you don’t have a big name or a beloved franchise, or even enough fans of the game’s genre you want to make, you could be out of luck before you start. It all comes down to star appeal. How much we trust the person handling the project, and the actual demand for such a project.
If done successfully developers can be free from their creative bonds, allowing them much more freedom. When creating a game for a publisher there’s not much wriggle room in how the game can be made. Not to mention the fact that publishers get the majority of the profit a game makes. With this new way of funding, developers can bypass all this hassle, literally cutting the developers out of the loop.
Of course publishers could very well look for some way into the action. Games that are owned by the studio and not a specific developer could be used to take advantage of the fans. They could literally hold a game hostage until they feel they have enough money to release it. The amount they ask could in fact be way more than needed. If this kind of funding really takes off, these are the kinds of problems that the industry is going to have to face.
There are a lot of eyes watching how Double Fine’s project turns out. For better or for worse, the result could be a major turning point in how games are made.