We've been seeing a new trend, in which games aren't being backed only by high-profile publishers for millions of dollars, but now also by die-hard fans who want to see these experiences on their own terms. You can thank Kickstarter for that.
The online funding site got a major boost months ago, during the DICE (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) Summit in Las Vegas. Tim Schafer, the head of the Double Fine development studio, announced a campaign through Kickstarter to fund a new point-and-click adventure game, "Double Fine Adventure." Schafer was hoping to raise $400,000 for the project through donations. He ended up with just over $3.3 million — more than enough to fund not only the project but a behind-the-scenes documentary.
Following Schafer's success, other developers turned to Kickstarter. They created pages with a detailed description of their vision and offered rewards to donors, ranging from lunch with the developers to a digital shout-out within the new game.
Case in point: The team at OUYA was looking to raise $950,000 for its new game console, which will run Android apps among other games. It offered funders everything from reserving their username (for a minimum $10 donation) to their own limited-edition wood-shaded OUYA system, delivered about a month before consoles hit the open market. The program was a rousing success, raising nearly $8.6 million, and over 50,000 backers will be getting an OUYA system this March.
Kickstarter programs aren't just for major-league players — anyone with a dream and an excellent array of rewards has a shot, provided the project is legitimate and worthwhile.
A number of developers have hopped on board successfully. Harebrained Schemes' "Shadowrun Returns," a role-playing adventure, has been fully funded at more than $1.8 million. The inXile game "Wasteland 2," in which you fight through a post-apocalyptic world (as in the original "Wasteland"), has earned over $2.9 million. Stainless Games' "Carmageddon Reincarnation," a game of vehicular destruction, raised more than $625,000, exceeding its $400,000 goal.
Other projects that found success through Kickstarter include:
- Farsight Studios successfully funded two tables for "The Pinball Arcade" game. Both "The Twilight Zone" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation" will arrive later this year.
- Brenda Braithwaite and Tom Hall, two veteran developers of role-playing games, have launched a project called "An Old-School RPG," which is already near a quarter of its goal with about three weeks to go.
- Even though it didn't meet its Kickstarter goal, Silverball Studios' revival of "Pro Pinball" earned enough through the program to push forward in development.
Thanks to Kickstarter, it's much simpler — and in most ways, more effective — to harness people power than to try selling off a project to a bigger publisher. Here's hoping the trend continues.