So You Want to Crowd-Source Your Funding?

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With Double Fine adventures just hitting the $2,000,000 when I started writing this article; I seem to notice that the Internet, or at least the parts I pay attention to, is abuzz with ‘Kickstarter fever.’ Now I am extremely happy about this since: I love Double Fine, don’t like publishers, and feel this can be the start of something great.

But, I must caution people against thinking that they can crowd source millions of dollars. The reason I say this is because Double Fine has something unique. They have been around for 12 years, created one of the most celebrated cult hits, are making a game for a genre that is almost forgotten, and have two of the most famous people of that genre working on the game. Now that is a tall order to top!

What do you need to crowd-source a million dollars?

This is a question I don’t have an exact answer to, nor does anyone I would imagine. But we can take a good look at the man who has done it. Tim Schafer has worked on adventure games since 1990 where he was a co-writer on The Secret of Monkey Island. Since then he has been the lead of Full Throttle, and Grim Fandango. And these days he is the founder/owner of Double Fine. In terms of social media he has: 5,400 likes on Facebook, has been circled 6,392 on Google+, and finally 68,218 followers on Twitter. So if video games have celebrities I’m sure Tim is one of them.

The next is Double Fine; I have already stated the company’s record. But they have one person I haven’t talked about yet. Ron Gilbert is the creator of the point-and-click adventure game. Which is the genre of game that DF are crowd-sourcing the funds for. So think about this: they have two of the most celebrated developers of the genre, talk to the community with the same sincerity as an indie developer, did not ask, or expect a million dollars in funding, but now they have two.

The Kickstarter Fever

The current developer that I am paying attention to with regards to crowd sourcing is Brian Fargo. Who by the news wants to make a sequel to Wasteland. Wasteland came out in 1988 and may be viewed as the progenitor of the Fallout series. The reason why I am paying attention to Fargo is that he is say he needs exactly a million dollars; he also is somewhat of a prolific developer.

So why the attention to Fargo? That is simple; with all the Kickstarter fever in the air we need some judge of the make or break conditions it take to make a game using crowd funding. Fargo, I believe, is at the right point to see what those conditions are.

Since he is working on an old franchise with fans, which is one of those things that the fans would like to see again. So when it comes to reaching the million dollar mark I believe that this will be the test.

Learn from the indies

Indie developers make some of the most awesome games, and on some of the tightest budgets. For example World of Goo was made on a budget of just $10,000, and it was a phenomenal game. On the other hand Braid cost $180,000. Clearly, indies have a diverse range of costs.

Recently I have seen almost unknown indies turn to Kickstarter for funding. Then there are indie developers asking just as little as a $1,500 to get there game out. I will however point out that such Kickstarters are, mostly, funded by indie developers.

The moral behind the indies is that you need to have a small game that you can make, and that you don’t need a massive budget to do it. Well this may sound like advice in the opposite direction of this article, it is in fact at the core of this article. Since developers want to make awesome games, and fans want to play them.

It’s a trap!

The video game industry goes through ‘fads’. I clearly remember when everything was a: FPS, MMO, Social game, make for mobile devices. Now there might be the fad of we made a game using Kickstarter. While it was stated earlier that there was a hope that this could be a practical future. There is still the question of whether this is the correct choice for developers to follow.


The reason I bring thing up is that Double Fine’s XBLA type games were each made using about $2,000,000 and they had received traditional publishing on those. And they have been great success. Taking some statistic Iron Brigade (nee Trenched in the stats) sold 120,126 units. Which at about $15, variance given to the MSpoint costs, the game so far made $1,800,000.

So you don’t always have to go with crowd-funding. But publishers are publishers. And they don’t like taking big risks. So seek funding in the right way sometimes that might be a publisher

Developers as with almost every choice they make need to be careful not to fall into a trap. Whether that is using a publisher, crowd-funding, or using your savings. So if you decide that a crowd-funded project is the way to go. Be aware of the terms of the platform, and what new ones there are.

Make a Game

As a developer and designer I would advocate a model similar to what Double Fine has done. Say the least you need to get the project done; then apply a modular design of expansion. So say your core is a: “City management game” which you think will cost $100,000. Call it $150,000 on your initial funding to be safe. But you want it to have cities in the same world that can trade and so on. That feature requires you to have raised $300,000.

The reason I say this is that when people fund a game in this way they know it might not get done. But you really want to get it done, and they really want to play it. Look at Minecraft how it has grown with its community and how integral that community has been to the development of the game.

So if you only get enough funding to make the first part of the game. Make that first part! Get people playing it tell them if more people buy it then you can continue development and you will implement that feature that they really want.

A Kickstarter is a great way to get a start, and then a closed beta for people who paid, and will pay, is a great way to make a game. Just remember to never close the doors for people who want to pay and be a part of your game!

  • http://chrislandman.mypixelbox.net Chris

    Neat Article Julian. There’s just one major issues for local game developers, kickstarter.com is only available for people in the States.

    I’m a game developer myself, well, atleast an aspiring game developer. I started a game at the beginning of this year, called Robolegs. It’s a Mech FPS. At the moment I’m a one man band and desperately seeking the help I can get to develop Robolegs even further.

    But people in South Africa seem to be more than happy to help at first, but then they back out after 2 weeks or so. A continuous cycle of dissapointment. Random people in the states message me offering their help and there seems to be a completely different tone. They actually help out.

    If I had the cash hire people, I would but I do web dev for a living, so I’m not exactly a millionaire. Haha!

    If you have advice or know of people who would be happy to volunteer. Please let me know. Check out Robolegs here http://fargamer.com/

    Please let me know what you think so far dude. At this point in time, I can’t move forward with development. So while the development stands still I’m just creating artwork for the game.

    Thanks,
    Landman

    • Julian Pritchard

      Hi Chris,

      Glad you like the article. I am currently thinking about doing a follow up since I wrote this one during the Double Fine Kickstarter.

      As a non-US citizen you has some options. You can use Kickstarter if you have an entity in the US to get the money for you. There is also IndieGoGo which I believe you can use as a South African.

      As for Robolegs, I see you made a thread on MakeGamesSA so I’ll be commenting on that there to try and keep the discussion consolidated.