Research Tim Schafer watering a money tree

Published on December 8th, 2012 | by Nidde


The revolution has begun

According to Merriam-Webster, the first use of the word “crowdsourcing” was back in 2006 and is a noun that describes “the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers”. It’s a mash-up of the words crowd and outsourcing.

But there’s a new word that hasn’t made it into Merriam-Webster yet, “crowdfunding”. The term itself is pretty self-explanatory, but let’s just exchange the “services, ideas, or content” from the previous description and replace it with “finances”.

This is a practice that has been going on for a while, and if “google” managed to become a verb then “kickstart”, derived from the site, isn’t far away as it is one of the biggest players on the crowdfunding scene. The concept works as such: A project posts a pitch and asks for funds in return for rewards for those that contribute. It can be anything from a thank you to final products or parts of the project; it’s really up to the project to declare what they’re willing to offer and what different rewards on the ladder will “cost”. A certain, set amount of funding must be reached before a set deadline or none of the funds reserved on the “backers” accounts will be charged and the project receives nothing. You also get to keep anything above the set amount, but such occasions are usually met with “stretch goals”.

Grim Fandango box cover

The box cover from Grim Fandango, another highly praised game from Tim Schafer

Video games by indie developers have been ticking along on this scene for a while, and it’s been somewhat obscure. Then came Tim Schafer. He’s behind some of the most appreciated video games in history and he, and his current crew over at Double Fine, sets up a Kickstarter-project to fund a point-and-click adventure game along with documentary about its development. Word spread quickly when a generation of gamers that remembers Mr. Schafer’s earlier work in the genre, such as Day of the Tentacle and Full Throttle, got news that they may see another game in the spirit of this almost abandoned type of game. Within 24 hours the funding goal of 400.000 dollars was met and the final tally after the deadline was met stood at 3,336,371 dollars from over 87,142 backers.

This opened the floodgates. The video game scene had shown that you don’t need a publisher to get funding, you can pitch your game straight to the players and see if they will put up the money in return for the promise of a final product. A product that hasn’t even been made yet. Now, funding a multi-million game like Call of Duty may not be possible in this manner, but for the indie scene this is great news. Since their budgets usually are much smaller they’ve found a platform to get funding while remaining independent. And, since the Double Fine Adventure-thing reach phenomenal proportions on the video game news cycle, they have a whole new audience that have noticed that they’re there. We’re seeing more projects, and more ambitious projects, than before, and we’re seeing more backers and funds than before.

While there most likely will be publishers and big-budget games for as long as there are video games, this is a good thing for indie games. They have more platforms to get their games out than they’ve ever had before, and they have the best opportunities to get financed in the short history of video games. The revolution, ladies and gentlemen, is happening right before our eyes.

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About the Author

For 500 days, from January 1st, 2013, until May 16th, 2014, Nidde will set aside all AAA-titles and only play indie games to find out if the indie scene can replace the big budget landscape.

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