State of the Games Industry: Crowdsourcing
By Nick Walker, April 17th, 2012
A platform for crowdsourcing creative projects.
With Websites such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, people can start projects that require funding through "crowdsourcing," a term used to describe outsourcing a task to an undefined public.
It's a fairly simple idea. Each project has a video or blurb describing its aims and goals along with the monetary amount needed to fund the project. If you like what you see and want to get behind it, you have the option to put your money down and help be part of it in exchange for recognition or rewards such as a finished copy of the game, a t-shirt, or other swag. If enough people contribute and the project meets its required funding level, it gets the dough.
At first glance, many people dismissed the idea, myself included. I didn't think it was really viable, nor sustainable, for the public to fund video game projects, especially with the reported costs of some of our favorite games and huge titles being in the millions. However, there have already been some incredible success stories in the past two months alone.
Games such as Wasteland 2, Double Fine Adventures, and TAKEDOWN have already been successfully funded or have far exceeded their initial monetary goals.
Double Fine Adventures is one of the great success stories of this new movement. The original requirement of $400,000 was easily surpassed in a matter of days. The final total pledged over $3,330,000, procuring a ridiculous amount of media attention from almost every major gaming media outlet, and even grabbed the attention of the news media itself. The BBC, CNN, and The New York Times (to name a few) reported on the runaway success of this new method of funding.
The hype and attention that this single project received has managed to influence a huge population to participate. Both developers and consumers join in and get involved in the creation of things that interest them.
What does this mean for the games industry?
This can have a tremendous impact for both gamers and developers. For us as gamers, we are able to directly influence what type of games we're interested in. Poorly contrived, disorganized, unpopular, or otherwise terrible ideas simply don't get funded and never get off the ground. Additionally, this influence allows us to speak directly with the developers instead of dealing with the common PR machine. It allows developers to face their customers and fans instead of corporate bureaucracy, a force that has proven time and time again that you can take a great idea and utterly destroy it.
For developers, it gives them funding to develop their dream, something that they have aspired to do for years, while maintaining a direct lifeline into the heart of the community: the fan-base that will buy and further support their project and market. They can take ideas, feedback, and passion from the people responsible for allowing their project to breathe, and produce a quality product. All of this is done without the constraints of a publisher pushing schedules or creative directions from uncreative people.
Are there long-term problems?
Obviously, there can be potential problems, if not disasters, with this methodology of game development.
Consumers, especially gamers, are incredible fickle. Although there are some projects people will jump all over (such as Shadowrun) others may not do so well (such as Your World). Projects that don't quite make it aren't necessarily the victims of poor quality. It simply might not have recieved the same level of anticipation, excitement, or media attention as others.
It also may lock developers into a cycle where projects only exist through funding of other projects, especially if sales are too low for one or more.
Lastly, there's always a chance this fad will end. This isn't the first time the idea of pre-purchasing or buying a game during early development has been employed. Games such as Grim Dawn had this type of funding option available almost two years ago. Nonetheless, the Kickstarter trend is on fire, with new projects appearing almost daily, and each of them are calling out to your wallet. How long will it be before consumers want to start seeing results? What if they end up growing weary of throwing their money at potential games with no guarantee of launch? If Kickstarter ends up closing its doors, it may be difficult for great ideas and developers to thrive on their own.
Crowdsourcing does seem to be a viable option for games development for now. However, we may see it move into other mediums, such as journalism (Expo by the Players) or education (Parts and Crafts: Community Supported Education).
Good stuff. I hope the trend continues though!!
There's some great stuff going on in the world of retro gaming using this model as well. Check out the Magical Game Factory from WaterMelon Co., creators of the recently released fully-fledged retro RPG Pier Solar for the Mega Drive (Genesis) system. Members of the Game Factory can buy and invest GEMS to influence the style and direction of the next game being produced. When the game is complete, any GEMS you've invested will go toward the cost of purchase, so it works sort of like a pre-order system as well. I'll be watching its development closely.
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