These days it has never been easier for a would be developer to find financial backing to make their dream game – providing other people can see the potential in the project. Sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo exist to bring budding ideas to fruition, but has the proliferation of crowd-sourced fundraising begun to reach its limit? There are many more projects wanting cash now than when these sites first launched, but has the pool of money they draw from expanded at the same rate?
As gamers, many of the Kickstarter projects we know best are in the gaming category. Torment: Tides of Numenera, Project Eternity and Wasteland 2 are titles we have heard many times due to their success with crowd funding. Each time one of these companies dip their toes into the money pool that is Kickstarter, other projects lose out. Large projects like Torment are able to suck up over $4 million of financing because they are developed by well known teams or respected individuals. It is when titles like these draw more than four times the funding they need that smaller titles like Death Inc. are not even able to make half the amount of money the need. Our own overlord Lusipurr summed up the problem very well:
Once upon a time, the rich would donate money to the poor. Now the rich come to me and ask me to donate money to them.
When these large teams visit Kickstarter, they come equipped with all the information they would have needed to provide to investment companies to fund their games through traditional routes. So why do they not use the traditional methods to finance a game? Maybe it because, at least in the gaming section, Kickstarter has become a means of selling pre-orders directly to the consumer. Even if a project is funded, there is no guarantee that the game will arrive on time – if ever. Once a company obtains money through Kickstarter they can do what they like with it, that is why the position of the site has always been that Kickstarter is evil.
Games like Minecraft and Prison Architect have brought in money early on by selling a playable game early on in its creation. These early alphas are charged at a low price that rises as more features are added to the game, topping out when the game is ‘complete’. These games often continue to receive updates, though the price no longer rises. When Steam introduced Early Access this trend looked to continue, as when a game got a full release its price would rise. Steam’s Early Access information does say that a game can charge more for early access, though so far only Planetary Annihilation has chosen to do so. The game followed its Kickstarter reward tiers, pricing the alpha at a whopping £67($90).
A game can be shaped by the feedback of fans, especially when a small amount feel privileged because they paid a premium to play the game in an unfinished state. Bugs will show up in these early builds, but how many of the early adopters are willing to report them if they decide that the only reason they paid extra for a game is to play it before anyone else? Maybe they do report the bugs and demand the developers listen to them because of all the money they gave to the project. A lower price point for early access makes a people want to invest in a game early before the price rises, and once they are invested they will often want to help the game mature.
As gamers we have become used to games getting released in an unfinished state while developers attempt to patch out bugs. Early Access is different as we are aware that this is what we are signing up for when we purchase a game in early development. A high cost to purchase a game prevents smaller sites (like Lusipurr.com) from providing information to its readership that could potentially bring in enough people to offset the cost of lowering the price of a game. Then again, the price is based on a Kickstarter reward tier and Kickstarter is evil.
Have you considered funding a project on Kickstarter? Would you consider buy early access to a game, and how much would you pay? Let me know in the comments!