In the past few years, the rules for video game developers and distributors have begun to drastically change. The advent of Steam and other services have brought the download-only to concept with quite a bit of success, and companies have been working hard to develop a sustainable business model for the future.
As developers and publishers alike strive to reinvent the gaming retail wheel, the last vestiges of a previous generation are fighting to stay in the game. Retailers such as GameStop have begun to feel the pain as publishers and developers gain more and more control of how they deliver content to consumers. Online gaming distribution is quickly advancing, and may soon be a well-oiled machine.
However, one developer just threw a wrench directly into the engine of that machine. More specifically, it was a monkey wrench.
Double Fine Productions is a video game developer run by Tim Schafer, the legendary game creator who has given the world classic titles such as Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango, and the legendary Secret of Monkey Island (and its sequel, Monkey Island II: LeChuck’s Revenge). Double Fine recently sought funding to develop a new point-and-click-adventure game in the vein of Schafer’s previous successes.
Using Kickstarter.com, an online funding tool, Double Fine set out to raise $400,000 for the company’s passion project. At the time of this writing, the studio had reached and even exceeded their goal of $400,000. In fact, with 28 days left for contributions, the game, currently titled Double Fine Adventure, has received $1,774,366 in pledges.
The results have been incredibly impressive to say the least. The project has already become the most successful Kickstarter project to date and has sparked a furious debate that goes beyond the future of game publishing and into the future of game development.
As successful as the effort has been (and as excited as I am to play Double Fine Adventure), I have to deliver some bad news: this is not the future of the gaming industry, or at the very least, not the entire future.
The idea of using a Web site like Kickstarter to fund independent game prjects is brilliant, but cannot sustain an entire industry. While gamers might have been generous enough to give to Double Fine, the amount raised wouldn’t be enough to publish a big-budget title like Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty. Instead, this can be used to fund niche projects that have dedicated audiences.
With that said, not every project will be met with such support. In fact, several independent studios have already used Kickstarter to fund their projects, but failed to reach the level of success seen with Double Fine. Having a developer like Tim Schafer return to the his adventure game roots brought out
something in gamers that have been starved for point-and-click adventures, and before long funding for the project was growing like a wildfire.
As heartwarming as this story may be, it cannot be seen as the rule, but instead must be seen as the exception. There are sure to be more games succeed using this model, but many others will simply slip through the cracks. This is not going to define the industry, but by giving more power to independent
developers, projects like this may level the playing field for the little guy.
Double Fine is getting my investment, but not just for bringing a shock to the industry. Truthfully, I just can’t wait to click my way through another adventure.