Last week, an amazing event occurred in the gaming business. Tim Schafer, legendary adventure game developer and head of Double Fine games, made a proposal. It could have been to his girlfriend, but then it wouldn’t have been that amazing. Not to me, anyway. No, this particular proposal was to gamers everywhere.
The lowdown was that Schafer, along with fellow adventure game guru Ron Gilbert, was interested in heading a small project within Double Fine. Specifically, making a new point-and-click adventure game, the genre where they had cut their teeth and made their mark.
However, there was a snag. While adventure games were all the rage back in the early ’90s, they are now no more than a niche genre, and publishers, being the market-driven people that they are, were unwilling to bet on a horse with bifocals, dentures and mismatched socks.
So instead, Schafer turned to the popular crowdsourcing service Kickstarter, which basically invited the public to ‘pledge’ money to the project in return for rewards and perks as the game was developed. The total budget he asked for was $4,00,000, which may not seem like much compared to the huge piles of cash thrown at AAA games, but is still more than enough money to buy a pair of supercars and crash them into each other.
Now understand, none of this is really amazing. So far, it’s all been fairly heartwarming if you’re a Schafer fanboy, or otherwise just entertaining (the proposal video is hilarious, you’ve got to see it). The amazing part happened shortly after, when the money began pouring in. The deadline he set for the fundraiser was 33 days, but the amount was reached within just eight hours. Within 12 hours, it had crossed the half-million mark, and by the time a full day had passed, Double Fine was sitting on more than a million dollars, sent by gamers for a project for which there was absolutely no information, except the genre and the two people heading it.
Consider the curiosity of the situation. A project which cannot get a green light from publishers gets four times its asking budget (at the time of writing this article, the take is over 1.6 million) from that very same market in a matter of days. Of course, there’s always the possibility that this is a one-off incident, where all the goodwill towards Schafer and Gilbert, the paucity of adventure games in today’s market and resentment of big publishers’ grip on the industry snowballed into one unified gesture of support. There’s no guarantee that every idea will be treated equally, and on the consumer side, subscribing to the kickstarter model is quite the leap of faith.
However, there’s something to be said for the efficiency of cutting out the middleman in situations like these, where there’s not likely to be any support from the middleman in the first place. And while there are still steps to be taken to make crowdsourcing a ready resource, you can’t deny the ‘by the people, for the people’ charm behind its ethos.