If the last big trend in MMOs was the hybrid F2P model (headliners: Turbine), the potential next big thing is Kickstarter. Double Fine had a rather prominent, $3 million success on that. From the developer’s perspective, Kickstarter must be the best thing ever: get people to buy your game before you have even started making it. You know the game will be profitable because you don’t get started until you have already sold enough copies, plus some bonus cash from people who will pay $1,000 to have a weapon named after them or such. I’m interested in seeing where this will go. Or maybe it will be another fad that disappears in three weeks, but let’s look around.
Ravaged is Kickstarting a game just before release. They are asking you to pay for their marketing. 90% of their supporters are basically buying the game, a conventional pre-sale with the money coming before the marketing. This is a rather different approach, but I don’t imagine that Kickstarter seemed like a meaningful option when Ravaged started. So that’s adding a funding stream at the end of production. Deepworld has a similar approach at a slightly earlier step.
Trying something more like what I said, The Ant Experiment ended at 1.6% of its funding goal. This suggests that there is not a huge market for a SimAnt MMO, although the creators’ minimal track record may be a contributing factor. They have a team photo, and they look very, very young. Taking a more established product and team, a remake of Leisure Suit Larry 1 is at 94% as I type this.
One nice thing on the developer’s side is that you can toss out a dream project and see if it goes anywhere. You can add “it might be nice” bits and see if people will pay for them. I think of how contract bids arrive from companies that don’t feel the need for more work this year: they bid high, and if they win, great, and if they lose, they didn’t really want it anyway. On the fantasy side, here is Steve Jackson making Ogre the way he always wanted. It’s a ridiculously huge, uneconomical box with little apparent prospect outside a niche market, but if they sold 200 copies, they figured they could break even. As I type this, they have had 1,693 pledges of $100 or more to receive the game (plus whatever). On a normal retail project, those would be bonus sales, but since this is the designer’s dream project, he got to keep making up new goals and things that could be included as the funding went past 1300% of the initial goal. The latest update mentions that nothing else will fit in the box, they are out of immediate ideas, so here’s a poll, and they’re committing to funding development of the product line into next year. Apparently enough people also dreamed of the definitive edition of Ogre. The developers note that they have no pre-order system, so Kickstarter lets them do that. (The enthusiasm on this project is infectious.) In a completely different direction, PC Gaming Wiki is someone else’s dream with no product to sell. If I’m reading this correctly, you would be funding having someone update a wiki with PC game fixes for a year. I’d never thought of trying to crowdsource funding for a dream job. Roll20 is at 376% of someone’s dream project to make an online pen-and-paper RPG system. How about funding a photographer for cosplay pics at a con?
A great many bands seem so have adopted Kickstarter as a method of funding their next albums. Let’s see what game developers can come up with. I’m especially looking forward to seeing how game developers game the system. If you can’t do that, why should I think you can design a game?
Added note: “great for the developers” does not in any way suggest “great for the players/customers.” The company is free to take your pre-purchase money, do whatever they want, ship late/buggy/not at all, and your recourse is … good luck!