Well, 2012 has been a good year for independence. Prevailing economic conditions globally have sort of spurred this glut of indie projects. It’s like the start of the new indie revolution. I don’t think there have been so many Indiegogo, Kickstarter, or Rocket-padding efforts ever. Or at least that’s the perception as a frequent browser and supporter of those sites.
What’s revolutionary about this sort of fresh perspective gamers have inherited is that it’s changing the way game developers think about their games. Eurogamer recently published an opinion piece by Tom Bramwell about the potential abuse of Kickstarter. I think it’s a valid concern, but I wonder if it’s not misplaced. To be clear, I tend to mostly agree with what Tom said. However, if vetted game developers are using Kickstarter to avoid “big business” of game publishing can we blame them?
It’s an opportunity for them to maintain their creative freedom. It ensures their independence. It gives them a much closer relationship with their gamers. If I were to make a game I’d have two options: find a publisher to help me get my game to market or go independent. Being indie has often meant living check to check, crowding into a single apartment with fellow passionate developers and living off ramen noodles while you fulfill your passion — at least at the extreme end of the spectrum. Or at least that’s the comparable case if you’re not the likes of Peter Molyneux (Project Godus). Tom takes issue with well-off game developers using Kickstarter as a sort of store front or as a way to wring ungodly amounts of cash from gamers who are none-the-wiser. I’m not sure what the case is here, but there’s something to be said for the feeling that these old guys should have the resources at this point in their careers to finance independent projects. He goes on to say that Kickstarter should be the place of genuine start-ups; projects for studios who are truly getting kickstarted, making their debut into the market or trying earnestly to succeed at a follow-up. People who really need a boost, who lack resources, industry contacts, and everything else a vetted developer has.
Then there’s the unnamed studios who, while independent and small, refrain from using Kickstarter. One has to wonder why.
Should Kickstarter and the like be reserved for non-rich/influential developers?
This is an opportunity for gamers and their developers to abandon the old system, in my opinion. The more developers are directly supported and funded by their target audience, the more freedom everyone has. Developers get to make their games in relative peace. Gamers get insight into the game development process and can even influence it. There’s no middle men to suck the development dollars out of the game, layoff our designers, or dictate features. It’s just gamers, game developers, and their games. The only people truly invested in the success.
There’s always a lot of finger pointing about the current state of game publishing. No one seems all that happy or comfortable with it. Couldn’t crowd-funding be the very thing to break the publishing industry down to size, humble it a bit?
The internet has done many wonderful things for mankind in a short time. It’s turned the nature of the marketplace on it’s head and empowered consumers. This is a very good thing. I think we can look forward to better products and better relationships with creators if we make even greater room for crowd-funding. I say get rid of publishers and marketing departments. Let’s all have a direct line to each other. Put people in contact who have similar interests, people who would otherwise never find each other in the vastness of Earth. Let those people with like interests support each other and we can get rid of a lot of the things we don’t like about the gaming industry! About big business itself!
But enough dreaming. For now, I’ll settle for the comfort of knowing the publishing sector of the games industry has a legitimate and formidable challenger. Game developers now have an out; they can be free of the tyranny of the EAs and Funcoms of the world and dare to get together with their fans to collaborate on funding their dreams. As we make that journey though, Tom is correct to point out that more projects will have to deliver on their promises, because most of them fall short and there’s the risk they won’t deliver at all. But that can be addressed and I’m not worried about it. If developers don’t deliver, they will only discourage fans from supporting their future endeavors. And most importantly, if they fail with this opportunity, they will reinforce and retrench the big bad business that we don’t like in our games.
Viva la indie revolution