Double Fine aiming to ditch work-for-hire projects, stay independent

Double Fine is looking to prove their crowdfunding success on Kickstarter was more than a flash in the pan for the studio.

In an interview with VentureBeat, the developer describes its hope to maintain independence by continuing to look to crowdfunding and private investing as consistent methods for funding future projects; as well as focusing on free-to-play projects and direct to consumer goods instead of the work-for-hire route.

"We’re making a switch from console work-for-hire and going to direct to consumer and free-to-play projects," said Justin Bailey, VP of business development at Double Fine. "That process has taken place over the last 18 months."

"We try to be as creative with our business development as we are with our games," explained Double Fine founder and CEO Tim Schafer. "We are always on the lookout for ways to break the traditional mold for game funding. So when we see new opportunities come up – like Kickstarter, angel investment, or other alternative funding models – even though they might seem new and risky at the time, they are also very attractive to us. Because, let’s face it, anything beats the traditional game funding model. It’s like a loan with a really horrible interest rate. No revenue usually until you’ve not just paid back the development cost, but paid it back many times over. Plus, lots of entanglements with intellectual property usually."

Private investors such as Steve Denglar have also offered Double Fine a huge opportunity for self-funding. Denglar, a self-professed fan of the developer, gave $1m to Double Fine to fund pretty much whatever the team wanted to.

The team used the funding to port their classic Psychonauts to Mac, as well as put together an iOS effort and self-publish their PC titles Stacking and Costume Quest.

"I’m a fan with money," said Dengler. "That pretty much sums it up. I’ve been a fan of Double Fine for years, and now I get to help them make new games on their own terms. Traditionally, a developer needed a publisher to get their work made and out to the fans. And traditionally, that relationship was pretty one-sided. But together, we are changing that."

"What I do want to do is help them make great games for their fans because I am one of those fans," Dengler added. "And so far it’s working wonderfully. It’s tremendously satisfying."

The multi-headed development studio has assessed where it stands and is now looking to complete its transition by next year.

"It is complicated to keep straight, but we have crowdfunding, self-publishing, the mobile studio, and some legacy business. We are now majority-funded by crowdfunding or outside investment. By next year, hopefully that transition will be complete," said Bailey. "We’ve needed a lot of money up front from publishers in the past, but over 12 years, we’ve been in transition," "The publisher model is changing. And indie gaming is growing up a little bit and maturing as a business process. Our goal is to fund ourselves as an independent game developer. You want a diversified approach. The nicest thing is the indie community is tight, and we are all trying to help each other in every way."

The company took in $3.33m from backers on its adventure game Kickstarter earlier this year.

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