How the internet transformed game financing, and how Double Fine resurrected double-A

24 hours that rocked games development

Today and yesterday, as the publishing execs of the world jumped between diarised schedules, they each spent a moment to view a Kickstarter counter as it ticked upwards – dollar by dollar – into a seven figure sum.

At the start of the week the industry they commanded was a completely different place.

On Wednesday evening, Tim Schafer – one of the last people you would expect to spark a revolution (he clearly prefers enjoying life) – asked the games community to pool together $400,000 so he could build an adventure game.

He set a funding deadline, 34 days, and laced his pitch with an air of casualness to, perhaps, save him face if the whole scheme became an embarrassing disaster.

When the project hit $250,000 – after just five hours – pundits began to ponder its chances of making $1 million over the month. Schafer and his team reached that show-stopping milestone in a single day.

It is hard to comprehend: The chances that Double Fine will make more than $5 million are not remote. They are now likely.

What this means for Double Fine, its new adventure game, and its multi-million dollar surplus is unclear, but that issue itself is becoming increasingly subordinate.

The San Franciscan studio couldn’t have put it better. “It seems like this little project could have an impact beyond itself.”

Double Fine has saved Double-A

The dilemma of the publisher is to balance what the audience wants with the gambles in delivering it. Hardly straightforward. As production and marketing budgets soar to unsustainable levels, risk has had a disruptive effect on what publishers can choose to finance. Today, only the safest of shots and armies of sequels will make their way to retail.

Crowdfunding has threatened to challenge this rule for several years. Now, with more than 30,000 game enthusiasts funding bankrolling Schafer’s categorically “unsafe” project, the rule has been shattered.

In recent times the games industry has become a dichotomy of triple-A and indie games. Studios either follow the command of big publishers and get huge budgets for games, or they go it alone and create economy-class digital titles.

The ‘double-A’ projects, such as the ones that interests Double Fine, have become stranded between the two sides.

Double-A is dead, we have all said. Yet today an independent studio is amassing a several million dollar budget to revive a commercially dead genre. And the studio won’t close at the end of it. On the contrary; It has already made its money.

For every Kickstarter initiative that achieves the same triumph you can be sure there will be many that don’t quite manage to get off the ground.

Such is the new rule of games financing: Only projects that captivate the community will be financed through crowdfunding.

But this is nirvana for many games developers. Their ideas can be backed by a games community clued-in on industry politics and growing tired of the status quo.

The possibilities couldn’t be more thrilling. When the internet transformed how developers could publish games across digital channels, the industry never looked back.

Now, after a bedazzling 24 hours and thirty thousand mouse clicks, the internet has changed forever the way we can fund and create them.

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