CEO Justin Bailey discusses curation, equity crowdfunding and staying focused on video games

Why Double Fine, Obsidian and InXile are leaving behind Kickstarter for new crowdfunding site Fig

Double Fine, InXile and Obsidian Entertainment have been responsible for some crowdfunding’s biggest successes. They’ve also helped propel Kickstarter to fame as the top destination for a developer to pitch their game to the public.

But now they’ve all left Kickstarter. Maybe for good. And they’re joining the new crowdfunding platform on the block, Fig.

Founded by former Double Fine chief operating officer Justin Bailey, who acts as Fig’s CEO, the platform specialises solely in crowdfunding for video games. The service is backed by an advisory board that includes Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart, Double Fine founder Tim Schafer and InXile boss Brian Fargo.

To further differentiate itself from Kickstarter and Indiegogo, Fig promises to offer a curated platform and equity crowdfunding. The latter will initially only be open to approved investors, but will one day be available to all – a real financial stake in a developer’s game, with certain conditions, however.

Speaking to Develop, Fig CEO Justin Bailey says his new crowdfunding platform is the evolution of some of the services the aforementioned studios had already been providing to developers free of charge, an aspect that will in essence remain unchanged. And the three companies had also beoame what he calls an “informal coalition”, helping promote each other’s games, handing out advice and sharing resources.

But now Bailey and the experienced crowdfunding pioneers want to help other developers get their games funded more directly, but through a curated approach. Urquhart, Schafer and Fargo will offer feedback on pitches, whether a game is really ready for crowdfunding, and provide advice on development and design aspects of a proposed project. This pairs with the discoverability for unknown developers that can come from a platform that attracts the communities of Obsidian, InXile and Double Fine.

There’s a huge myth right now that in crowdfunding there’s organic discovery on the current offerings. And it’s just absolutely not true.

Justin Bailey, Fig

The term ‘curation’ seems to contrast what crowdfunding is all about – giving anyone a chance to pitch their project in the hope of finding a market for their product – but Bailey believes it’s in fitting with the spirit of such services.

“With games, in a lot of cases you’re funding very early development, and so, the game is not made yet,” he states. “So to have that happen on an agnostic platform that doesn’t really have an understanding about game development, doesn’t really have a passion for games, coupled with the excitement of the fan base, which in it having a lot of potential and the developers being very excited about it, it’s just kind of a recipe for disaster really.

“So having a curated approach, where we actually have people involved who are game designers, having this idea of peers actually helping evaluate which projects and which developers are ready, what are realistic expectations for projects, realistic budgets, having the actual design and development ability to deliver, is something I believe that’s been way overdo.”

He adds that the idea of organic discovery on existing crowdfunding platforms is a “huge myth”, and is not keen on the idea of a service that covers all areas rather than specialises.

“There’s a huge myth right now that in crowdfunding there’s organic discovery on the current offerings. And it’s just absolutely not true,” he says.

“People are looking at taxidermy, and the same platform that has that is funding games. People just lose interest when there’s no focus. So by being curated, by specific to games, we’re looking to bring stuff to people that they’re interested in and we know they’re interested in. And because of that also, the curation allows us to put the spotlight on otherwise unknown developers.”

Equity crowdfunding for games

Another interesting aspect of Fig’s ambitions is equity crowdfunding. This is the idea that, eventually, consumers stand to make something back from their investment. There will be some limitations however, share prices will be set at a certain minimum and maximum limit.

But with well-documented failures on Kickstarter, which will inevitably be unavoidable on Fig no matter how much curation is provided, could prove dangerous for developers and backers alike. It’s a situation that could potentially spark legal action and will require complete transparency on spending.

Bailey assures the Fig team is working closely with lawyers in the US, and has “an eye toward having a partner in Europe that we’d work with who knows those laws”. He also wants to make it clear to consumers that losing all their money is a real risk.

“We want to make sure investment-wise we’re doing the proper disclosures and going about it completely above board obviously,” he says, later adding: “We want to very clearly spell out what the deal terms are, very clearly set out the expectations that people can lose all their money, all their money is at risk in this venture. That’s something that’s actually required by law.”

The first game to take to Fig for crowdfunding will be Mobius Digital’s IGF Award-winning open-world exploration title Outer Wilds, which will have a goal of $125,000. And as mentioned earlier, you can expect to see more games from both indies and the likes of Obsidian, InXile and Double Fine in future, whom Bailey says are committed to Fig going forward.

“As far as the big games go, those studios are committed to using our platforms going forward," says Bailey.

"I don’t think these other platforms, Indiegogo and Kickstarter right now, I think there’s some other things studios can use those platforms for that makes sense, that aren’t games.”

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