Tim Schafer has 99 problems but a games pitch ain’t one. The avuncular Double Fine director has mastered the art of walking out of publisher meetings with no contract in hand, but that’s not down to how he presents his ideas. Clearly not. Today he pitched an idea to the internet and made $450,000 in about nine hours.
It’s the pessimism of the publishing industry that’s always been Schafer’s problem. Pitch an idea and they’ll give you 99 reasons not to fund it.
New IP? Underused genre? Not an FPS? These are red flags for an industry that leaves little room for risk.
In fairness, industry executives can draw from an exhaustive body of historical evidence to justify why they shouldn’t throw money at unproven concepts.
Their collective anti-entrepreneurialism has, in turn, governed the way studios pitch ideas. A developer’s safest concept is usually the one they’ll put on the table. Not Schafer. He wants the likes of EA to fund his game about Russian dolls. About trick-or-treating.
That’s why he’s turned to crowdsourcing – a relatively new process where enthusiasts can pool together enough cash to kick-start a project that the publishing industry has neglected.
In his Kickstarter pitch, Schafer described point-and-click adventure games as “a lost art form” – but admitted that publishers “would laugh in my face if I pitched one to them.”
Now he has a $450,000 budget, amassed in an astonishing nine hours, to prove his point and laugh back.
He may not know it yet, but Schafer’s new adventure game could mark a turning point for the games industry.
It is, by a significant margin, the most high-profile Kickstarter games project ever, funded by a games community clued-in, and grown tired of, the industry’s fear of investing in innovation.
So much now hinges on the commercial success of Double Fine's new game. If it's a hit, publishers could finally realise their pessimism has cost them.