The Crowd-Funding Climate

As you’re probably aware, Strike Suit Zero was successfully funded on Kickstarter. Thanks to our backers, we were able to keep the game in development for an extra couple of months and iron out the bugs and issues we would have otherwise been forced to launch with. For a small studio without the aid of a publisher, this was invaluable.

Stories similar to ours are now commonplace. Since Double Fine brought Kickstarter under the games industry’s spotlight with Broken Age, a plethora of interesting, innovative titles that might not have seen the light of day under normal circumstances have been – or are about to be – released. Thanks to crowd-funding, we’ve seen old franchises brought back from the grave, we’ve seen the resurgence of floundering genres (space combat, for example) and the introduction of exciting new technologies.

But the cynics and pessimists were quick to have their say. “The Kickstarter bubble is going to burst!” they said. “It can’t keep on like this!” they said. “Crikey, not another Kickstarter!” they said. And all the while, funding records kept getting broken and more and more high profile developers brought their ideas to the table.

The success of the platform (for the games industry, at least) clearly has strong ties to the rise of the indie and resurgence of PC gaming. Kickstarter embraces both these movements, allowing for small teams to reach an audience that they’d have no means to otherwise. Gamers now congregate on Kickstarter, looking for indie gems they can sink their hard-earned into. If the idea behind a game is strong enough, gamers will come, word will spread and the money will follow.

But with the next console generation on the horizon, will crowd-funding remain as popular as it is right now? I’d argue yes. Games are in a very fragmented place right now, and consoles won’t dominate the experiences we’ll have like they might have done five years ago. Today we’re playing games on our PCs, on our mobile phones and tablets, on dedicated handheld consoles and through social networking sites. We’re downloading games on the train to work and sneaking in a quick five minutes while on the loo. Sometimes we pay £40 for a new title, sometimes £0.69 and other times we don’t pay a single penny. With such fragmentation at work – with so many different platforms, outlets and models – a platform like the Kickstarter will remain a bedrock for many smaller developers.

Gamers enjoy sidestepping publishers, too. They enjoy interacting with the teams that make their games, and they enjoy having an influence on the development of the product they’re investing in. Kickstarter not only allows the funding of a game, but opens the doors to its community, too. This is a procedure that many people will have grown accustomed to over the past year or so, and will be reluctant to let go of.

Kickstarter was never going to replace traditional publishing methods, but crowd-funding has got its feet firmly under the table now, and – in my opinion – will happily co-exist with other investment and publishing models.  As always, time will tell.

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