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The Implications of Double Fine’s Kickstarter Success

February 9, 2012

From between the time I fell asleep last night until waking up this morning, Double Fine, developer of Psychonauts, Brutal Legend, and Stacking, Kickstarter-ed and received complete funding for their next game. In less than 8 hours, they raised over $500,000. (Editor’s note: From the writing of this post, they have passed $900,000 1.1 Mil).

To be sure, Double Fine has a solid reputation for creating unique and polished games. Yet, they were also clever enough to offer several incentives for donation, including access to the “making of” videos, the beta, and a copy of the game via Steam once it is finished. In other words, from the perspective of many of the donators, they were simply commissioning Double Fine to make their next game.

But how can that work? If Double Fine is spending all their future sales money right now on developing, how are they going to “make any money” off the project when it is completed? And how can thousands of people share the commissioned product once it is finished?

Historically, artists and laborers of all trades were paid to perform and do work, not paid to do so and then retire for the rest of their lives. Some of the finest artistic creations in human history came from this time and of this model. So, in principle, the idea of paying Double Fine just enough money so that they can pay their bills and provide for their family until their project is finished, is not as outlandish or unreasonable as it may seem. At the very least, it isn’t without precedence. However, fear not. We got them covered. This is the digital era. When Double Fine finishes their product, it will cost them no more than pennies to literally duplicate it ad infinitum and distribute it via numerous digital sales platforms to whoever else might want it. The fact is, those who donated $15 or more have already secured their copy, but nothing will be stopping Double Fine from continuing to duplicate and sell their product for years – all at the negligible cost of the uploading services. In other words, even when mimicking the old commission model, because of the low cost of product duplication and distribution, these laborers and artist can still enjoy at least a temporary “retirement” of sorts. If their work is well done, one imagines they might be able to accrue quite a sizable nest egg for whatever purpose.

This is the era, and the venue, in which the sale of goods doesn’t mean that the seller’s shelves are now empty. In fact, ever single producer of digital products is like the widow in the desert blessed by Elijah. They all are holding vessels of oil and flour that never run empty.

If only for a brief moment, this event should send a twinge of terror up and down the spineless, bent-over-from-bean-counting backs of the major publishers. While innovation left their buildings long ago, one would think that this would be evidence that from here on out, those big companies might not even be able buy their next innovative product. Why sell your creative freedom and your rights to all future sales, when you can protect and keep them, experience security, and still make a boat load of cash?

Just yesterday I was wishing I were rich so that I could commission Steve Vai to perform classical music on his electric guitar a la his work in Crossroads. Maybe now I don’t even have to be rich. Maybe I just need to contact him, persuade him it is a worthy undertaking, determine the price, and then raise it via Kickstarter. First Indie Game:The Movie, now Double Fine Adventure. Kickstarter has certainly got my attention. It could be that we are living at the beginning of the Second Renaissance.

UPDATE: The latest Bonus Round has Tim Tim Schafer as guest from DICE (will be up next week). Also, Gamasutra covers this event here and here.

Joystiq follow-up article here.

UPDATE 2: (all further articles of interest to follow can be edited in below):

Giant Bomb’s look at unsuccessful Kickstarter projects.

Ben Kuchera looks at the pitfalls of planning and funding Kickstarter Projects.

RPS discusses the dilemma of promoting Kickstarter projects in their blog.

PAR discusses the new investment company Gambitious.

Penny Arcade briefly discusses the new form of “Stretch Goals”, for projects that have long surpassed their donation goals.

The Pebble watch – over 10 mil, with 66 thousand backers and 75 thousand pre-order donations.

UPDATE 3Joystiq on a successfully funded but failed project.

UPDATE4An excellent guide to the “success” and “failure” rates of Kickstarter projects.

UPDATE5: Crowdfunding 2.0 “Mini-IPO”.

  1. February 10, 2012 5:21 am

    I don’t think this will be as revolutioary as you would hope. I think other developers will find it no easier than before to raise funds than before, and a majority of funding will still come from the publishers looking for the next safe, formulaic AAA hit. This event is, sadly, unique and exceptional, due to Tim Schafer. But hopefully developers can learn how to better incentivize kickstarter campaigns to get a little bit of financial independence.

  2. February 10, 2012 5:52 am

    I think it’s too early to tell the full implications of this. But I hope it allows more creative freedom for developers. Either way, it’s pretty damn amazing. I agree with Suns in that we’re on the verge of a second renaissance. Anyone can now publish a book or make a game and sell or distribute it with ease. The implications are exciting.

  3. FrenkoFrenik permalink
    February 10, 2012 8:11 am

    OT: Someone please post this:
    Ten hands one guitar.

  4. RoBBins0096 permalink*
    February 11, 2012 3:17 pm

    This is OT as well, but I told Blankman last night that I would post this just for the sheer ridiculousness of it. The most insane wallbouncing you will EVER see in Gears of War 3. If I ever run into this guy, I’ll rage quit immediately without even playing a minute into the game.

  5. RoBBins0096 permalink*
    February 11, 2012 4:40 pm

    Also, from CliffyB on Twitter, Overpass is now NOT in any map rotation due to a shitty “map flow”. Whatever that means we dont care, the map is terrible regardless. Here’s his tweet…

    “We’ve temporarily removed “Overpass” from map rotations. It’s got a few flow issues. #Gears3″

  6. 3Suns permalink*
    February 12, 2012 5:49 pm

    Thanks for the comments, guys. Thanks for reading. Tim Shafer is interviewed in the latest Bonus Round which will be posted sometime this month.

    And to RoBBins, I cannot tell you how many times “Overpass” was in our rotation yesterday and we either had to bail bail bail, or fight through the pain.

    I was thrilled every time Clocktower came up. Funny, with the exception of HOTEL, which has none of the atmosphere as Mansion, not one of the Gears three maps is as memorable, interesting, or even slightly as entertaining as the worst Gears 1 maps.

    Epic is most truly “idiot savant”: the absolute best and simultaneously worst developer out there.

    • RoBBins0096 permalink*
      February 13, 2012 1:15 pm

      Oh wow, really?? I havent played Gears in a few days but that sucks to hear.

      OT: Gotham City Impostors is AWESOME! Very cartoony.. reminds me of TF2 in a way. Lots of fun but kinda difficult to do well (for me anyway, and Im a CoD/FPS fanboy). Everyone try it out!

    • February 13, 2012 3:37 pm

      “Epic is most truly “idiot savant”: the absolute best and simultaneously worst developer out there.”

      Made me laugh. So true.

  7. 3Suns permalink*
    February 12, 2012 11:15 pm

    Here are two other examples of creative ideas coming to fruition via Kickstarter (though these are more along the lines of “inventions” rather than artistic works).

    and this! LOL It is the kind of thing I am talking about.

  8. Average permalink*
    February 13, 2012 11:02 am

    For Mike, Jimmy et all from Sat night BF:

    The setup we got going on Saturday, didn’t manage to get us all in the party but Baxter, his friend Dan, myself and Gregarian were ‘pumpin nubs’ (Just for you Grymm) and had a pretty nice setup going but a glorious time. It was beyond GREAT to play with everyone I even debated coming back down after to continue. Thankfully common sense…I mean I passed out before I could walk down to the basemnet, we must do again even though I’m paying the price of no sleep today.

    Canadian Cave for Men

    • 3Suns permalink*
      February 13, 2012 2:59 pm

      Average, I could hear the joy! It was great knowing you guys were all together and working with y`all to dominate! So much fun!

      BTW, the 4GN Perma-LAN is set up with the monitors in the middle of the room facing out to the four corners. Both setups have their advantages and disadvantages. When playing on the same team, yours is definitely the way to go.

      And RoBBins, thanks for the heads-up on GCI. I will have to try the demo out. Love me some creative art design!

    • February 13, 2012 9:17 pm

      dude that set up is so sick. instant dummy pumper.

  9. 3Suns permalink*
    September 12, 2012 5:22 pm

    One of the first successfully funded games finally comes to market. So far, so good.

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