Over the past couple of years, services like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have allowed people to contribute money to projects that they’d like to see completed. Known as crowdfunding, these services connect artists, filmmakers, and developers with the people who most want to see these projects come to life, so that together, they can craft these dreams into reality. While some people may oppose the use of crowdfunding in the video game industry, it has proven time and time again to be a successful tactic, and one I firmly believe isn’t leaving anytime soon.
One of the biggest draws of crowdfunding is the sheer number and variety of projects available through the various services. For developers, this means that they can feel free to design a game they want to make. Even the weirdest or most creative games can be created if they receive enough funding. A great example of this is HuniePop. Part Candy Crush, part dating simulator, HuniePop found great success through Kickstarter late in 2013, raising 267.68% of its $20,000 goal. Having put a significant amount of time into the game, I can almost guarantee it wouldn’t exist if it had to go through the traditional process. Without Kickstarter and the game’s generous backers, I would’ve missed out on one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had on PC.
Crowdfunding, while certainly having a benefit to indie developers, can also be home to proven developers. Kickstarter alone has housed some campaigns for big-name projects over the past few months. Yooka-Laylee, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, Shenmue III — all of these games have found phenomenal success through crowdfunding. Yooka-Laylee, at the time, set the record for the fastest game to reach $1 million. Bloodstained currently holds the title of eighth-most funded campaign of any kind ever, reaching slightly over $5.5 million. Shenmue III, which is still in progress, shattered even Yooka-Laylee‘s record, reaching $1 million in funds raised in just under two hours. These games prove that even big name developers have specific games they want to see created. Even more importantly, these campaigns show that crowdfunding is great for connecting consumers to the games they want. As Yu Suzuki says on the Shenmue III Kickstarter page, “If Shenmue III was going to get made, I wanted to make it with the fans. Through Kickstarter, I knew that could happen.”
The other neat aspect of crowdfunding is the model itself. Many people falsely believe that crowdfunding campaigns are simply a way to pre-order whatever game is being created. In actuality, these campaigns should be seen as an investment. The whole purpose of crowdfunding is to invest in the creation of the project, not in the acquisition of the final product. I have been a part of a few successful campaigns, and as an investor, I have a reason to closely follow the project. The developers and creators I’ve contributed to have been very open about getting backer feedback. Having access to early builds of the game to see what works and what doesn’t, receiving progress reports on the game’s production, getting behind-the-scenes insight into the development, and being able to converse with the developers gives backers the feeling of being part of the development process. For many of us, this is as close to the development process as we can get.
As with any good investment, the investor will get some kind of benefit out of contributing. These rewards are up to the project’s creator, but typically for games, backers are guaranteed a copy of the game to play. These games are often available at one of the lowest reward tiers, so if you just want the game, it won’t cost you that much. For more dedicated contributors, things such as art books, t-shirts, posters, figures, and more become great incentives to pledge more money. One of the coolest rewards I’ve gotten was the ability to design a bloodline in the recently released Massive Chalice. This bloodline is one of many in the game, and has the ability to randomly appear in anybody’s game as controllable heroes. So not only did I get to be a part of the development process, I actually got to contribute to the game itself, which is one of the highlights of my gaming career.
It’s not a stretch to say that the gaming industry wouldn’t be the same without crowdfunding, and that’s a good thing. Indie developers and video game legends alike have turned to platforms like Kickstarter to fully realize their visions. Consumers have consistently proven that they want to be a part of the creation process and have flocked in droves to support their favorite projects. Games like Shenmue III may not have had a chance at life without a strong developer initiative and a strong fan base to fund it. Crowdfunding allows these groups to come together and create something truly exciting and unique, something that’s always welcome in the gaming community.