Tim Schafer’s company hasn’t exactly lit up the charts with game sales. The former LucasArts game designer (the Monkey Island series, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango) founded Double Fine in 2000 to create quirky games that only his imagination could generate. Their first game, Psychonauts, was batted from Microsoft to Majesco where it failed to gain an audience. Its Jack Black-starring follow-up, Brutal Legend, also failed to make money for EA. After a few Xbox Live Arcade releases, Tim really just wanted to make an adventure game like the good old days. So he went to Kickstarter.
Now Kickstarter isn’t anything new. Individuals and companies around the world go to the service with a pitch: if they can raise X number of dollars, they’ll be able to do Y. As a reward for your commitment, you’ll receive Z at A, B, and C tiers of contribution. Kickstarter has been behind many documentaries, including Indie Game: The Movie, and Kris and Scott’s Scott and Kris Show on Penny Arcade. Kickstarter also funded Diaspora, a once-Facebook-killing, open source social network service. And while the number of projects that can be funded is directly correlated to how many people are willing to spend money on Kickstarter, it makes sense that it could also be used as a valid business model.
Despite setting a five-week timetable to raise the funds, Double Fine received more than double their requested budget after a day and the funds continue to pour in. (I need to throw in my own few bucks myself!) What would’ve been nearly impossible to receive by a publisher was accomplished by Double Fine by requesting the funds from the fans themselves, the people who would actually purchase the title. Anyone who would buy the title from there on out would simply be icing on the cake.
So it leaves one to wonder if more developers, or filmmakers, or what have you, could rest their entire business model on crowd-funding? What if a film producer could simply ask the potential audience for funding, rather than going through a studio? What if, through this process, we were sold the product before it was made through micro-investments? Content on demand? The mind boggles, but this is something that only Tim could’ve pulled off, in much the same way that letting people pay their own rate for music only really works for Radiohead or Trent Reznor. I would’ve loved Kickstarter six years ago when we set off to create our E3 documentary, a project that would materialize as Infinite Lives, but even if we didn’t get funded, it would’ve been nice to have the shot.
Go visit Double Fine’s Kickstarter to chip in your dollars!