From Kickstarter and Indiegogo to Fig: How crowdfunding changed gaming
The internet moves so quickly that sometimes it’s hard to remember life before the latest, greatest trend. Do you remember what you used to do before Twitter and Facebook? What about before Netflix? What if you were limited to only what was on TV at that particular moment? Now think back to a time when video games were available only on store shelves, in boxes, on discs and cartridges. It probably feels like it was much longer ago than it really was.
As well as having to buy games physically in shops, titles tended to be developed and published by large companies you were already familiar with. In 2016, you’d be hard-pressed to find a gamer that doesn’t know about crowdfunding and independent game development. Indiegogo launched in January 2008, followed a little over a year later by Kickstarter in April 2009. But, as it goes with a lot of tech ventures, neither platform earned much notoriety until a few years later. Today each website is synonymous with independently created projects of all shapes, sizes and categories.
(Above: Indivisible by Lab Zero Games, funded on Indiegogo)
Indivisible by Lab Zero Games is one recent crowdfunding success story. As a brand-new gaming property, the action RPG set a record for the highest-ever-funded game on Indiegogo with a result of $1.9 million.
Elsewhere, Kickstarter, which tends to attract much higher-grossing projects and personalities, recently ended funding for the revival of a long-dormant franchise, Shenmue III, to the tune of a hefty $6.3 million. Developers are happy to skip strict publishing agreements in favour of going directly to the people that want their games the most: their fans.
(Above: ELITE: Dangerous by Frontier Developments, funded on Kickstarter)
The dawn of Fig
One of the biggest differences between crowdfunding and traditional publishers or investors is that crowdfunding tasks your backers with purchasing products that don’t exist yet in order to help fund their creation.
For example, let’s say I wanted to make a game. I’d ask you and 30,000 or so other people to buy it two years early so I can finish it, give it to you for helping me finish the project, and then continue selling it to other people. With publishers and investors, on the other hand, it’s more like a partnership between them and the developer. They provide funds to make the game and, if it sells well, they get a chunk of that profit too.
That’s where Fig comes in: touted as a combination of traditional publishing and crowdfunding that puts even more power in the hands of backers. Your backers are now not only supporting a project’s development, but also signing on as investors that receive limited returns on their investments. When I spoke with Justin Bailey, CEO and founder of Fig, he was adamant about the platform’s unique qualities in comparison to Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
“When the stakes are this high… it needs to be entrusted to those who have a passion for it.”
“Neither of them offer an option to invest in the projects; we do,” said Bailey. “We bring industry expertise and we’re solely focused on games. We’re not just trying to get as many campaigns through as possible. Video games are our expertise and our passion, and when the stakes are this high – with budgets in the millions – it needs to be entrusted to those who have a passion for it.”
(Above: Psychonauts 2 by Double Fine Games, funded on Fig)
And while they don’t yet have much of a track record, they’ve already shown results. Psychonauts 2, the long-awaited sequel to the cult-classic original, surpassed its funding goal of $3.3 million and ended its investment period with more than $3.8 million. It’s certainly good news for developers Double Fine, but whether investment through Fig is the future of crowdfunding or just another iteration of the popular formula remains to be seen.