Since the beginning of gaming history there have only been two ways for developers to fund the development of a game: deal with a publisher, or fund it themselves. As the price of HD quality graphics caused the budgets of games to balloon over the past decades, increasingly only the large publisher model has been able to support commercial game releases. As a result publishers gained a stranglehold on game genres; refusing to fund any genre they deemed out of date or unprofitable.
Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert, both alums of Lucasarts during the graphical adventure heyday, had wanted to make a new game in that genre for years, but no publishers would bite. Because of that they turned to Kickstarter
, a site designed to allow people to donate to projects that required any amount of funding. Essentially it allowed people to pre-purchase a game, although the game would only be made if enough people purchased it. Because of the genre's small fanbase and limited cross-over appeal Schafer figured they would be able to make a game if they reached a total investment of $400k, although he was dubious as to whether or not that was possible. The Kickstarter had broken $400k before the end of the first day and ended its 30 day run
at over 3.3 million dollars.
Since then other developers have taken to using Kickstarter for similarly written-off game genres. A sequel to Wasteland
, directed by Brian Fargo, director of the original Wasteland
as well as Fallout
and many other Black Isle games, reached its $1 million goal in less than two days
and, as of this writing, sits at just under $2 million. A new Shadowrun
game, directed by the creator of the license Jordan Weisman, has just been added to Kickstarter as of this writing
, and looks to be well on the way to clearing its $400k goal.
Success with Kickstarter is not universal, however. All of these projects have had notable developers or licenses behind them. One project without any notable names attached, Takedown
, a tactical shooter in the style of Rainbow Six
, only barely cleared its $200k goal after a rename and a rewrite of the project statement. A Kickstarter to give the PSP game Class of Heroes 2
a deluxe physical special edition in the style of older Working Designs releases looks as if it will miss its $500k goal by a wide margin, due to a combination of unclear donation rewards, the mediocre quality of the game, and general apathy towards a physical PSP release in 2012. An RPG designed with the LGBT community in mind, Arkh Project
, is collecting its donations piecemeal, and as of yet has only funded its concept art. It remains to be seen how much influence this donation/pre-buy model will have on the industry as a whole, especially for new franchises and genres.