There's been a lot of buzz lately about Tim Schafer's new Double Fine project hitting $3 million on Kickstarter lately. Other companies are beginning to take notice and to start their own Kickstarter projects as well. But there are some lingering questions about the crowd-funded approach that no one seems to be asking.
First off, crowd publishing may be new now, but what happens if it suddenly becomes the norm? Let's say EA decides they want to try to launch a new IP, or Ubisoft finally decides to stop holding "Beyond Good and Evil 2" hostage by making us buy "Rayman Origins." Who's to say that crowd-funding won't suddenly become mandatory to get a game project off the ground? If it somehow does become the norm for game development, imagine how lucrative this would be for a business. A crowd-funded project from a major publisher would get the following:
1. Initial funding from Kickstarter.
2. Released product sales.
3. Day 1 DLC to incentivize #2.
4. Further-down-the-line DLC to expand the game and the playerbase.
5. Sequels could potentially repeat steps 1-4.
If Activision decided to do this for a new Call of Duty side property (Infinity Ward's mysterious cancelled sci fi project, anyone?), would this kill crowdfunding or just conventional game publishing? Considering the ludicrous current expectations to get a new IP off the ground (A game under budget with a dedicated and wide playerbase that would be "exploitable" (Bobby Kotick's words, not mine) over many years is the exception and not the norm), this could make us pay even more for our video games. Think $60 bucks a game now is silly? Imagine the number going up ten, the DLC being hiked 20% and adjusted for inflation, and now this crowd-funding scheme. You'd be paying:
$25-$30 for the initial Kickstarter.
$60 at retail.
$15-$20 multiple times post-retail for DLC content.
This would add to around $110 per game, per customer! Add that to state and federal sales tax and you'll probably get marked up another $7-$12! That's insane! Imagine how expensive hardcore gaming would get. If a typical gamer gets 2-3 games a year, the costs will certainly add up for people who get in on the crowdsourcing scheme. Obviously, not every customer would do a "buy-in" on every project, but it certainly goes to illustrate how expensive games are getting nowadays.
But onto my second point. Crowdfunding projects may be a sweet proposition for getting less-well known projects on the table now, but if they become the norm, who's to say that major publishers couldn't co-opt such a system and control which projects get onto these sites? Imagine if a bigger company acquired Kickstarter or any other major site. Or what if Kickstarter itself began to pick and choose projects to allow onto the site to be funded. Unless the maker of the game is already industry-established or a well known auteur like Hideo Kojima, attempting to get a crowd-funded project going with more competition in the Kickstarter market could very well stifle the very innovation we are attempting to stimulate!
So, what do you think? Am I talking out of my ass or is there a legitimate problem with the existing system of crowd-funding as it's currently developing?
categories: crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, activision, bobby, kotick, kickstarter, tim, schafer, christian, allen