In a more wholesome time, before Kickstarter became a money dispenser for the wealthy, obscure artists, frustrated designers, and pretty much anybody with a good idea could use the platform to help fund a dream. That still exists, but it’s slowly being usurped by celebrities like Neil Young and his Pono, Zach Braff’s Wish I was Here, TLC’s fifth album, Spike Lee’s Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, and Veronica Mars’s Veronica Mars.
More and more we’re seeing powerful personal and professional #brands turning to Kickstarter for funding. Pebble, for example, returned to Kickstarter recently with its Pebble Time smartwatch to become the most funded campaign of all time. There’s good reason for this, especially for video game developers.
Firstly, a Kickstarter campaign allows game makers to gauge demand before development begins. Secondly, it taps into a ready community of backers and bloggers to assist with promotion. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it gives the project’s creator almost absolute control, severing the strings that would otherwise exist between publishers, investment firms, and bankers while shifting almost all of the risk onto fans.
Videos games in particular have a long history of success on Kickstarter from Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Adventure in 2012 to Koji Igarashi’s Bloodstained funding success in 2015. In fact, of the top 20 most funded projects on Kickstarter, more than half (11) fall under the Games category — just one of 15 possible categories supported by Kickstarter.
During Monday’s E3 event, Sony deployed Yu Suzuki, the game designer behind the cult series Shenmue, to announce a long-awaited sequel. A move with two aims: exposure on gaming’s biggest stage would ensure that Yu Suzuki’s long-awaited sequel would quickly meet its $2 million funding goal (it’s now over $3 million), and it would give Sony something to make its press conference memorable for years to come.
The feverish response to Sony’s Shenmue reveal means we can expect publishers to pull similar tricks in the future. It’s hard for big publishers like Sony and Microsoft to justify running their own Kickstarters when they have coffers to rival Scrooge McDuck’s, but you better believe both companies will scour gaming’s history to find near-mythical titles like Shenmue in need of funding.
By wheeling those games out on stage at E3 next year, risk-averse publishers won’t need to commit any of their own funds, but can still earn goodwill from dedicated fans who’ll have to shoulder the costs (and risks) of development.
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