Escapist Editorials

Escapist Editorials
How Kickstarter Will Change the World

Greg Tito | 9 Feb 2012 21:30
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Videogame publishers have acted as gatekeepers, separating the people who make the games from the people who love them and only letting certain titles through. They have told us time and again that we don't want originality and innovation, no no no, you want to shoot Nazis in WW2, again. Independent platforms like Steam, XBLA and PSN, er, SEN, have reduced the overhead needed to create high-quality games, but even those small projects need some form of outside support, such as publisher investment, government grants or your grandma.

Minecraft and Tim Schafer have proved that is no longer the case. Yes, it is unlikely random designer Bob Jinglehopper could raise $800k on Kickstarter (and counting!), but even a tenth of that sum is possible if you have a solid concept and the chops to put together a decent pitch. Hundreds of startups are already on Kickstarter trying to get funding for various game projects. They are succeeding or failing not based on what a man in a suit thinks about their game idea, but rather on whether gamers like you would want to play it. I don't know about you, but I'd rather we were the ones to hold that power, not a faceless CEO.

To be clear, publishers are not evil and the videogame industry is as successful as it today because of their existence. Large publishers will still be the source of funding for AAA games for a long, long time.

What Kickstarter does is free up the small to mid-range budgets from needing outside investors. It nearly erases all risk from the equation, as well, so more game projects can be made without fear of bankruptcy. All projects on Kickstarter must meet a goal, and if they don't, then all monies go back to the donors. That is a near perfect culling mechanism because if not enough people want to throw 10 bucks at your idea, then maybe it's not that good. That will send you back to the drawing board, but without spending 50 grand first. That's incredibly freeing for people who make stuff, as well as for the people contributing to your idea. We don't need no stinking publishers.

Hell, the tabletop game industry has fully endorsed the Kickstarter model, of which I can personally attest. In the past, making a book of RPG rules was nearly impossible due to the costs associated with printing and distribution, but now that bar has been lowered and Kickstarter is a big reason why. My own project - the Adventurer Conqueror King System - wouldn't have been published without people contributing to our crazy idea for a D&D clone. Board game designers I've met in the Triangle area and at conventions like Gen Con love to talk to me about their awesome game idea, but we inevitably start talking about how they can Kickstart it. How will the rewards be structured? Wouldn't it be cool if we could give the people who donate $100 the chance to name a continent on the map? Why yes, that is really, really cool.

Kickstarter satisfies many desires. Not just of the creator, but also of the consumer. Everyone identifies more with a product if they somehow feel that you have been involved with its production. People want to be a part of something greater than themselves, whether that's a club or a church or a TV show. By allowing fans to contribute funds and perhaps even commentary on a product's development, they become invested in the product's success, they become part of a community. Both parties feel good, the donor and the recipient. The double-plus-good feeling is what makes Kickstarter and other sites of its ilk so powerful.

We as consumers are often told to vote with our wallet. If we don't like what a company does, the best way to communicate that is not buying its products. Kickstarter is the corollary to that idea. You vote on what projects get funded by buying them ahead of time. You decide which games get made.

You become the game publisher.

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