Tim Schafer Says Publishers Aren't Worried About Kickstarter

Tim Schafer Says Publishers Aren't Worried About Kickstarter

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Despite hitting it big on Kickstarter, Double Fine man Tim Schafer says game publishers aren't worried about the impact of crowdfunding on the business of making videogames.

When Tim Schafer said he needed a whole bunch of money to come up with a new point-and-click adventure game, the internet asked, "How much?" And when Tim Schafer replied that 400 large would be a good place to start, the internet gave him $2 million and told him to make five games, or make one that's five times better than he was planning. You know, whatever.

Gamers around the world, and some developers too, threw up their arms shouted "Hallelujah!" to the dawning of a new day in which game makers would connect directly with their fans to make the games they really want to make. Finally, after years of laboring under blood-sucking middlemen and flaccid design-by-committee, everything had changed - and we were free!

Except, well, not really. Schafer himself said he's spoken to publishers since his Kickstarter hit the big time and they've been respectfully polite about it and otherwise wholly unimpressed. "[Double Fine Adventure] is just one of our projects. We have four teams here. Those other teams are still out there pitching new games to publishers, and their response has always been, 'Oh that's great - congratulations on that. Now let's talk about games like we always have'," Schafer told Rock, Paper, Shotgun. "I don't think any publishers are quaking in their boots - they're like, 'Oh, two million dollars, that's cute! That's the marketing budget for the little game I'm working on.' It's not a big amount of money for them. It's a big amount of money for us though."

Despite that cold splash of reality, Schafer acknowledged that crowdfunding does open up some exciting opportunities for indie devs on tight budgets. "Supposedly a lot of indie games have picked up a lot of funding on Kickstarter. The guy who made Pixel Sand put up a graph that showed how his funding had increased when we launched our Kickstarter," he said. "I'd love to see it lead to more crazy and alternative ways of funding games."

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Well here's the thing publishers: Tim's game is actually going to be worth spending $2 million on development.

While I am being my usual cynical self, are we sure that games publishers actually understand what Kickstarter is?

We do know they're not big on listening to customers; or viewing us as anything more than the bane of their existence.

DVS BSTrD:
Well here's the thing publishers: Tim's game is actually going to be worth spending $2 million on development.

Oooh snap!

OT: This still makes me happy for Tim's game though, despite the fact that publishers seem to be a little smug about this, and maybe somewhere down the line these publishers will take this a litte more seriously.

I definitely like how it might help other indie game guys get funded. Still, publishers reaction doesn't surprise me. Two million isn't very much for a AAA game, but for an old fashioned adventure game chock full of awesomeness? Hells yes. They only needed 400k after all. So, hopefully, while I don't think this is going to be a drastic change on anything the game industry does at the moment, it should shake things up a bit. Excited to see where this goes.

The issue here is that they view these things in raw monetary terms. If indie games start directly competing with publishers though, you might see some friction there.

I don't really care if Kickstarter doesn't provide the funds necessary to make a triple A title. As long as the games the little innovative guys want to make can be made I'm happy.

On that note, I think that The Escapist should have a column open to tell us what game developers have a kickstarter going on so that we, of the gaming community, can openly support them at any given notice. It would be a pitty if a lesser-known indy developer of some lesser known game company tried it out and were left with an empty box and no rum.

Quaidis:
On that note, I think that The Escapist should have a column open to tell us what game developers have a kickstarter going on so that we, of the gaming community, can openly support them at any given notice. It would be a pitty if a lesser-known indy developer of some lesser known game company tried it out and were left with an empty box and no rum.

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Let's just hope this doesn't become a trend. I'd rather people help fund medical research than indie games... but that's just me.

Why don't we just make our own variant of Kickstarter exclusively for Games? I mean, if we are so annoyed with the big publisher, why not just make a gamer funded, privately owned publisher to rival them? Nobody loses, the Gamer get's his bonuses along with a copy of the Game, aslong as you make sure the Devs don't go over budget you can't really lose money on te project. The worst case scenario would be a Game turning out to be not be good...which is a risk people are already taking, so why exactly are we not doing this? Fuck, I'd start tomarrow if I had the cash to have a lawyer take care of the legal stuff.

Let these smug fucker publishers keep ignoring this while it snowballs into something that truly will hurt them down the road, that would be quite awesome to see!

Quaidis:
On that note, I think that The Escapist should have a column open to tell us what game developers have a kickstarter going on so that we, of the gaming community, can openly support them at any given notice. It would be a pitty if a lesser-known indy developer of some lesser known game company tried it out and were left with an empty box and no rum.

This is a great idea, i would love to see this happen!

Andy Chalk sez that Tim Schafer sez that publishers sez:
Oh, two million dollars, that's cute! That's the marketing budget for the little game I'm working on.

And this explains why Repetitive Franchise 2012 costs $60 despite being made up of two-thirds of Repetitive Franchise 2010.

I started buying indie when money got tight. Never looked back. I just can't justify spending sixty bucks on a game when that same amount of money can buy me a bunch of simpler but equally fun games with less risk (duds only cost me $5 - $10 each).

So have fun with your marketing budget that requires you to unload 50,000 copies just to make it back, never mind the dev costs. I won't be the one paying for those ads.

Hubris for the downfall?

*hopes*

Yeah, of course they don't care. They are dinosaurs. But you can bet they will start caring when people start producing new IPs, get successful, then kickstarter their sequels. Because then they will start having new, interesting and established IPs that the publisher wont be able to take away from them for a few dollars and a bag full of promises. They will be stuck recycling their same old shit over and over.

I'm not surprised they aren't worried. They still push the big bucks around and pay for the biggest titles. I look at Kickstarter as a way working outside what is mostly a broken system. If someone wants to make a smaller game but publishers only care about the bottom line (which shamefully is not what us consumers want) and won't fund it, why not go ahead and seek funding from gamers who would be interested. This isn't gonna rock the boat, but it's a way for gamers to potentially get what they want. Definitely not a bad thing.

weirdguy:
The issue here is that they view these things in raw monetary terms. If indie games start directly competing with publishers though, you might see some friction there.

And in my little old opinion, there will be friction. I see this being the start of something different - not exactly what we're expecting, but something very new.

An adventure game, even one made by Tim Schafer isn't going to challenge a Modern Warfare, a Mass Effect or even a Borderlands. Yes two million isn't a lot of money when you look at the money flowing around a big title. That said it looks like a good option for indies to get something off the ground.

The thing publishers don't realize is that with devoted developers and good PR $2 million dollars can go a hell of a long way.

DVS BSTrD:
Well here's the thing publishers: Tim's game is actually going to be worth spending $2 million on development.

i ... have nothing to say that can top this, and its truth

Of course Kickstarter isn't a threat, quite the opposite actually.

On a pragmatic level, Kickstarter is free money for the gaming industry given it's current mindset. One of the reasons why the games industry, and corperations in general, sit on liscences like say "Metal Arms" and other properties they won't ever use, is so they can go after similar products with similar ideas if they appear.

Just watch, given time your going to see some bright eyed, dream filled independant developer come up with a great idea, appeal to the fans, collect a surprising amount of money, and then right as development begins.. their dream come true, there will be knocking on the door and some lawyer from a big game company will serve them papers to sue them, because well their idea... it happens to be very similar to all these other ideas the company owns. Guess who is going to win between say EA's legal department, and say some fresh out of college basement developer who lucked into a 5 million dollar kickstarter investment. What's more you might not even hear about it, because the terms of some court cases can prevent the discussion of them, and if you do, what does EA care? A few mil at a time, is a few mil at a time, kickstarter can be viewed as an alternative stream of income to indirectly suck up fan donations throug naive bright eyed newbie developers who amazingly can't keep track of all the ideas and liscences a major corperation technically owns. Companies buy liscences just so they can own the idea in case they get an oppertunity like this.

Some people might be thinking I'm insane, but just watch, it probably actually won't be that long before we see a case almost exactly like what I'm talking about if kickstarter takes off.

Now, of course there is the other side of this as well, see Kickstarter is rife for abuse. The idea of it is fundementally good, but I can't imagine it will last long enough to spawn many success stories or present a threat. The amounts of money aside, it's only a matter of time before you see some "developer" who talks all the right talk and collects the money to develop the perfect game (telling people whatever they want to hear about a popular genere, no matter if it's too good to be true or not) he nails a couple million and then head someplace with nice beaches and no US extradition treaty. What's worse is that it's almost inevitable that someone we know is going to succumb to this temptation, see Tim raised that much money easily because he's Tim bloody Schaefer, people love him, and trust him. Still if Tim decided he was tired of being a mediocre game designer given all his failures and the fact that he's hardly become rich, and decided to retire to the aforementioned country without an extradition treaty with a couple mil hanging out of his back pocket, what the heck is going to stop him? Granted Tim probably won't do that, but I can almost guarantee with time we WILL see someone use their name to do exactly that, and it will come as a surprise.

See, collecting donations for various kind of developments, buildings, resorts, parks, or whartever is one of the oldest ways to scam money of people there is. It's a stock plot for TV shows, movies, and everything else. Kickstarter is new, and doing some things that people are impressed by, but the bottom line is that it's a way for people to collect donations with a greater degree of relative anonimity than ever before (you don't even need the TV con artist to show up in a costume). That means we're going to see all the same kind of crap.

It might be a conveinent way of organizing it, and exciting because it's new (which is why it can work) but right now the threat is not really all that differant than say someone asking people to mail him checks for a project. Tim's "Kickstarter" for his game really isn't differant than Tim saying "here is my address, send me money" or sitting aorund in the middle of Grand Central station, hat on the ground, asking for money. It's just conveinent... and since pretty much anyone can do this... well I'm not especially imaginative. I'm wondering if we'll see anything as awsome as the guy who sold the Eiffel Tower twice (I am not kidding) come of this... I doubt there will be anything that epic, but still I can't help but think I wouldn't be threatened by this if I was running a business right now.

We'll see what happens, maybe I'll be proven wrong, in theory it would be nice to see an alternative form of funding for games take off. I'm just not that much of an optimist.

Quaidis:
On that note, I think that The Escapist should have a column open to tell us what game developers have a kickstarter going on so that we, of the gaming community, can openly support them at any given notice. It would be a pity if a lesser-known indy developer of some lesser known game company tried it out and were left with an empty box and no rum.

This is one of the best ideas I've heard in a long time, actually. Even just a better way to sort Kickstarter projects into more specific categories would be useful. If there was a forum here where people talked about the most intriguing Kickstarter gaming projects they've seen or certain projects they may be trying to create, I'd be far more willing to click the link than if I had to search through all the ones they have on the site with its less than completely intuitive navigation.

OT: Of course major publishers aren't going to be shaken up by $2 million. They're not focused on the $2 million dollar game market. They're working on much larger triple A titles as they should be . That being said, and it could just be the way Tim Schafer said it or the way the article is written, I do think such an achievement should be congratulated on its own merit, and not condescended to as some of the quotes in the article seem to indicate occurred.

Quaidis:
On that note, I think that The Escapist should have a column open to tell us what game developers have a kickstarter going on so that we, of the gaming community, can openly support them at any given notice. It would be a pitty if a lesser-known indy developer of some lesser known game company tried it out and were left with an empty box and no rum.

I would absolutely love it if both Penny Arcade and The Escapist did this, it would help out so many devs.

OT: Eh, they can't afford to look scared. Honestly, the publishers are a necessary part of the industry, its just that they aren't very accountable, and they have NO idea how to make crowd sourcing work.

I wonder why publishers don't make the connection that they can make 10 games with a 'cute' budget for the price of one normal title and mitigate the risk a bit. Maybe because they are in it for the prestige.

I wonder how they react if one of their generic high-budget fps games sell less copies than a cute crowd sourced game. I would love to see that.

Therumancer:

Now, of course there is the other side of this as well, see Kickstarter is rife for abuse. The idea of it is fundementally good, but I can't imagine it will last long enough to spawn many success stories or present a threat. The amounts of money aside, it's only a matter of time before you see some "developer" who talks all the right talk and collects the money to develop the perfect game (telling people whatever they want to hear about a popular genere, no matter if it's too good to be true or not) he nails a couple million and then head someplace with nice beaches and no US extradition treaty. What's worse is that it's almost inevitable that someone we know is going to succumb to this temptation, see Tim raised that much money easily because he's Tim bloody Schaefer, people love him, and trust him. Still if Tim decided he was tired of being a mediocre game designer given all his failures and the fact that he's hardly become rich, and decided to retire to the aforementioned country without an extradition treaty with a couple mil hanging out of his back pocket, what the heck is going to stop him? Granted Tim probably won't do that, but I can almost guarantee with time we WILL see someone use their name to do exactly that, and it will come as a surprise.

I bet you are right. If the concept proves itself it will only be a matter of time until some Zynga wannabe starts abusing the concept. Raise 200K on some cool marketing, spend 20K on a game - deal done. There is certainly some cause for concern and critical thinking.

I'd imagine they're not impressed because nothing particularly impressive has happened yet.

I suspect they'll be much more interested in what his profit margin is compared to how much he was given to begin with.

Fappy:
Let's just hope this doesn't become a trend. I'd rather people help fund medical research than indie games... but that's just me.

I disagree, the National Institute for Health receives $30 billion a year in public funding, and advancing research is not as simple as just throwing money at the problem. At a certain point, once there is enough public funding to attract the brightest minds to medical research, the bottleneck is not funding, it's human capital.

Picture a simple society with 1000 people. 10 or them are great at research, and 90 more are decent at it. The rest of the people are average and have no aspirations for research. Now suppose you have enough funding to attract the 10 great guys to work on your problem. You could still increase the rate of progress by attracting those other 90 guys who would be decent helpers. But after that point, throwing more money at the problem doesn't help because all sources of human capital are already fully utilized.

That corresponds to the current situation for most kinds of big-budget research in the US. Spending twice as much money does not net us twice as much research.

I'm a scientist, so it's not that I'm against research. My point is that the US government already does a great job taking care of all the $$$ issues. The real limitation for research is human capital. So instead of giving money, the best we can do is contribute to a better educated society, and make sure that people from all walks of life who have the potential to excel in research also have opportunities to realize that potential.

isometry:

Fappy:
Let's just hope this doesn't become a trend. I'd rather people help fund medical research than indie games... but that's just me.

I disagree, the National Institute for Health receives $30 billion a year in public funding, and advancing research is not as simple as just throwing money at the problem. At a certain point, once there is enough public funding to attract the brightest minds to medical research, the bottleneck is not funding, it's human capital.

Picture a simple society with 1000 people. 10 or them are great at research, and 90 more are decent at it. The rest of the people are average and have no aspirations for research. Now suppose you have enough funding to attract the 10 great guys to work on your problem. You could still increase the rate of progress by attracting those other 90 guys who would be decent helpers. But after that point, throwing more money at the problem doesn't help because all sources of human capital are already fully utilized.

That corresponds to the current situation for most kinds of big-budget research in the US. Spending twice as much money does not net us twice as much research.

I'm a scientist, so it's not that I'm against research. My point is that the US government already does a great job taking care of all the $$$ issues. The real limitation for research is human capital. So instead of giving money, the best we can do is contribute to a better educated society, and make sure that people from all walks of life who have the potential to excel in research also have opportunities to realize that potential.

Does this apply to the majority of medical research-able issues? What I mean is that there are plenty of medical conditions out there that have little to no funding at all and require awareness campaigns to get the word out. While I am not an expert on such things I am sure donation money would do more good there than it would in Tim's pocket.

Fappy:

Does this apply to the majority of medical research-able issues? What I mean is that there are plenty of medical conditions out there that have little to no funding at all and require awareness campaigns to get the word out. While I am not an expert on such things I am sure donation money would do more good there than it would in Tim's pocket.

The thing is, the money does not go to Tim's pocket. It will be paid as salary to himself and his employees. Then they will spend it on various things, groceries, mortgages, and maybe even make some donations to medical research (or maybe the owner of the grocery store will make a donation, etc).

The point is, money spent on this game doesn't get "destroyed" or "wasted." The money just changes hands and keeps on going. The only thing that can be wasted is time: Tim Schafer and his team will be making a videogame, instead of personally doing medical research. This is hardly much of a waste at all, since their calling is clearly in the creative arts and not in scientific research.

This is completely general. Buying a frivolous piece of crap doesn't waste anything except the time that the person who made the piece of crap spent on making it. From the point of view of the economy as a whole, money can't be wasted, only time can.

Back to the issue of medical funding, I argued that when it comes to research for future cures, there is plenty of funding and the main bottleneck is getting more bright researchers. On the other hand, I agree with you that awareness campaigns and treatments for people who can't afford them are good causes to donate to. Still, based on the above I don't think it's right to view it as an "either / or" situation, i.e. it's not the case that the money either goes to a frivolous game or to research that benefits mankind. The same money can and will circulate through both. Ultimately, whether or not double fine gets funding only effects what the employees of double fine spend their time on. If no one was willing to pay them to make games, they would do something else with their time.

isometry:

Fappy:

Does this apply to the majority of medical research-able issues? What I mean is that there are plenty of medical conditions out there that have little to no funding at all and require awareness campaigns to get the word out. While I am not an expert on such things I am sure donation money would do more good there than it would in Tim's pocket.

...

The point is, money spent on this game doesn't get "destroyed" or "wasted." The money just changes hands and keeps on going. The only thing that can be wasted is time: Tim Schafer and his team will be making a videogame, instead of personally doing medical research. This is hardly much of a waste at all, since their calling is clearly in the creative arts and not in scientific research.

...

In addition to this man's great points, please realize as well that someone who gives $50 to Tim Schaefer might not be inclined to spend that same $50 on a humanitarian donation. I have a charity I donate to when I am so inclined. The money I give to that charity is in no way affected by whatever other money I spend at any given time. It isn't an either or, it's an in addition to. In my opinion it isn't a case of 'this money would be better served going to ____' it's a case of 'how could charities/non profit organizations in any given field appeal to people in such a way as to earn a similar amount of money?'

I work for a nonprofit, and believe you me that people will give their money to many different causes (and sometimes they pay for it -- some people get on so many lists they start receiving several hundred appeals per month). The idea is to find a cause that appeals to people (in this case I suppose you could say gamers), and then give them incentive to donate. And besides that, the really needy places that can use a lot of money do better with regular donors who give a reliable amount of money monthly or yearly or whatever. The $2 million Tim got is great, but believe me when I say that for a non profit doing good work, that money is likely a drop in the bucket compared to the need. Would it be put to good use? Definitely! But a bunch of one time donors for a single push won't solve the yearly issues, it will only delay them. You'd need to convince those people to donate on a regular basis.

But, back to the point, that $30 I gave to Tim's project would not have been donated somewhere else had I decided not to support him. More likely it would have gone towards food or something else frivolous for myself. The money I donate to charity and the money I reserve for my own entertainment are two wholly different things. :)

 

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