Gabriel Knight creator Jane Jensen has taken to Kickstarter to find support for "Community Supported Gaming" and her new studio, Pinkerton Road.
First, a crash course for the dismayingly large number of you who don't know who Jane Jensen is. Ms. Jensen was a big player at Sierra, getting her start working on the docs for Police Quest 3 and eventually moving up to become the creator of the storied Gabriel Knight series. She's worked on numerous other adventures since the end of Sierra's days, most of them with a bit of a dark twist, and now she's got a new project in mind: a game studio, to be precise, that will use what she calls a "Community Supported Gaming" model to fund its projects.
Unlike other recent videogame Kickstarters, Jensen's plan is to use it to attract supporters for her studio, who will earn various rewards over the course of a year depending on how much they pledge. "We stole the idea from CSAs - Community Supported Agriculture -- where customers subscribe to a small organic farm for a season and get a basket of just-picked produce each week," Jensen explained. "This supports the small farmer while the customers get the freshest food available and a direct relationship with the person growing their food."
The CSG model will work in a similar way. Anyone who joins will get all the games the studio produces for one year, plus various bonuses depending on how deep they dig. Pinkerton Road's first "season" of CSG will run until the end of June 2013, but the number of games it puts out during that time will depend on how much funding it gets. At the bare minimum, if the Kickstarter goal is met, it will produce Lola and Lucy's Big Adventure, an e-book/game for children that's already nearly finished and will be out this summer, and "an all new original adventure game by Jane in the vein of Gabriel Knight and Gray Matter" that's expected to be out around March 2013. If the project raises $600,000 or more, a second adventure due later in 2013 will also be offered.
To set the tone, supporters who pledge at least $16 will have the chance to vote on one of three concepts for Pinkerton Road's first game. Other goodies at higher tiers include soundtracks, beta test opportunities, t-shirts, posters, a signed hardcopy of the original Gabriel Knight design bible [that one's expensive] and more. All Pinkerton Road games will be DRM-free and, even cooler, Jensen plans to give each one a "casual" and "true adventure" option, so people who are in it for the story can enjoy them just as much as those who love punishingly obtuse Sierra-style puzzles.
It's an unusual approach and will almost certainly be trickier to pull off than project-specific Kickstarters like Double Fine Adventure or Wasteland 2. But for serious fans of the genre, which is to say folks who are most likely to kick in on something like this, Jensen is very much a Tim Schafer-like figure; she does what she does very well. The Pinkerton Road Kickstarter has a funding target of $300,000 and currently sits at just over $50,000 in pledges with 43 days left to go. I hope she makes it.