Kickstarter Vs. traditional development processes

Kick starter (and other such tools) have enabled talented people who lack funds to be able to produce quality work from the backing of the public. This we know.
But what if the implications of such a change in the way quality content is being produced?

Well when games were in their infancy, people made games because they loved to do so. It was an individual or small group with a passion and the skills to product something they love. Big industry saw the advantages of such a market and began to sink their ugly claws in resulting in games being made purely for profit! this appealed to more developers and slowly the amount of talented people who were able to do the job went on the rise. This flooded the employment market and wages went down.
The companies got more and more greedy and then we see the plans for the new consoles which are so transparent in their attempts to drain every last penny out of you… Publishers like EA are completely happy with releasing a game half finished in order to sell you the ending if it will make then extra $$$.

These days we see games on a factory line. Never really changing much with minimal work to get maximum profits (COD, FIFA etc…).

Now we see these talented people with visions of products they are passionate about able to take the power out of the corporations. Now we see project being built to satisfy the customer and not the greed machine. This is evident with the funding stage as if the public agree with the project and want to play it, it will be made. “WE” now have control over what is produced and what WE feel is the best course for gaming and of course other areas of media (Dick figures movie was successfully funded by donations).

So where do we go from here? we all know big business is slow to adapt, so will it fall? are games like sim city and halo going to be phased out because people are busy playing games they have actually seen being developed?

Would be keen to read your guys thoughts on this as i think things are likely to shift quite dramatically soon.

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Let me share an example, which shows the reason I am biased on the topic of crowdfunding.

Everybody might remember “Double Fine”, the studio of Tim Schafer (e.g. Day of the Tentacle) and their campaign at Kickstarter for a new adventure game.

Recently Tim Schafer announced a statement:

… So we have been looking for ways to improve our project’s efficiency
while reducing scope where we could along the way. All while looking
for additional funds from bundle revenue, ports, etc. But when we
finished the final in-depth schedule recently it was clear that these
opportunistic methods weren’t going to be enough.

We looked into what it would take to finish just first half of our
game—Act 1. And the numbers showed it coming in July of next year. Not
this July, but July 2014. For just the first half. The full game was
looking like 2015! My jaw hit the floor…

This is just one example which shows to me something. In the “old days”, people with a vision needed to convince the guy with the money. They need to put together a business plan, a schedule, explain in detail how money will be spent and earned… all this. With crowdfunding, this might still happen (in a funny YouTube-Video-Style on Kickstarter). But let’s be honest. If you do not have anyone staying on your feet, you need a strong intrinsic motivation to work against your initial plan. Some might be able to do it, some will not be able.

I like Kickstarter, but I don’t believe it will replace traditional approaches in game development. More than that I hope that cases like that one above, will not destroy the possibilities behind crowdfunding for real independent studios like Radiant.


I think both worlds will exist next to each other, at least for a while. Problem is, there are many people out there who like to get what they know and love the improvements even if there are few from one title to the next of a series. In some cases I can understand why new titles are handed out each year. I am not someone who is playing games like FIFA but rules are changing in the world of sport where that kind of games is based upon and they have to adjust to them. Or simply new ideas pop up or can not be implemented with ease into an existing game of the series due to limitations in the way it was created and so on.

I myself like some of those so called AAA-Titles and I think I will continue for quite some time to buy more even if it is the 3rd or 5th or 10th iteration, as long as I feel comfortable with the product. I would call myself a FF-Fanboy but looking at FF15 I just shiver, and not in a good way… I will stay away from it as I not agree with what I could see up until now. If I look at FF I simply want enough things that give me the feel… yes, this is a FF-Game.

On the other hand I want “fresh” ideas as well. But fresh ideas hardly sell in the opinion of those who hand out the money (namely publishers) which then curse themselves for not taking that chance after they find it selling far better than expected. Let’s face it, in the case of Kickstarter/Crowdfunding-games we are the publishers… we do what a normal publisher would do, hand out money to enable some creative people to produce something. The important thing is… we not want to make profit this way, at least not in terms of money but fun. We define if it is enough fun for us when we look at the ideas. Setting Civilization and Total War aside, many said, turn-based games are dead and will not sell… not accepting the challenge but sometimes people just believe in their ideas and either bother their employer until they give it a go (the newest X-COM for example) or throw themselves into the arms of the potential gamers (sadly I not remember the name of the game but something similar to Battle Isle was funded this way if I remember correctly) after being turned down by publishers. The idea of having something turn-based simply is to “fresh” and thus dangerous compared to what is a trend right now.

To sum it up… at least an attempt at that… as I mentioned at the start, I think both ways will exist. For me it seems, Crowdfunding is a way to help people with good ideas to get the important start, to show publishers “we have good ideas and people who are happy to put money into this vision”.
At the same time I think, this should show the publishers how prizing could made be much better. The games do not cost $50 or more but around halve of it and still cover expenses. Yes, with some more bucks it might have a slightly better graphic or sound or a better voice actor or whatever but then why? When I try to look back… most of the publishers had been game developing studios themselves but shifted the focus and all the needed work they do is bloating the costs since they want to make profit. Publishers are meant to lift the burden of marketing, gathering money and producing as well as delivery from the developer… If they manage to get back to the point where they had been a help for the developers… I guess we will return to nearly that one system only again. If they manage to be an ever increasing burden, I guess we will shift to the point where we have nearly only Crowdfunding.

I feel like I have messed up this post a lot ^^ I just not know where to start/end with this topic o_O


i agree with @voxel_pirate’s and @Sheenariel’s sentiments… big publishers, and AAA titles arent going anywhere (at least, not anytime soon)… the demand is clearly still there for the big blockbusters, even if they sometimes happen to be reincarnations of their previous versions…

my personal opinion is that crowd-funding should typically be reserved for folks who would otherwise not be able to reasonably raise the funds necessary to develop their concept… and while i have backed a few big name projects, its been purely out of an interest in playing the finished product (from a proven quantity)…

when i back indie developers (radiant, pixelscopic, roam, etc.) its because i admire them beyond what they are trying to sell me… i appreciate the risks and challenges they set for themselves, and want to back those teams to help them realize a passion i find intriguing…


Some awesome responses here! I like a good discussion.

Exactly. projects that capture the end users imagination are going to be the one’s that get funded.

The issue with certain games not being published is the risk associated. The reality is that if a game is funded the risk will be removed. Providing the group know what they are doing in terms of planning and money management etc, then the cost of the kickstart covers all costs leaving only profit post sale. A publisher has to look at a project, ascertain its costs and predict sales weighing up the potential risk to the potential profit. The beauty being you simply buy your copy before its released.

I agree. I don’t believe the big corporations will disappear completely because too many people play COD. I do however believe that they will start to see a fall in sales relating to indie games taking a larger portion of the market. Whether or not that mean they will take action and give their customers what they want will most likely determine if they sink or swim. P.S Awesome reply! :slight_smile:

@voxel_pirate while i agree there are risks in investing money in a largely unknown group, we are still in the “teething” stages. There will always be the two sides of the camp (cathedral vs. bazar development | open source vs commercial | IE vs Chrome). The problem lies with the lack of credential. Taking an example from recent campaigns, dwafcorp, although it looks great i would never back it. This isn’t because i don’t believe they could make a great game (im sure it will be great) but they lack experience and a certain amount of forward planning as seen by the deadline being moved.

So yes im not saying big corp will die but surely you would agree we are to see a shift in how things work, even if its small at first?


Hmmm, I’m not sure there ever was a ‘golden days of yore’ where people only produced games for the joy of it and not for profit. There has always been an eye on profit from the very earliest days of the video/computer game industry; look at the history of Atari and Activision, etc. I think your concept of why the industry has fallen into this state is off. It wasn’t that big companies ‘got their hands’ on the industry, it’s that the industry has grown to the point where it IS a big industry, and top-shelf games are huge projects with large teams and massive budgets. This discourages risk-taking by a game development company, as each game is a large enough investment that a misfire can seriously impact a company’s survival. So does a new Call of Duty every year bore me? Yes, it does. But I understand why the publisher makes a new Call of Duty of every year rather than a totally different game; it’s a rational risk mitigation strategy.

@voxel_pirate provides a great examples of why it’s too early to declare a revolution in the way games are going to get made quite yet. A crowd funded game is a great concept but it’s the execution of the project that counts; and without a really solid plan and accountability to someone outside it’s way too easy to see a project run right off the rails. I’ve yet to see a Kickstarter-created game that really had every duck in a row in way that makes me totally confident they will succeed (yes, this includes Radiant and that’s not a knock on Radiant, it’s the same everywhere). A kickstarted project has every potential pitfall of a big-company project and then some.

In the end, there is always going to be demand for those AAA games with cutting edge graphics and massive infrastructure, and those are beyond the reach of crowd funded efforts. Do I think we’ll see a healthy ‘alternative/indie’ game industry of small-to-medium companies as well? Sure, it already exists! Kickstarter didn’t create this trend, it’s only made it more visible. So I don’t think we’re going to see a dramatic shift in the way games are produced; there’s been a healthy stream of these games coming along for years. And it will take just one or two major Kickstarter disasters to sour people on the concept; to be honest, while I love Kickstarter I think we’re definitely seeing a ‘Kickstarter bubble’ right now. The honeymoon will be over when a well funded project completely fails; it’s already starting to happen with the board game industry and will eventually happen with a computer game project.



Not to the scale you see today. sure there has to be some monetary motivation but its soo bloated these days.
Yes i agree with your assumption that games like COD are an easy investment for the companies as they are sure of the sales in the same way people watch the X factor each time its on. Its Shocking the amount of people who have literally never played anything BUT these FPS’s like COD and Halo. Its a safe strategy for sure but its dull as hell. You end up buying it because there is nothing else just like you watch the crap in the cinema because there is nothing else preferable there.

We have seen EA’s stock plummet as a result of just a few bad decision (perhaps not even their own) so again that playing it safe if financially a good move but were getting off track here.

not just more visible but more momentum. indie games for consoles date back to the ps1 (perhaps further, i don’t know) but they were far less accessible and hardly no one knew about them. Looking at the trend we see more and more and the market is rapidly expanding.

I disagree. Stone hearth raised $800,000 and there have been project that have raised several million! this is enough to get the big animation and graphics. Those technologies aren’t vodo any more. the reality is its becoming more and more accessible


You’re confusing cause with effect; early video/computer game manufacturers didn’t make as money because the market wasn’t there yet, NOT because they didn’t ‘want’ the money. The video/computer gaming industry has positively exploded over the last decade, and that’s why the industry can now make money hand over fist. But even in the early days it didn’t take long for small companies to turn into serious money-making enterprises. Atari went from two guys in spare bedroom in 1971 to a 40-million a year (not adjusted for inflation) company by 1975. Nothing has changed in this regard, other than everything is on an even bigger scale.

Eh, not sure I agree with that. Paradox and Strategy First are both indie-friendly publishers that have been around for years and published regularly, and those are just two that I can think off on the top of my head. Do you have any numbers to assert that indie games have ‘more momentum’ now?

Yea, except that a big-publisher game can have a budget into the 10-20+ million range. Not saying that KS can’t raise this, but it’s unlikely for a truly indie computer game. Yes, indie games can buy good graphics and animation for cheaper today, but that’s largely because the big boys have taken those huge budgets to write Unity, and Unreal Engine, etc, etc. The cutting edge of development will be the big-company domain for the foreseeable future.

The other thing I think you’re overlooking is that this big companies are mostly publishing houses, not development outfits. If it turns out that indie games ‘prove’ that a neglected genre is now viable again, it would extremely easy for a large company to through some cash at a few indie studios and bring them on board and publish their games. I think you’d be surprised at how fast EA, for example, could pivot, if it needed to.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. I’m hardly an industry expert, but I don’t think there’s a clear trend in any direction yet; just lots of exciting possibilities.


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Indie games are as old as the personal computer. Kickstarter isn’t new in that. Kickstarter only opened a new avenue for development funding mostly made possible by the rise of digital distribution. Digital distribution is why you see the huge boom in indie game development because now I can distribute my homebrew game to more than my neighbors. I can send it, at the click of a mouse, to someone I’ve never met on the other side of the world.

Will Kickstater and its cousins be a force for change in the industry?
I think we are already seeing the answer to that question.

Will Kickstater overthrow the “big business” oppressors of the industry and usher in a new day of gaming freedom among the plebeian masses?
Not sure what you are smoking, but I am sure I don’t want it. Big name developers aren’t evil. Without them, the industry would be in a lot poorer state than it is now. As was pointed out, how many indie games use the Unreal engine or the Unity platform, game development products that were made possible by big name development companies?

Now a lot of big companies have stagnated considerably, but that is nothing new. It happens in all human endeavors periodically. It has happened before in the gaming industry. It will happen again. That is what I think is the best aspect of Kickstarter is that it will encourage change by perturbing the status quo. Those companies that survive will be better for it, but many of them will be large development companies because they employ a lot of people whose job it is to ensure that the company doesn’t fail. They will go out and seek the innovators and those who are producing the best games and bring them into their company. This will inject new ideas into the company and encourage growth, improving the industry all around and moving the industry forward, as has happened every other time the industry approached stagnation.

On a side note: for me personally as a consumer, I find crowd-development and crowd-funding a double-edged sword. I can find a lot more games at prices I am much more able to afford, and I see a lot more variety in the types of games being produced with lots of genres seeing a resurgence and even some new ones being attempted. This is great. But I also find that the glut of games available makes it harder to find a game worth my time and money.

Further, many indie games that I have purchased had a lot less game in them than I used to get from “big name” titles, so that I am not sure I am getting more bang for my buck there because a lot of developers create “replayability” in their game by procedural generation rather than carefully crafted content. There is only so much that I want to face the same randomly generated patterns in a game.

So I see Kickstarter as a good thing, but I don’t think it is the saviour of the industry and it (and indie games in general) comes with its own foibles as well.


I agree with the posters who suggest it is more of kickstarter that is in a bubble than anything else. The novelty is interesting, but the reality is most of the time you’re buying in blindly to a project. I think as time goes on and more projects fail, the “let me throw my money at you” meme mentality will go away. I could name some projects that I’m disgusted with but it would be more mean spiritied than the forums call for (not Stonehearth, obviously :wink:)

It is normal for a real industry to have big, medium, and small players. Big companies tend to move a lot slower than small companies. It doesn’t mean they’re going away.

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Honestly - most people in my opinion see a game they think they want to play, and to be blunt - pay the minimum to get the alpha or beta access. I often think that these sites work on a impulse buy mechanic of human nature.

We can take a minute to visit the ups and downs of kickstarter. I’ve seen the over all quality of products on kickstarter on a decline. I’ve seen people posting up requests for funding that have only made a engine you can walk around in with no real concept art, or any true goal - just words on video, and it gets founded its “4000” dollars. It makes me wonder - do you ever hear from these guys again?

Now with that said - its like anything with a creative element to it. If you have a art painter thats told to paint kittens all day for this big company, but this guy wants to paint dogs secretly, man… one days he gonna go paint dogs! Hes going to learn a lot along the way from working with the bigger companies in regards to improving his ability in his paints, and with coding and making a game I think the same thing follows. You won’t see a guy making his first game ever the next big thing on kickstarter - but there are some very promising projects with some highly talented gurus that have made “decent” money coding their lives away for these bigger companies, never really investing top effort into something they ain’t really entirely interested in. Learning the background of the two brothers working on this game is what inspired me to invest.

Now in regards to the over all quality of the games that come out - we’ve got to think of the terms of acceptance from the public. I’d say around 6 or so years ago, is when the big graphical “I want to see more” stage of gaming was pretty present. In its state now, of course people still get aw’d but I think its shifting to a higher percent of people that want a deep and rewarding game with longevity not a play once storyline. Maybe its just my personal taste shifting but I’ve played some UGLY games, that where completely addictive… As compared to having a movie style cut-scene that I’ll only really enjoy once, the big budge guys can keep that crap to themselves.

Its sweet that these guys are going after their dream game, and they want to see it live for a long time… thus all the modding ability they plan have packaged into it. Kickstarters negative side is its ability to put pressure on a development path of a game. Time lines are great and all but stonehearths got its work cut out for them if Dec is the download date (even for a unfinished product).

So to summarize all the crap I’ve just said… If the kickstarter crew has a true goal to make the game they’ve always wanted, and they are skilled at it, I think the freedom they get from being their own boss as compared to a big wig telling people what to do and to crank things out is a ten fold win for seeing new things as compared to the traditional method… if thats what we are calling it now… it just sucks catching wind of something so great, so early, because with the old way, the company often has a product that is pretty far along as compared to a concept.

For me, what’s important has always been replay value. I pay top dollar for AAA games with incredible multiplayers, or with some feature in the game itself that will give my satisfaction playing it again and again (the latter being the less common of the two scenarios). That being said, I won’t play most AAA’s for more than a few months before I drop them in favor of another game, or just stop playing video games for a while. That is excluding Call of Duty 2 of course, which I am convinced is the best game they ever made, and I played for somewhere around 8yrs straight, clocking a minimum of like four hours a night on my families PC.

The point of all that? I think I’m not the only one that doesn’t want to buy one hit wonders. The “Wow, that story was really good! Did you see those graphics??” Never plays the game again…

That means that the industry will reward people like Tom and Tony, who are giving us a game not only with replay value, but a game that will evolve, like Minecraft did, with the support of the Dev’s, making the evolution streamlined like you would not believe. AAA will never go away, but it’s strength will fade with indie gaining speed from startup’s like Kickstarter. And hopefully this will require them to make more quality work (doubt it).

To avoid making this a hypocritical comment however, I feel I must mention that I’m downloading Splinter Cell: Blacklist - Deluxe Edition, while I’m typing, because their multiplayer looks like the best asymmetrical matchup I’ve ever seen, and I can’t wait to give it a run.

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i agree with that 100%. a game which you can play again and again is far better value for money than a short campaign game which you discard after. for instance i really liked the game bullet storm. the only issue is that after its completed there is very little left except the challenges and the abysmal co-op (great when you have talent on your side, but its mostly 4 year old kids). where as a game like fallout has tonnes of replay ability!
The true kings i would say are the true sand box games. Get it right and its $$$ all round. I think SPORE almost got it but they say “sand box” but really its following the same path with slightly different methods.
After all that us said and done the most value for money i have ever got from a game was minecraft. I spent more hours than i care to admit playing then 10x that when me and my GF created our own server.
The truth is that there is no money is these games. you will buy it then play it without the need to buy another game to fill that space.
Taking a real world example here of a similar yet completely different event. When hula hoops were sold on the market they were like hot cakes. People could not get enough of them, so much so that when everyone had bought one there was no more sales to make. Te same can be said for games. thats why there two worlds. Big business would never make a game like stonehearth or minecraft. Why would they? Where as disposable games like bullet storm and COD leave you happy at the game and the way it played out but you play less in favour of the “next big thing”

yep thats the impulse buy in peoples behaviour. of course there is risk but you can do your own risk assessment on the project. as fun as the little videos are they are not going to tell you the financial situation of the company proposing the project
there is risk is buying a game off the shelf too though i might add. Just because it have a nice trailer doesn’t mean its worth the foil its printed on.

Shifting back in that direction is more accurate I think. In ‘the old days’ (90’s for me) there were plenty of games that had extremely deep and compelling game play and took dozens of hours to complete; but then graphics were much more limited, so the energy could be spent elsewhere. There’s clearly been a pendulum swing in the industry towards high-end graphics in recent years as computing power made games that looked incredibly good possible, but the pendulum has definitely swung too far in that direction, with games that look great but are very shallow and/or short. This is due to the high cost of the cutting edge visuals and how much energy was spent on each part of the project. But then that’s what the consumer base appeared to want at the time. Now that the consumer base (or more of it) is again searching for games that are deep and compelling as opposed to all flash you’re seeing a pendulum swing back, spearheaded by small and indie developers. If the demand is strong enough you’ll see some of the big companies slot in a few of those games as well, but the public is also getting used to amazing visuals, so there will always be a balance to strike.

Spore maybe, since the development of that turned into a trainwreck, but the Fallout franchise is almost a license to print money.

Yea, except with a game on the shelf I can go read reviews, and download a demo, and generally figure out if I actually want to buy it. With kickstarter you’re paying for an idea, which may or may not pan out at all like you expect. That’s a huge difference.


agreed… and in terms of open-world sandbox games, Bethesda has a tight grip on that market… the ES and Fallout series will remain dominant titles for years and years, given the expansive universe they can call upon for new titles, every X years…

Absolutely; those are two great examples of deep and compelling against that are also A-list games.


fallout is everything that is right with the gaming world. The fact it can be so buggy yet still be listed as one of the best games of all times means something. more praise to them!
Where they make their dough is through DLC as well. I remember a while back where i was doing research into dlc and it seems that around 90% of dlc is bought within the first month. This was due to people completing the game and moving one. with fallout and other such games its not the case as people continue to play the game long after its release. There clever boys/gals over there.

forgive my ignorance but what is the “ES” game?

[quote=“jollins, post:17, topic:2660, full:true”]forgive my ignorance but what is the “ES” game?

@SteveAdamo means The Elder Scrolls series, which is meant to be abbreviated with TES!
This is an unexcusable mistake, it appears its time for the whip again :hurtrealbad:

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Thanks! i must admit i haven’t actually played them yet. I keep meaning to get around to it as i know i will enjoy them.

as a former employee, i get a free pass… :wink:

yes, that was a blatant “name drop”…