Of course, you’ve heard of Kickstarter, the website that lets you back a company or individual’s project, be it tech, movies, gaming or other, to make that project become a reality. It’s been tremendously successful, so much so that it’s become the catchall name in crowdfunding services, with others such as RocketHub and Indiegogo not receiving anything like the same level of attention.
Kickstarter’s contribution to video gaming is indisputable at this point. It’s been the driving force behind many recent successes such as Darkest Dungeon, Superhot, and Divinity: Original Sin. It’s no exaggeration to say that the indie games landscape simply would not be the same without the enthusiastic fan-backed funding that Kickstarter has provided.
Now with the news that crowdsourcing company Fig has secured $7.84m in initial financing from eager investors with a view to pushing further into the mainstream crowdsourcing space, that landscape could once again be changing.
Crowdfunding and video games
In a very real way, there would be no large-scale crowdfunding without video games. When developer Double Fine introduced Broken Age to the Kickstarter crowd in 2012, it broke records, raising more than $3m and generating almost 90,000 investors. This seemed to set the trend, and subsequent projects not only built on that game’s success, but also comfortably surpassed its total. Wasteland 2, the Ouya, and the Occulus Rift all followed, and generated masses of interest. These paved the way for other, non-gaming projects to garner the serious levels of interest and backing that they simply weren’t able to get before.
But gaming projects on Kickstarter have started to become more diffuse, with backers seeming to favor more quirky, attention-grabbing projects rather than those with the potential to result in a better final product. It’s a trend that has led to a much more fickle market, and thousands of projects all vying for the attention of backers. Arguably it’s not an environment that is conducive to producing quality, design-led games.
Perhaps a different approach is needed to truly promote talent and create a culture of quality. That’s certainly what the people at Fig believe.
A different approach
Fig was set up in 2015 by, amongst other executives, former Double Fine COO Justin Bailey, who aimed to put what he had learned through his crowdfunding experiences on the developers’ side to use in creating a whole new experience. The company’s advisory board boasts some pretty big names from the video games industry, including founder and current CEO of Obsidian, Feargus Urquhart, former Epic Games design director Cliff Bleszinski, and another Double Fine luminary, former LucasArts designer Tim Schafer.
So there’s no denying the company has a wealth of industry knowledge behind it. But what exactly does that mean for how the company will operate? How exactly does Fig differ from the many crowdsourcing options already out there?
Well, there’s one fundamental difference between what Fig is offering compared to every single other crowdsourcing platform currently available. Not only do backers have the option of the standard rewards they’ve come to expect, but also the unique opportunity to share in the profits of the completed game after it is released.
Fig also takes a novel tack with the way it allows new projects to be submitted. The fact is, as successful as Kickstarter and the like have been in allowing projects to flourish, they take a scattergun approach to project approval that means success rates could be higher.
Rather than taking on as many projects as there are submissions, Fig focuses on one or two at a time. Curating these projects is where the advisory board of industry professionals comes in. By being discerning with every new project it takes on and utilizing that wealth of industry knowledge, Fig aims to increase its success rate, and thus the reputation of the projects that go through its system. And so far, it’s working: as of now, Fig can boast a 78% success rate for its projects, which it says is double that of rival platforms and more than five times the amount in the gaming category as a whole. Also, some of the biggest-funded indie projects of 2016, including Psychonauts 2 and Wasteland 3, were funded through Fig.
The big idea is to create a new and altogether different relationship between gamers and developers, and one that benefits both sides equally.
For gamers, although they’re required to give more funding per pledge, the rewards could potentially be far more beneficial in the long run. Let’s say you find a project you believe in and pledge some money using traditional crowdfunding methods to show your faith. If down the line the resulting game becomes a runaway success, it’s likely all you’re getting for your bravery, foresight, and willingness to get in on the ground floor will be early access to the game and an exclusive T-shirt. With Fig, your rewards are potentially much greater — if you’ve picked your project well, you may find you’ll be sharing in some significant profits.
For the developers, the idea is to bring a more intensive, more curated approach that gives guidance to inexperienced studios while allowing developers access to the sort of funding they would have only dreamed of in the past, millions rather than thousands of dollars. But in a best-of-both-worlds arrangement, the studio would still have the freedom to create the vision they set out with. Fig also aims to foster their brand to the point where projects emerging from the company come with some level of prestige because of the more stringent process involved. They say they eventually want games produced through their platform to have a reputation somewhere between an indie and a AAA title.
It’s all promising, and it certainly can't hurt to have some more serious competition in the crowdfunding market, especially from a company that is very definitely trying to bring something new to the table. As for whether these new methods will make Fig as successful as Kickstarter, well, for that we’ll have to wait and see. But from a gamer’s point of view, here’s hoping that what this does mean is a steady stream of quality, innovative titles for years to come. Because for gamers, however you get there, it’s all about the end product.
You can follow Andy on Twitter @AndyJHumphreys