The future of video games is in the hands of the crowd…and it looks like it’s going to be a great adventure. In the last week, Double Fine Adventure has become the highest grossing project on Kickstarter ever. Through internet based pledged donations it reached its goal of $400,000 in just eight hours, and raised $1 million in its first 24 hours. At the time of writing over 57,000 people have pledged nearly $2 million in backing – and there’s still 20+ days of fund-raising to go! With this money, Double Fine Productions will not only create a completely new video game for users to download on PC, MAC, Linux, iOS, and Android, it will also employ documentary filmmakers 2 Player Productions to record the entire process. Crowd-funding has now expanded to include million dollar video games and high quality documentaries. With talent like Double Fine leading the way, many more projects like this one could arise very soon. Once again Kickstarter has shown the power of wedding independent artists with the monetary might of the internet-based crowd.
What makes Double Fine Adventure so appealing? The project is headed by Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert, the creators of such classic PC adventure games as Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, and Day of the Tentacle. Twenty years since such adventure games reached their peak, these titles still hold a special place in the hearts of their fans. Visit most popular video game discussion forums and you’ll be able to find threads raving about these classic games and lamenting their disappearance from the Western world. Double Fine noticed the demands of their fans and began their Kickstarter appeal to provide them with the means to release a proper adventure video game for the 21st Century. Little did they know how arduous their fans really were. The following clips show both the original Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter appeal and the update that followed the project rocketing past the million dollar mark.
Schafer’s zany and heartfelt pitch for the Double Fine Adventure project reflects the sort of madcap antics that populate the games his company produces. While still channeling the spirit of the now classic adventure games of the late 80s and early 90s, Double Fine’s latest projects reflect the superior graphics and interfaces today’s generation of platforms provide. Here’s a quick look at Stacking, the G4 XPlay Downloadable Game of the Year for 2011:
As Double Fine Adventure has far exceeded its goals, it’s now a near certainty that the company will at least try to make its yet-to-be-named new adventure title. As Schafer detailed in the update, that game will be available on most desktop and mobile platforms, and there will even be a DRM free version released to backers on Kickstarter. This new game, though there doesn’t exist a single screen shot or piece of concept art, attracted a great deal of funding from fans. Of the 57k+ backers on the Kickstarter project, more than 31,000 pledged just enough to receive a copy of the game as an award ($15). 2 Player Productions (the company documenting another great video game story: how Notch created MineCraft), had some pull as well. An additional 19,000+ backers gave just enough to receive both the game and the documentary around its creation.
Screen shot from Schafer's breakout hit, Day of the Tentacle. Could the unnamed Kickstarter Double Fine game be like this classic? No one seems to know or care, they just believe in Schafer.
In total, about 90% of backers in the Double Fine Adventure project treated the Kickstarter fund as a presales forum. In other words, those pledges are really a means of fans to reserve their copy of the product(s) ahead of time. This is the same phenomenon Singularity Hub has noticed with Kickstarter in the past. Donors are really like customers, only with more faith in the project team, and hope that they will be rewarded as promised. As we’ve mentioned before, Kickstarter occupies a strange position between traditional business models and charitable funding. Even Schafer, the head of this whole multimillion dollar operation acknowledges the fact that there’s no firm guarantee that Double Fine will be able to produce the game exactly as planned: “Here’s my promise to you – either the game will be great or it will be a spectacular failure caught on camera for every one to see.”
If there was any doubt that Kickstarter represents a shift in the way that art will be produced in the future, Double Fine Adventure should dispel it. $1 million raised in just 24 hours! Not for disaster relief, or a political campaign, but for a video game people want made on the creator’s terms. That’s an amazing change in the industry, one that should have traditional video game publishers thinking deeply about how they produce their wares. Artists (and producers) everywhere should take notice. The old way of getting a video game (or book, or album, etc) published is no longer the sole means of real success. In fact, it may not even be the most desirable path to success. Crowd-sourced funding is changing the way we make art, and that’s only going to become more pronounced in the years ahead.
And lest you think it’s all just video games and funny documentaries, Kickstarter hit a big milestone almost at the same time as Double Fine Adventure broke records. “Elevation Dock” was the first Kickstarter project to reach $1 million, and it did so just hours before Double Fine rocketed into history. But don’t ignore Elevation Dock just because it’s in second place, its completed funding garnered $1.4 M+ in pledges. Even more importantly, the project isn’t art at all, just a well designed iPhone accessory. It joins a growing number of companies that avoided the traditional path to retail success, using Kickstarter instead.
Art, gadgets, even financing – the crowd is going to alter these industries forever. Thankfully it seems like we’ll all have a great deal of fun along the way.
[image and video credits: Double Fine]
[source: Double Fine, Justin Kazmark (Kickstarter)]