You've all heard of the literary self-publishing revolution. (Heck, some of you are on the barricades). What you might not know is there is a similar revolution going on in video and board games. It has to do with Kickstarter.
Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects. Anyone with an idea for a book, a movie, a game, a technology, or whatever can launch a project page and see if people are interested in funding their project. Authors have used it to self-publish: to fund cover artists and editors, and to see if there's a market for what they want to write before they write it.
We all know why authors self-publish: because breaking into the Big 6 is freaking hard, especially if you write for what is essentially a niche audience. Turns out the same thing is true in games.
Video games, in particular, have their own Big Publishers -- companies with the connections and resources to develop triple-A titles for the major gaming consoles. I don't even know how an independent developer would sign on with them. You'd probably have to prove you have a significant platform first, or else develop a Halo clone or something else they know will work. (Sound familiar?).
But not everybody wants to make Halo.* A number of developers have been using Kickstarter to pitch the games they always loved, and to see if enough people feel the same. You may have even heard of some of the biggest ones:
* Nothing against Halo, of course. There are some very talented folks making those games.
Double Fine Adventure was a Kickstarter campaign by developer Tim Schafer, maker of some of my favorite games of all time: the Monkey Island games, Grim Fandango, and Day of the Tentacle. Last March he asked for $400,000 to make a new adventure game -- something big publishers haven't wanted for decades. He got $3.3 million and kickstarted a revolution (see what I did there?).
A month later, inXile entertainment (starring my former and current boss) pitched a sequel to a very old post-apocalyptic RPG. Wasteland 2 got running with nearly $3,000,000.
Project: Eternity is the brain child of Obsidian Entertainment, home of most of my former coworkers. They asked if people wanted to see a spiritual successor to the old Infinity Engine games like Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, and Planescape: Torment. Seventy-four thousand people said, "YES!"
Why am I telling you this? Well, partially because it's fascinating to me. Anything that makes it easier to fund, create, and distribute creativity is awesome, in my opinion.
But also to show that independent publishing is not strictly a book thing. In the last year, there have been seven million-dollar video game projects on Kickstarter, dozens of smaller ones, and who knows how many hundreds of similar board games, RPGs, and other things.
And just like in the book world, I think the way to look at self-publishing is not as a challenge to publishers, but more like filling holes that publishers leave unfilled. Three million dollars sounds like a lot, but when triple-A budgets regularly hit 30 or 40 million, you can understand why EA and Microsoft might not be interested in a niche RPG.
In the same way, ten thousand book sales might not interest a publisher used to selling books in the hundreds of thousands, but to the self-published author, those ten thousand sales are game changing.
Whatever. I just like where the future is going. I'm excited to see what happens next.
What about you? Have you ever backed (or launched!) a Kickstarter? What do you think about the platform.