Hot on the heels of Double Fine breaking records and making a new graphic adventure game, “Wasteland 2″ has come along as a second success story. Two days into its fundraising, it raised $1.1 million, well over the $900,000 it needs, and it’ll probably wrap up with at least $1.5 million, possibly more.
So what’s the deal? Is Kickstarter the new indie game developer? Well…probably not. If you look at the two projects, they’ve got a few things in common.
One, the personnel tied to them are legends. Brian Fargo, the man behind “Wasteland”, has been working in the games industry for years and is very well respected. Maybe not a rock star like Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert, but if you’ve played western RPGs, you’ve heard the name.
Secondly, these aren’t unknown properties, or are at least tied to beloved properties. Thirdly, they’ve been pitching this game, in one form or another, for years, in Fargo’s case for more than a decade.
Finally, there’s the incentives: as the Wasteland 2 Kickstarter page makes it clear, the more backers they get, and thus the more money, the bigger and more complex the game will be. They’ve laid out, clearly, how the more cash they raise, the better the product will be.
So it’s not that there’s this pent-up demand for indie games so much as just there’s this pent-up demand for games, period, games that fall between console blockbusters and casual gem-swappers, games made by developers fans know and trust. And in some ways, that says some damning things about the games industry.
We think these two stories, so close together, indicate less than indie game developers can get around the publisher model, and more that publishers are leaving money, possibly a lot of money, on the table. It’s kind of baffling in this age of digital downloads and Steam that a monolith like EA or Activision, which spends $900,000 on coffee, isn’t willing to throw that kind of money at what is, after all, a proven property. Or that Double Fine can’t get $400,000 from any of the publishers that it’s made a mint for over the years.
And realistically, this doesn’t necessarily prove, well, anything. Yet, anyway. These products haven’t hit the market yet; both of these games could come out, sell modestly beyond what amount to the presales from Kickstarter, and the publishers will shrug and say “Eh, toldja”.
On the other hand, if they both come out and they’re both massive hits, that’ll raise a few questions. And hopefully open a few minds.
image courtesy Brian Fargo