With the recent successes of Double Fine and Wasteland 2 on getting multi-million dollar funding on Kickstarter, new graphical adventure games have been popping up on Kickstarter like mushrooms at a Phish concert in Vancouver. Personally, I think this is hugely interesting. Not just because oldschool games are being funded, but because Kickstarter has the potential to disrupt the traditional game publisher who serves as a middleman between creative studios and the buying public. While publisher fulfill a useful role in many cases, they also work as a gatekeeper that makes it hard for more speculative works to see light of day. With Kickstarter there's the opportunity to promote create projects that are more specialized and might not have mass market appeal.
Even Forbes commented on this recent trend:
Drawing on the already-participatory relationship between developers and gamers, crowd-funded video games allow fans to become investors in projects they care about from the ground up.
Customers are always “investors” in a sense since their cash determines whether a game will be profitable or not; but with the rise of crowd-funding, that investment begins long before the game is even developed.
I think this also says something about piracy, at least tangentially. Since piracy concerns have led to a new DRM regime and plenty of fan backlash, it’s a good sign that gamers are willing to pony up prior to a game’s actual release. It reveals a level of trust and enthusiasm that may not be present in much of the gaming industry.
Of course, there's plenty of risk associated with Kickstarter. Maybe these games won't live up to the lofty expectations that have been set. And maybe the buying audience will tire of funding games 9 months or more in advance of seeing the end product. It's not exactly a model that delivers instant gratification. Still I think it's a great way to build a community around a game. And many of the projects being funded are giving people the opportunity to get a peek behind the scenes with design materials, documentary footage etc.
Here are a few interesting projects currently seeking funding. (And yes, I've pledged to several of these. If someone wants to port Frotz to the Kindle, I'll pitch in on that also.)
Unfortunately, Rob Swigart's game has been canceled. But there is a Tex Murphy game in the works that is quite close to fully funded. Tex Murphy was the star of several breakthrough FMV adventure games including "Under a Killing Moon" and "The Pandora Directive" among others.
- Two Guys From Andromeda: The developers of Sierra's SpaceQuest series develop a new game
- Jane Jenson's Pinkerton Road: Two games from the producer of Sierra's Gabriel Knight series
- Leisure Suit Larry remake: Not my cup of tea, but has its fans
- Rob Swigart's Portal Reborn: A sequel to one of the earliest works of interactive fiction