Thursday, March 22, 2012

What Do Million-Dollar Projects Mean For Creators and Investors?

We wrote a few weeks ago how Double Fine raised well over a million dollars for their new adventure game via Kickstarter.  The final total ended up being just over $3.3 million, out of a goal of $400,000.  For those of you playing at home, that means they met 834% of their goal.  Keep in mind that's only for what basically, for simplicity's sake, amounts to preorders.  They'll make more money once they actually start selling the thing.

I think it would surprise a lot of people, though, to learn that this was only the beginning.  Stories came out about The Order of the Stick hitting $1.2 million.  And that project was for a reprint of a comic that can already be found free online.  Then there's Wasteland 2, which, as of this writing, is sitting pretty at around $1.4 million with 25 days still left to go.

So what does this all mean?  Are these million-dollar ideas aberrations, or will they become the norm?  Obviously not every project will hit seven-figure goals, but then not all of them need to.  Some creators just need enough to cover the costs of their projects before moving onto their next creative endeavor.  Still, it's interesting to think of the implications of this in creative industries.

Honestly, a million bucks isn't a lot for some works, especially games and movies.  But with production costs lowering every day due to improvements in technology and innovation from creators, it isn't hard to see a million dollars going a lot further for independent creators.  Maybe a million dollars really is all these Kickstarters need - since they budgeted for less, I think that's a safe assumption.

As Brian Fargo aludes to in his Kickstarter video, it isn't always about the money.  Pitching to studios or publishers can mean a lot of hoops to jump through.  We also saw this with Double Fine, who took to Kickstarter due to no one wanting to pick up an old school adventure game.  For some who have always worked with legacy companies, Kickstarter might have been a last resort, but they might be seeing it as the best thing that could have happened.

Say you're able to do it the old way, though.  You get someone to believe in your project, and you get enough money to see it through.  It's not over then.  Sometimes there can be too many cooks in the kitchen, as it were, and you've got corporate overseers and ad people and any number of people not directly involved in the project trying to get their two cents in.  Problem is...they're the ones cutting the checks.  With Kickstarter, both financial and creative control is yours.  The only thing you have to worry about is making the best project possible.

Only time will tell where Kickstarter and other crowd-sourced platforms go.  What started as a novelty has grown into a legitimate business avenue.  While there are risks that go along with being in charge of every aspect of a project, there's also the freedom of knowing it's an untainted endeavor and the most pure vision of your work possible.  It will be interesting to see how things take off from here, but it's fun knowing we're only at the beginning of this ride.

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