In case you’ve missed it, a video game idea on Kickstarter has helped smash the site’s records by raising over one million dollars in a single day.
That. Is. Bananas. And it raises the question: why? Why were so many people so willing to invest money in an idea that the video game industry itself seems completely uninterested in?
Simple. Because the video game industry wasn’t giving these people what they want.
Major video game publishers want to sell you the blockbuster. The explosive, million-dollar experience. The Call of Duty, the Grand Theft Auto, the kind of game that’s pretty to look at but also stripped bare enough that it can be understood and enjoyed (or at least bought) by the masses.
This might sell a truckload of games, but it also alienates another kind of customer. The kind who grew up on a more humble, thoughtful experience. Or who likes to take their time with a game. Or who enjoys a bit of solitude, away from screaming teenagers.
When a publisher looks at a Call of Duty game selling millions of copies, there’e something they’re not seeing. They’re not seeing a tally of the people who aren’t buying their games. They’re not listening to the desires of those who want to play substantial video games (sorry Facebook and iPhone!), but don’t want the popcorn and explosions treatment.
This isn’t to say all publishers are making stupid, loud games. Paradox, for example, make a healthy living catering to the needs of people who like wars that are fought with numbers. But smaller publishers often have to compromise on things like polish, and scale. Telltale might make adventure games, sure, but if you find someone who thinks they’re either as smart or funny as Lucasarts’ old games, tell them they’re crazy.
The outpouring of enthusiasm and, more importantly, money Double Fine’s project received yesterday shows that there are plenty of gamers whose tastes are being ignored. And all it took was someone to listen, and provide the right avenue for them to really show their support, to make something special happen.
Sure, I agree with Jason in that this won’t change the business. It’s one game, backed by a celebrity in the genre who may be the most likeable person in video games. Not many other combinations will get the attention or the money this project has, especially since it’s soaked up all the novelty of being the first millionaire Kickstarter video game.
But there’s still a chance here for other genres and developers to take advantage of the hole Schafer’s team have pried in the video game industry’s business model. How many other dead or dormant genres are there enough fans out there willing to pay to see resurrected not by a struggling indie but by a legend in the field, with the money and experience to make something really great? Space sims. Turn-based strategy games. Flight sims. Text adventures. The list goes on.
And even if there aren’t, well, at the very least you’d hope everyone from Activision to Electronic Arts to Ubisoft and, yes, even THQ is taking a very good, long look at this, and taking notes. There are video games we want to play that you’re not giving us. And if you won’t give them to us, we’ll just pay people directly to make them for us.