Will you put Your Money Where Your Mouth is? The Importance of Crowdfunding in Gaming

Crowdfunding has become somewhat controversial as of late. For every story about a successful crowdfunding campaign, there seems to be a tale about a crowdfunding recipient running off with their spoils and leaving backers high and dry. That being said, crowdfunding may still be precisely what the gaming industry needs right now.

Before we delve into the nitty gritty of crowdfunding, let’s look at another aspect of the gaming industry. AA developers are about to be in high demand.

Within the world of gaming, the industry did away with the term “blockbuster” years ago in place of calling massive, highly funded, world-class games “AAA.” Still, the meaning is analogous to blockbuster. Some AAA developers include Bethesda, DICE and Infinity Ward.

The issue with AAA gaming is that it has reached a level of success similar to film. A blockbuster film requires massive sums of funding to produce. Consequently, the films are required to reach the largest demographic possible in order to have a chance at earning a return on the initial investments.

The result is a movie that panders to the lowest common denominator. Derivative and predictable, these films often lack the artistic finesse required to attract the attention of hardcore film fans. Unfortunately, the same is becoming true within the world of gaming.

Take a look at Bethesda. The company earned its cult following with the release of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, followed by The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. After that, the company secured its position at the top of the western RPG rankings with the release of Fallout 3. Things did not truly change, however, until the release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Skyrim quickly embedded itself into gaming culture, earning sky high sales numbers and critical praise worldwide. Since then, Bethesda has grown in both size and scope. Consequently, the gaming industry gained a new AAA developer.

Bethesda would go on to make Fallout 4, Fallout Shelter and Fallout 76. All three games have been met with negative fan reception. Beyond that, Fallout Shelter and Fallout 76 have shown that Bethesda is now interested in producing mobile and multiplayer games. Rather than continuing to make single-player, narrative driven RPGs, Bethesda is now seemingly focusing their efforts on the larger markets of mobile and multiplayer gaming.

Simply put, Bethesda’s success has lead to the company changing direction. For hardcore RPG fans, this is perhaps not the best of news. But, there is a potential solution to the issue of AAA gaming changing the industry for the worst.

AA gaming consists of mid-sized development teams. Still full of world-class talent, these battle hardened veterans of the game development trade are chock full of genius ideas for new titles. However, they lack the funding of multi-billion dollar publishers like Electronic Arts or Ubisoft. Consequently, some AA developers turn to crowdfunding.

Take, for instance, legendary adventure game designer Tim Schafer. Now, Schafer has been within the gaming industry for quite some time. The creative mind behind hit titles such as Grim Fandango and Monkey Island, Schafer has done it all. However, adventure games are not what is hot right now. Multiplayer games and mobile games have some of the largest target demographics. So, despite his talent within the genre, Schafer still struggles to find funding.

Telltale, for instance, was the development team behind The Walking Dead, Wolf Among Us, Game of Thrones and Batman adventure game series. Despite the seeming resurgence of the genre, Telltale has since closed its doors due to poor sales. Consequently, AAA publishers have seemingly lost interest in funding games within the genre. Adventure game developers are then forced to find craftier ways to fund their projects. Enter in crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is the act of garnering financial resources from a mass populace in order to fund a project. In the case of games, many gamers pay full price for an advertised game’s crowdfunding campaign in order to fund the project. Of course, there is an issue here.

Crowdfunding is awfully similar to pre-ordering, as the consumer is paying full price for a yet untested product. The consumer is simply trusting that the crowdfunding recipient will follow through with their intentions and produce a quality product. But, this does not always turn out to be the case.

In some instances, crowdfunding campaigns never reach their goals and the intended product is never released. Meanwhile, campaign backers are left without ways to earn their refunds. In the end, it’s a dangerous game.

If the massive AAA publishers of the world have pushed out smaller companies from the industry, then we are left to figure out who will fund AA developers. The answer, quite simply, is us. Through crowdfunding, we can potentially give AA gaming the kickstart is so desperately needs. Perhaps after these development teams have earned enough attention, they can begin funding their own projects. Consequently, the need for crowdfunding will eventually be minimized.

So, crowdfunding is not the perfect answer. Perfect answers are, after all, terribly hard to find when dealing with complex problems. However, the practice may be exactly what is needed to cultivate a new wave of AA games. In the end, the question still remains. Are you willing to put your money where your mouth is?

Hunter Boyce is a writer, which probably seems pretty obvious with "author" prominently displayed. He mostly writes about video games. However, he was previously a mixed martial arts news writer. When not writing about people pelting each other in the face or about leveling up in the latest RPG, he tends to spend his time as a web producer in Atlanta. You can shout all of your MMA and video game related quandaries at him at @SomthinClever on Twitter. Feel free to make your demands to him in ALL CAPS. He loves that.

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