My – and probably many people’s – first exposure to Kickstarter was when Tim Schafer took to the site in early 2012 to seek funding for a new adventure game to be created by his company Double Fine.The idea was that, since 2D adventure games in the vein of Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango hadn’t been a mainstream genre for many years and were now considered niche and commercially risky, if enough people proved that they’d be interested in Double Fine creating such a game, they could go ahead and basically pay for the game in advance so the team could afford to make it without the financial leap of faith.
I thought this was an absolutely amazing concept: have gamers put their money where their mouths are. If we want something badly enough, then we should be willing to go ahead and pay for it up front so that game companies don’t have to just take a gamble and hope we buy it – especially since we have a history of asking for things and then when they are made, not bothering to buy them. My mind raced at the possibilities. Just Sega alone would suck my bank account dry if they asked me to help fund a new Skies of Arcadia, Space Channel 5, Streets of Rage, Jet Grind Radio, Vectorman, Virtua Cop, and/or Panzer Dragoon (or help pay for the rebuilding of the lost source code for Panzer Dragoon Saga). Maybe that Beyond Good & Evil sequel would finally be made if we showed Ubisoft how badly we want it by crowd funding it. Maybe we could help The Last Guardian get out of development hell if they didn’t have to rely so much on Sony for financing. Maybe we could convince Nintendo that we’d pay for officially translated ports of Mother (aka Earthbound Zero) and Mother 3, or it wouldn’t have taken the absurd amount of time it took just to get Earthbound on Virtual Console. The list goes on and on.
There has certainly been a little more of that type of thing on Kickstarter. After getting fed up with Capcom’s mistreatment of his baby Mega Man and their refusal to let him work on a new AAA title for the franchise, Keiji Inafune left the company and used Kickstarter to get the funding for his new Mega Man-style game The Mighty No. 9. Harmonix has used Kickstarter to resurrect its pre-Guitar Hero music game franchise Frequency/Amplitude with a new title for the PS3 and PS4 (one of the few Kickstarter campaigns aimed squarely at consoles). What if Inafune had been able to crowd-fund a new Mega Man game before he left Capcom? As great as Mighty looks, ultimately we all wish it was a new Mega Man game, don’t we? I have faith that whatever Koji Igarashi has in the works that he hints will be similar to the Castlevania games he’s helmed could be fantastic, but again, don’t we all just wish it was a new 2D Castlevania game? Konami seems to be progressively pulling out of the video game market altogether, content just to coast on the millions that Pro Evolution Soccer/Winning Eleven brings in each year and itching to get Phantom Pain out the door so they can be done with large scale game development. What if we could prove to them how much we want new installments in all of the IP they are letting go to waste? Or Capcom? Or Namco? Or any other company that seems to have lost all faith in most of their well-loved and highly missed back catalog (which is far too many of them, especially the Japanese ones).
The reality though, is that those examples I listed above are, by a large margin, the exception to what Kickstarter is typically used for in the video game space: funding small independent developers and their games. I am certainly not knocking Kickstarter’s use in that capacity, and I think it’s fantastic that it can be utilized in that way by people who have big ideas but don’t have the money to execute them and can’t or don’t want to go the big publisher route. Certainly, the people who still have to have “day jobs” and who are struggling to even pay their rent while they try to create their dream game deserve the help more than established and financially comfortable developers and companies who have to “settle” for making other blockbuster franchises that earn them plenty of money. #FirstWorldProblems, right? All I’m saying is, I would just like to see Kickstarter exist for the entire spectrum of game development, from that one guy who is barely making ends meet but he’s toiling away on his game anyway and just needs a little boost to get it done, all the way to the billion-dollar publisher who is sitting on an IP that they don’t think is profitable and just needs convincing by way of crowd funding that it’s worth their time to put one of their teams on it instead of one of that year’s guaranteed hits. I love all of the success that Kickstarter has brought to small independent developers. But I’d also love to see more niche AAA games floated out there in order to give us a chance to vote with our wallets and get more of the big-budget games we truly want, and prove that we want them, instead of just settling for the 3 or 4 go-to franchises that most of the big publishers have boiled their lineups down to these days.