Why Tim Schafer and Double Fine Adventure's Kickstarter success isn't as wonderful as you think (and why it is, in ways you hadn't thought of)

Publishers now have to give their audience more respect

One simple point here, but a vitally important point that publishers (I’m looking at you in particular, Ubisoft) need to acknowledge and act upon or else begin looking even more out of touch than they already do. Gamers are not vampires.

They are not leeches. They are not thieves. They do no want to steal from hard-working, creative developers. They do not begrudge paying for games.

Above: In real life, gamers are much more likely to put the money in your pocket

They want to pay for games and they want to financially support the people who make the media that they love.

So for the love of God, publishers, you can stop treating your paying customers like criminals now. You can drop your intrusive, accusational DRM. You don’t need it and we don’t want it. Get rid of it, use that as the start point from which to build a better relationship with your audience, the kind that Tim and Double Fine enjoy, and you’ll find that things end up better for all of us.

Publishers now have to realise that they might not know as much about games as they think they do

While this isn’t going to be the mighty Godzilla stomp that brings the traditional publishing model crashing to the ground, it is going to make a lot of suits sit up and start asking questions.

Questions like “I’m pretty sure that this game isn’t going to sell, but what if there are 34, 456 people out there willing to fund it on a Kickstarter? What if the developers tell me to piss off and go and fund it that way? What if it makes a profit and I’m the guy who gave that profit away?”

Questions like “Hmmm, so there is a market for smaller-scale games. Smaller outlay means smaller profit, but there is a profit. Would funding multiple smaller, more audience-specific, enthusiast-directed games be a safer financial model than putting all of my eggs in one generic, faceless, triple-A megaton basket, sending it out against Call of Duty and hoping for the best?”

Above: Homefront was THQ's most expensive game to date. It didn't do brilliantly. THQ is now in the financial shit

Questions like “Holy shit, how, during all of my high-falutin, cock-waving statements about games maturing to become the new film industry, did I miss the fact that one of the greatest signs that film had truly matured as a medium was not when it started making a shitload of money, but when independent development, promotion and distribution became much more viable and democratic by way of the internet?

“How did I neglect to acknowledge that services like LoveFilm, Netflix and Mubi now mean that agile, energetic, small-scale, innovative indie producers can now get an audience? How did I miss the fact that this is kicking the tired, rigid, sleepy old studios in the ass? How did I miss the fact that this has been building in games for years?”

You know, those sort of questions. And while none of them will change anything instantly in and of themselves, this wake-up call will see thinking change, and may well see the balance of power start to shift over time. At the very least, the best individual creatives and auteur names might start to be seen as being as important and valuable to the industry as marketing men. You know, just like they are in film.

David Houghton
Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.