Thursday, March 8, 2012

Double Fine Adventure Backed By Fans Directly

Has anyone ever wondered what buying a video game would be like without a publisher as a middle man? What if you and 1 million other people could simply give money to Bungie and in return, receive the next Halo? Tim Schafer and the team at Double Fine Productions decided to test the theory out with its’ new Double Fine Adventure. Using Kickstarter, Tim Schafer posted a video asking for $400,000 to make a point-and-click adventure game and film the process, allowing fans to observe what the game development process is like from beginning to end. Kickstarter is a website connecting various independent projects, from indie films to small game development teams, to backers, or people who invest money in the project with the guarantee that the backer will receive the finished product. While Schafer asked for $400,000, Double Fines’ Kickstarter project has currently raised a phenomenal $2,000,000 to fund this new game. Backing this Project nets you a copy of the game and video documentary once the game is finished later this year. However, by donating more money, you also get additional value in the form of signed posters, colorful concept art books and even dinner with Tim Schafer and/or Ron Gilbert. The best thing about donating is that by becoming a backer you can interact with the development team and have an active part in the creation of the game through discussion forums and a beta open only to the backers of Double Fine Adventure.

How much more amazing can this get? Double Fine made a brilliant move by putting their fate in the hands of their fans and the fans came through by exceeding all expectations and displaying their faith in Double Fine to make a quality game. Not only that, but now that Double Fine has more financial room to work with, Tim Schafer recently announced that they will be able to port the game to Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS devices, and Android Phones. Additionally they will be able to translate the game into multiple languages and include voice acting in the English version of the game. Not much else has been announced about the game itself, but Schafer has said that he is waiting until 2-Player Productions, the film crew who is shooting the documentary, can begin filming so that they can keep the backers in the loop on everything that is happening. The Kickstarter project closes on March 14, meaning that you have until then to become a backer and participate in a unique experience that may not happen very often with such a famous studio.

 While the Double Fine Adventure is a brilliant idea and I am ecstatic that it has succeeded so far, I am unconvinced that this is a business model that can be applied in more conventional development cycles. I think Double Fine is in a unique position, and was able to use that to their advantage. Being a reputable game company with two adventure game veterans-Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert- the company has a good record in producing quality product. Also, most of the games that have come out of Double Fine lately have been smaller, XBLA titles that allow the company to take more risk. I don’t think you will see Gearbox doing this for Borderlands 2, but for new indie developers or smaller companies, websites like Kickstarter might be the route to take if they want to avoid dealing with Microsoft or Sony just to get their game into the hands of more customers. Now while other game developers always talk about how they listen to their fans and really take in the fan feedback, this project will set a new standard in how the street between the Dev team and their customers can go both ways. The amount of transparency in this project is unprecedented, but it can also cause problems. Listening to the over 70,000 backers of the project will take some effort on the part of Double Fine, and it could go wrong with trolls and twelve year olds screaming “THIS SUCKS!” But I think this is the best step in the right direction in making conversation between the development companies and their fans a two way street. This is going to be a great game that fans (excuse me, I mean “Backers”) will be able to directly influence and watch as it is developed; And I can’t wait until I get my copy in the fall. 
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