By John Walker on February 9th, 2012 at 11:43 pm.
Double Fine’s Kickstarter (currently wobbly under the weight of money), the planned month-long fund raise for $400,000, has just crossed $1,000,000 in the first 24 hours. One. Million. Dollars. In a day.
I know it’s crazy, but it kind of makes me a bit teary-eyed.
I’m sure some people have said, “That’s money that could have gone to charity,” but you know what? Lots of money goes to charity too. This is money being given to the arts, and it’s a great thing to see.
As I said earlier, I’m sure that when Schafer typed in the “400,000” into the Kickstarter box, a part of him would have wondered if he was pushing his luck. I mean, that’s an awful lot of money, and it’s a lot to ask for a game that doesn’t exist in any form. It’s reliant on a reputation, and a desire for a genre.
But what a reputation. This is Tim Schafer, one of my real heroes. Day Of The Tentacle means so much to me, and is a game I keep going back to, to remind me of the standards I should be demanding from comedy in games. Grim Fandango was Schafer’s most personal creation, and is rated by very many as the best example of the genre. And Psychonauts – well, I’m not sure there’s any chance that I won’t spend the weekend replaying it now. What marks out these games (perhaps not DOTT so much) is the emotion that pours out of them. They’re so touching, so much deeper than the surface suggests. And they’re so damned funny. Oh, and he’s only got Ron Gilbert working with him.
And what a genre! While it does seem that only German developers remember why such graphic adventures were so special, the audience certainly hasn’t forgotten. And despite a peculiarly concerted effort by both the gaming press and publishers for the last fifteen years to constantly decry it as a failing field, there’s a lot of love out there. And a lot of money.
This display of giving has been remarkable to watch. Not altruistic, obviously – people want the game. Anyone who has been refreshing the Kickstarter page can’t have failed to bristle with excitement when they’ve seen it’s leapt up by another $10,000 in the last five minutes. 26,000 people have backed this, pledging an average of $40 each. And sure, a publisher can see those as tiny numbers if compared to game sales, it’s crucial to remember that this is in under a day, and it’s only by people who’ve been following the story! There’s been no long-term advertising campaign, just the press generated by a day’s excitement. And of course for DF, there’s no debt, and no publisher breathing down their neck.
This isn’t a sign of how all games will be funded – obviously not. This isn’t the death of publishing, or whatever other rather silly comments some have made today. But what it is, is a loud, clear signal from the gaming audience that the middlemen are not always necessary, they are not necessary for the creative industry to succeed. Because this isn’t a lone example, this is one of many creative projects that have found their way to success through the patronage of their customers. Whatever happens next, direct funding is going to play a large part in it. And it’s impossible not to observe that on a day when gamers give a million dollars for a game that doesn’t yet exist, Ubisoft’s customers couldn’t play games they’d paid for and received. The contrast is important to notice.
But most of all, there’s going to be a new Gilbert and Schafer adventure game, and that makes me just beam. And seeing this much money come in from people passionate to make it happen – well, it’s just joyful. A properly happy thing.
Let’s hope the game’s good.