Photo from vg247.com
By Stephen Infantolino
Making a video game isn’t an easy task. It’s a lengthy process that can take a developer anywhere from a few months to even a few decades from the initial concept phase to the game’s actual release date.
Factors, like a lengthy development process, play into one of the most important and key aspects of video game development: the cost of making the game. For big development studios like Bungie, which is well-known for its work on the original Halo franchise under Microsoft, cost isn’t that much of a concern.
Bungie’s latest title “Destiny,” which was released on multiple platforms back in 2014, cost the studio approximately $500 million to produce, making it the most expensive video game ever developed.
For well-established developers, high development costs aren’t too much of a worry, as many of them have other projects to fall back on for support. But for the small, independent or even the first time developers, the cost of the project can be the difference between an idea and actually making the game a reality.
In recent years, many independent developers have looked to gamers for support when it comes to funding their projects. This process of getting the consumer involved with the funding of the game’s development is known as crowd funding.
Gamers, as well as non-gamers, can make monetary contributions to a game’s development through websites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. If the campaign goal is met, which was a goal that was set by the developers themselves, then the project is funded, which means the game will either continue the development process or development will begin.
According to Jesse Ruderman, a 20-year-old gamer and quality assurance tester at Red Storm Entertainment, crowd funding is a great way for small development studios to be able to afford to make quality games. “It’s a great way to get quality games from smaller development teams.”
Ruderman, has helped crowd fund two games, one of which being “Shovel Knight.” In 2013, “Shovel Knight” by Yacht Club Games, a 2D side-scrolling platform, successfully reached its crowd-funding goal of $75,000 on Kickstarter in just 16 days. By the end of its crowd-funding campaign, the game had gained 14,749 backers with a total of $311,502 collected.
“Shovel Knight” then went on to win multiple Game of the Year awards and became so popular that it received a physical release on both portable and home consoles — a feat for a small developer without backing by a major publishing studio.
For other small developers like Kyle Lambert, the 25-year-old developer of Major/Minor, an RPG that just got community approval for sale on steam through the Steam Greenlight program, crowd funding is a much better option as opposed to traditional methods like taking out loans.
“A bank loan, while a perfectly valid method, comes with many obligations and interests and well. Sometimes the obligation of a loan becomes a source of stress if the project does not get off the ground or does not sell well,” Lambert said. “By using crowd-funding, we bypass the aspect of interest while also being able to fulfill all our funding obligations from the get-go.”
Lambert said that if it weren’t for crowd funding and sites like Kickstarter, Major/Minor wouldn’t have become a reality. “ I’m very grateful that we live in the age of crowd-funding. It means that those passionate about something, can help fund a creator to create something they are also passionate about.”
Crowd funding has also helped many developers who have been working in the industry for years actually make the games that they want to make.
Many developers from the Microsoft Studio Rare wanted to make a sequel to one of their most popular releases during the 1990’s, “Banjo-Kazooie,” but were rejected multiple times. The team then decided to leave Rare behind and create the development studio Playtonic Games.
The newly-found development studio was able to produce a project video of “Banjo-Kazooie’s” spiritual successor called “Yooka-Laylee” and get a Kickstarter campaign going on May 1, 2015.
“Yooka-Laylee” quickly became the most funded video game project to ever hit Kickstarter, meeting its goal of $175,000 in just 40 minutes after the campaign went live and bringing in $2,090,140 for Playtonic from 73,206 backers worldwide.
Crowd funding in general has become a huge driving force in the video game industry. For many independent developers it’s the difference between their original concept to actually making their games a reality, and in the end both the developers and the players get what they want.