I’ve rambled on quite a bit about crowdfunding and how it has had a very appreciable affect on videogame development in particular, and MMO game development in specific. I have been beating this thing in to the ground a lot, I know…but the only reason I bring up crowdfunding once again in a blog post is because it’s such a rich topic, with a variety of facets for one to disseminate and discuss.
So it goes with this whole thing once more…but this time I wanna jam about how crowdfunding and “AAA” development should both be allowed to continue on, and to maybe discuss why I feel like one should not overpower the other.
First off, I should perhaps clarify that I refer to “AAA development” as the standard way of doing things–a dev house approaches a large publisher which answers to an investor’s board. For the sake of ease, I’m lumping in all companies of all sizes in to this sort of category so as to limit the idea that I’m picking on one particular company or whatever.
There is comfort in the old way of doing things, even if there isn’t a huge deal of innovation. This is a tried and tested method for getting product out the door and on to shelves and hard drives across the globe. The old way of doing things should not be pushed aside so readily, especially when companies are dealing with large IP’s or larger scale games. Granted, larger game can also mean more repeated design choices, but I have said myriad times before that I don’t mind looking out of the same sort of window if the curtains are interesting enough. I have to believe that a lot of people feel the same way.
Now, obviously a larger company doesn’t always guarantee that an MMO will continue to see success, or that a larger IP will continue to be supported. The DC universe had a MOBA, which by all accounts should have been a license to print money, but sure enough, Infinite Crisis is shuttering after the date of this very writing. Still, there is more potential for these kinds of games to see support and backing, as well as significant money spent on advertising and getting the word out. As inter-connected as we are, there’s still nothing that has greater outreach than classic advertising.
And honestly, the big guns are still firing straight and true. Star Wars: The Old Republic is getting, by all appearances, a pretty damned sweet expansion, which is unheard of considering the game’s initial bellyflop of a launch. Final Fantasy XIV has continued to show other MMO companies how content updates oughta be done. Guild Wars 2, despite manifestos and spin-cycle talk have ceded to the players and have gone on ahead with releasing an expansion instead of focusing solely on Living Story. And all of that support could not have come from the private sector.
On the other side of things, we have the aforementioned private sector–crowdfunding. The indie darling. The punchy, never-say-die upstart that Hollywood loves to write whole movies about. Here we have both industry vets and utter noobs trying to pull together resources to make something happen that has either never really been tried before, or has been done and was pushed aside despite being successful.
The old guard of doing things is risk-averse in general, and trying to push the envelope too hard can be a tinderbox that might not work out. So in step the Kickstarter projects. The stuff that makes things happen on a leaner team with a tighter budget, and lets goodwill and word-of-mouth handle the rest. For the smaller game, for the niche game, for the idea that goes against what has been done or was too ambitious for a jittery investor board, these projects need to be allowed to happen.
And that’s the first and repeated point–they need to be allowed to happen. The ugly side of game development is that it takes time. Things get designed, iterated, then balled up and thrown out in lieu of doing things better or smarter. Not many of us are really prepared for that reality, and even less of us can fully appreciate that this stuff takes time. I mean, I’ve backed a few games and even I am flabbergasted at how long this crap is taking to coalesce.
So, yes, this stuff is not going to happen swiftly. And stuff will change. It’s not goalpost moving so much as adapting to how stuff happens. If every videogame ever made were locked in to a rigid deadline and even one second beyond that due date meant the entire project was scrapped, then I gotta believe that we would probably not have many videogames out there to play. Of course, this is coming from an outside observer so I have every potential to be wrong here…but I’m not so sure I am. I mean, look at the not-fully patched and bug tested AAA titles that got out of the gate because their timetable was too rigid.
The fact that these are smaller teams (more or less) means that communication should mean that things can be adapted and changed more frequently. I kind of anticipate that going in. And honestly, the ideas that these smaller titles are working on is worth the time and the “risk”. PvP games, living worlds, sandboxes, gankboxes, space, fantasy, player-run servers, even a freaking game about running a farm. These are things that don’t get made any more if at all, and the MMO genre, as much as I love a good themepark, needs these things to happen.
So as with almost everything else entertainment-related, people seem to be split on which way is better or more helpful or harmful to the industry. It’s my position that both are needed. They both have their benefits and negatives. They both are avenues to creation. They both can make games we want and games we enjoy happen.
People feel like crowdfunding is just fleecing. It’s paying for a thing that isn’t actually even corporeal yet. But even money aside, I invest in a game’s idea and creation on an emotional level before the thing even goes gold. We all do. How many times have you heard about a game being made by a publisher or developer and already gotten ready to buy in without having even really seen or played it? How is crowdfunding worse than that? Sure, it’s money…but money only has value to the individual. And there are individuals who are so taken with an idea and want to see it happen that they are willing to throw money at it.
People feel like the larger the company the more villainous. Their lack of innovation or attempt at innovation are causing a festering boil which will stagnate all of MMO’dom and will ultimately doom every game running. But there is still a market for this sort of thing. Even if that market fluxes, there is still upswings. And many are just not that trusting of a Kickstarter game–and that’s fine. “I’ll believe it when I see it” is a perfectly valid reason to not buy in.
And that’s really the point, ultimately, isn’t it? Wanting to see stuff get made, regardless of where it got its start. And both avenues of development are here to make that happen. It should never be about the build or the name brand of the oven, but how the roast chicken inside of it tastes when it comes out.