Kickstarter is the most important thing to happen for gaming in the last 5 years. Here is why.
Triple AAA gaming has become less and less innovative since the middle of the last generation of consoles. Every publisher now has it range of games, or cash cows that are released year on year that many would argue are copy and paste of the year before just with a few “new” features to add to the immersion. The cost of developing these games ranges from $10 and $50 million dollars. Now arguably with these costs, we should be seeing some of the profits going to smaller developers, but then we have to take in to account share holders.
For the first part of 2015, Activision had earned $1.28 Billion from 2 IP’s, Destiny and Hearthstone. Now for the $500 million that it took to develop Destiny, this pretty much covered it’s costs. And what else does Activision have coming out this year? Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, Tony Hawk, Skylanders, Destiny, Spongebob, Transformers and The Peanuts Movie.
Now I’m not picking on Activision in particular, just using them as an example. There is a list of games that we have all seen before and know that will sell really well. Call of Duty for example is now borrowing some aspects from Titanfall with the parkour running and there is no particularly new IPs in this list. All of these games are relatively safe. EA with their EA Sports marketing are exactly the same. We have already had an updated Madden release for consoles, and later this year we are getting FIFA 16, Need for Speed, Mirrors Edge, Star Wars Battlefront and NBA 16. Okay, there are a couple of games in that list which are exciting, but still there is nothing here that is particularly new.
The only thing all of these games have in common is that they are going to make a lot of money. We are sold year on year the same game, and forgive me for summing this up as simplistically as this, but re-skinned and resold to us on another platter.
Kickstarter first came on to my radar a few years ago with Elite Dangerous. It wasn’t the very first game I ever played, but it was certainly a game I played for a very long time. When the rumours started popping up that David Brabben was looking to get a new Elite funded I have to admit I was pretty excited.
It was when the funding finally came on to Kickstarter that the true nature of the games industry exposed itself. No Games studio wanted to take the project on, and this was after many years of trying. No, I don’t know the full details of Frontier Developments trying to get the funding with a publisher, but it was Kickstarter that saved the project. Elite Dangerous is now expected to make £22 million. Not bad for a crowd funded project.
The other massive success story in this includes Chris Roberts with Start Citizen, which is also the most successfully funded game ever coming in at $77 million. Both of these games are harking back to a golden age of gaming, space exploration. Some thing we have not really seen since the mid 90’s. Now taking in conversation rates, these games in total have funded over $100 million at current rates. That’s money that has been given to the developers from gamers. Now the publishers didn’t think that there was space for games like this on the market and refuse to take the chance on something that may not bring the money back in.
For years, ever since the N64, gamers have been crying out for a Banjoo-Kazooie sequel. Earlier this year on Kickstarter, along came a new project. Yooka Laylee. Former members of Rare under the new studio Playtonic asked for its Kickstarter goal of $175,000. They hit it in 38 minutes. It eventually became the fastest project to hit $1 million, and they broke just over $2 million. This game has now been picked up by a publisher, and is also looking at retail release. This spiritual successor would probably not exist if it were not for Kickstarter and crowfunding.
And how about Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night? A spiritual successor to Castlevania, it hit $5.5 million after only asking for $500,000, again breaking some records along the way. And then there is Shenmue 3. Shenmue was at the time the most expensive game on the Sega Dreamcast, coming in at approximately $47. It was going to be an elaborate 4 part game based over 11 chapters but it was never finished. A month after Bloodstained hit its target Shenmue 3 took the title becoming the fastest project to hit $2 million.
Okay, so these games are technically all sequels or successors to original games but they all broke their original targets and are games that are seemingly craved by the general public. It begs the question why established publishers were afraid to green light these projects given the obvious desire for these games.
So why is Kickstarter the most important thing to happen to gamers? Without the restriction of shareholders looking over your shoulder at every creative decision, the design of the game is purely down to the studio. It allows a developer to be innovative, to create to do what they do best. And this can only be a good thing for us and the industry as a whole.
Now I’m not saying that triple AAA titles would have suddenly become redundant, we will always want these titles, and they will continue to sell, and sell well. But with the advent of these games coming through we may see more innovation coming through to titles, that let’s be honest, have become stale in the last few years. Every game that has released on the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One have all been safe titles. Call of Duty, FIFA, Mortal Kombat X, Dead Rising 3, Uncharted:The Nathan Drake Collection, Tomb Raider Definitive Edition, Gears of War Remastered, Halo:The Master Chief Collection, GTA 5, Assassin’s Creed, Borderlands The Handsome Collection, Battlefield 4, Metro 2033, Destiny, Dishonored: Definitive Edition, The Last of Us Remastered, Need For Speed, Resident Evil Remastered, Sleeping Dogs, the list is extensive, but most of these have been remastered and released because they sold so well on the previous consoles.
Where is the innovation here? Where is the next generation of games that we were promised? All of these games listed are guaranteed to make some money for the publishers. At the time of writing this, Activision announced the 2013 game of Deadpool from High Moon Studios was to be re-masted and re-released. The following day Capcom announced the Resident Evil Origins Collection, both games coming to the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One.
It almost seems that after being 2 years in to the life of these consoles games developers don’t know what to do. The industry just seems to have become stale by producing the same old games year on year. Why have we – the gamers – allowed this to happen? The only game that has released so far on all next generation consoles that I would call a next gen game is BloodBourne. Built almost from the ground up for the 8th generation of console and 3 years in development, it genuinely makes me want to buy a Playstation 4.
And this is why I am looking to Kickstarter for the future of the gaming industry. I am looking at games that can offer experiences that I have not had before, or challenge you in another way. We are seeing genres being resurrected that have not seen the light of day for the last 15 years.
Australian based 5LivesStudios released Satellite Reign. Anybody remember Syndicate Wars? No, not the EA FPS version a few years ago, but the Bullfrog Iso-Metric shooter? Yeah it’s another spiritual successor, but hell, what a game to have as inspiration. The same with Wasteland 2. Anyone remember Fallout? You know that game set in a post apocalyptic wasteland? What about when Fallout was just an Iso-Metric RPG? The game was successfully release on PC earlier this year and now coming over to consoles. A forgotten genre making its comeback, and my apologies if the genre has been around on PC in this time, I have had my head stuck on a console.
To balance this out a little bit better I have to mention some of the failures that crowd funding has brought along with it. Peter Molyneux and Godus is probably the most famous example this year, promising the world, and delivering, well, a lot of disappointment to a lot of people. Shockingly, it is likely that this is the last time we will see Molyneux in public as he has decided to concentrate on creating the games, and not selling them to us.
It’s not the perfect solution, but some of the best games over the last 30 years have been coded by someone in their bedroom working to the absolute limits of what they can achieve. And because of those limitations, those games turned out to be some of the most inspired games of all time. Manic Miner was coded in 6 weeks, and still remains one of the most cherished games of all time. Halo: Combat Evolved was created by a 8 man team and sold the Xbox.
I feel the industry has a lot to answer for over the last 10 years, and the answer to this solution may not just be Kickstarter, but at least with Kickstarter the industry is finally starting to listen to gamers.