Can crowdsourcing revolutionise indie funding?

Can crowdsourcing revolutionise indie funding?

By Rob Crossley

January 28th 2011 at 3:28PM

In depth: Develop speaks to the founder of game investment website, 8-Bit funding

Pay $5 to help fund development of new indie project Cardinal Quest and you’ll get a free copy of the game when it’s finished. Pay $10, however, and your name will also appear in the game’s end credits.

A donation of $100, meanwhile, will also get you a Cardinal Quest t-shirt and the chance to design one of the game’s characters.

Those putting forward $500 will get 5 per cent of the game’s profits as well. Pay up $1000 and the developer will visit you personally to say thanks, on top of a ten per cent profit slice, and a credit on the game’s intro screen as “The Patron Saint of Cardinal Quest”.

This innovative pay and reward system has led to Cardinal Quest’s developer, Tametick, accumulate $2,310 in investment from dozens of fans in just a few days. The studio now has about a month to reach its $6,000 target.

If successful, it could open the industry’s eyes to a new kind of investment initiative – crowdfunding.

“We are gamers supporting game development”, says Geoff Gibson, founder of 8-Bit Funding – a new game-focused crowdsourcing investment website that launched this week.

“Crowdfunding has already proven to be successful on websites like Kickstarter,” Gibson tells Develop, “but Kickstarter doesn’t promote games as much as they do film, design, and music projects”.

“Part of me believes the reason for this is due to games being more niche and the people running Kickstarter not knowing necessarily how to promote gaming projects, or even telling the good games from the bad games. Through 8-Bit Funding, this won’t be an issue.”

8-Bit Funding’s new website is a catalogue of game projects like Cardinal Quest. Its purpose is to create a direct line between developers who need funding and gamers who want to play something new.

Thousands of people have visited the website since it launched this week, presented with a number of featured games they can help fund.

Developers submitting their project proposals to the site need to set a funding target and explain what the money will be used for.

To ensure no project is stuck in limbo, developers will be given a deadline date before which the investment target must be reached.

If full funds are met, Gibson takes a 5 per cent cut and gives the rest to the developer. If the funding pool is below 50 per cent by deadline day, everyone gets their money back.
 
But if on deadline day the fund pool is at 50-99 per cent of its target, Gibson gives the money to the developer but takes a ten per cent cut. Gibson says this larger fee “is designed to keep developers realistic about their goals”.

The payment system is based around PayPal, meaning it works internationally and is largely trusted.

Though the investment constraints and penalties can appear more reminiscent of ruthless triple-A publishers than a pleasant indie game community, 8-Bit Funding is breaking a few eggs in order to prove the model can work.

Gibson’s priority is to drive to completion what could be the world’s first crowdfunded game, not build an altruistic yet largely unsuccessful funding initiative.

To that end, 8-Bit Funding isn’t as democratic as it appears. Anyone can submit their idea for a game, but only the ones seen fit by Gibson will make it to the website.

“Currently, yes, I am the only one reviewing and approving projects since it’s not really a fulltime job for anybody yet,” Gibson tells Deveop.

“As for what we look for, as guidelines, it’s a little tough to say. First and foremost we make sure the standards are followed, then we take a look at the project itself and make sure it’s a legitimate project.

“Somebody sitting in front of their camera asking for money but showing nothing probably won’t get approved”.

That aside, 8-Bit funding remains an interesting community initiative that actively brings developers and game creators closer together. If successful, it may just turn heads even in an industry already in a state of rapid flux.
 
It could also, if a game like Cardinal Quest breaks into the spotlight, set the template for indie developers wanting to improve their games, but not having the funds to do so.
 
“The biggest thing holding many indie developers back is their lack of monetary funds,” Gibson concludes.

“Take a game like Braid. As we all know Braid was a very expensive endeavour costing a reported $200,000 from the developer’s own pocket.

“Had he not invested that much money into Braid, it probably would not have become the world wide phenomenon that it is, nor would the developer have been able to include as much into it.

“While most developers, I believe, are resourceful enough to make solid games with little or no money, I firmly believe that if game developers had the money they need indie gaming as a whole could be much better than it is today.”