More funding means more freedom for Schafer

More funding means more freedom for Schafer
Seth Tipps

By Seth Tipps

August 11th 2012 at 1:24AM

Studio moving away from work for hire to focus on self-publishing free-to-play

The studio that kickstarted its way into the limelight may bid adieu to publishers altogether by taking their games directly to the consumer.

Double Fine;s crowdfunding venture raised $3.3 million dollars for an adventure game that would never have recieved publisher backing, and may get funding from investors that would help them move into a new strategy of self-publishing free-to-play games.

“We’re making a switch from console work-for-hire and going to direct to consumer and free-to-play projects,” said Double Fine's VP of business development Justin.

“That process has taken place over the last 18 months.”

This is a big shift for a developer that has historically relied on contract work with publishers.

The studio's first two titles, Psychonauts (2005) and Brutal Legend (2009), both had backing from major publishers, but when a sequel to the latter was cancelled, the studio was left in the lurch, and began seeking alternative business models.

“We try to be as creative with our business development as we are with our games,” Double fine founder Tim Schafer told VentureBeat.

“We are always on the lookout for ways to break the traditional mold for game funding. So when we see new opportunities come up — like Kickstarter, angel investment, or other alternative funding models — even though they might seem new and risky at the time, they are also very attractive to us."

For Schafer, this is more than just creative thinking; it's a way of escaping a broken system.

"Let’s face it," he said, "anything beats the traditional game funding model. It’s like a loan with a really horrible interest rate; no revenue usually until you’ve not just paid back the development cost, but paid it back many times over. Plus, lots of entanglements with intellectual property usually.”

The company has already recieved $1 million from superfan Steve Dingler, which went to the Mac port of Psychonauts and the publication of PC titles Stacking and costume quest.

Schafer says this is one of the benefits of maintaining the studio's independence; Double Fine's unique team-based organization means they can take advantage of opportunities as they come.

“The great thing about having multiple teams at Double Fine is that we can experiment," explained Schafer.

"We can try out different game genres, platforms, and sizes, and we can try out different funding models. So when someone like Steve Dengler sends a tweet my way, asking how much it would cost to port Brütal Legend to PC, I’m in a position to have a serious conversation with him. I don’t have to say, ‘Sorry, everybody’s busy on this one big game we’re making over here.’”