Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 30, 2012
Many years ago, when the blog was young, I was trying to decide how I’d talk about upcoming games in the exciting, growing indie games field that hardly anybody knew about. I faced a little bit of a quandary. At the time, something like 95% (or more) of all indie game projects failed. Early on, I was kind of surprised at this… I remember getting pretty jazzed about some promising games that had some truly beautiful screenshots, exciting design ideas, and promises from the developers that the games were near-alpha, alpha, 70% or 80% complete, or whatnot. There’d be some exciting weekly news, then monthly news, then…. nothing.
So I decided that I’d try to avoid talking about upcoming games unless either (A) they were already pretty near to completion, or (B) by an established developer with a history of released games. I’ve broken this guideline many times, and about half of the time I’ve been burned. And I’ve been surprised to see some long-thought-dead projects get revived years later. Sometimes these projects have been revived and re-killed repeatedly. And then there are some that are never quite dead, but make progress at an incredibly slow pace for many, many years.
Things are weird, now. First of all, “small games” have really grabbed hold of the indie space, even among first-time developers – particularly with the revolution in handheld gaming and web-based gaming. This is actually a good thing. For YEARS it seemed that new, aspiring indie game developers were focused on making the next Halo or Final Fantasy X, only bigger. While I exaggerate, it’s sadly not by much. Unsurprisingly, most of these ambitious projects failed. Now that more new game developers are setting realistic project goals, my guess is that the failure rate has dropped somewhat. Unfortunately, it’s also true that the less ambitious projects are often less noteworthy as well. What’s so special about game X, which like games Y and Z was inspired by games T,U, and W? Ummm…
Then there’s crowdfunding. This turns everything on its ear, especially with the current “bubble.” Sadly, I expect a good number of even successfully funded Kickstarter / Indiegogo video game projects to fail. Hopefully far less than 95% of the bad old days, but I don’t think it would be too pessimistic to predict that 50% or more will either fail entirely or significantly under-deliver on their promises. It’ll be another year or two before that sinks in. After that happens – well, we’ll see how people react from there, when they discover what venture capitalists have already learned by hard experience. Maybe then, the crowdfunding thing will turn out to have been a fad, or maybe it’ll turn into one of those things where unknowns need not apply. Or we’ll continue with PT Barnum’s adage about how often a sucker is born. Or maybe backers know dang well what they are getting into right now, and fully anticipate that the money they toss into fund these interesting dreams will never result in anything tangible. We’ll see.
Whichever the case, this is causing me to re-evaluate my stance. Every week, I’m getting a few people contacting me about projects-in-development, especially crowdfunded projects. A lot of these projects sound really, really cool. Cool enough, in some cases, where I’ve pledged some money in myself, in spite of “Kickstarter fatigue.” It’s also tempting because I’m almost always looking for easy topics for a blog post, and these crowdfunding projects could be a source of two or articles a week. Actually, if I went down that road, I’d probably have an even tougher time choosing which games NOT to mention so I could have the occasional non-Kickstarter article. Just like the old days, it’d be easy to be overwhelmed by all these cool, exciting-sounding projects with beautiful screenshots and awesome ideas.
And at this point, I have no way of telling which of these projects will ever see the light of day, unless they are (A) very near completion already, or (B) being built by established teams with a history of successful releases.
I’m still sorely tempted to break my own rules, but when actual money is involved, I’m going to feel a little guilty when I was party to advertising vaporware. I mean, if it’s my own money I through down a deep, dark hole, that’s one thing. But if other people were motivated to do the same based on my enthusiasm? Ummm…. sorry, guys?
But on the other hand, these guys seeking funding need to spread the word somehow, right? And I’m one of the go-to guys within the indie RPG specialty, right?
Anyway – it remains a quandary. I’ve talked about some of the projects I’ve found interesting in the past, and probably will in the future, but like I said – things have gotten weird. I’m not sure how to adapt.
Filed Under: Biz, Indie Evangelism - Comments: 13 Comments to Read