Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Guest post: Tides and Trends in Video Game Crowd-Funding

Posted by Rampant Coyote on September 23, 2013

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for – someone other than ME! While I’m off on business in Asia, some brave folks have offered a few thoughts to share here on Tales of the Rampant Coyote. Today, it’s an offering by Lee, aka Leewelo. This is more of a list of several observations and metaphors related to crowd-funding. Stuff to ponder and argue about… Enjoy! – Jay


Tides and trends in videogame crowdfunding
or how poor marine metaphors can be use to waste your time

High Tide

High tide threatens Nukutoa island, Takuu. Photo Professor Richard Moyle, CC by-sa
  • Crowdfunding has became so ‘popular’ and is draining so much money from gamers that what I will now call ‘historical’ game publishers are (or soon will be) again in need of rethinking the way they do that business if they want to keep their sales & profits
  •  ‘Mobile’ gaming publishers seems far less impacted. I think that the crowdfunding wave is an extension of the mobile gaming (& apps) market that can be characterized by being fast paced, low price, low volume (for most individual games) and multitarget.
  • The mobile gaming & app market has been made possible by the spread of smartphones and non-niche mobile terminals. Or rather both are indivisibles. Else we would all have blackberryapplepods. You don’t need much power for that. But semi-open platforms for apps and games do.
  • The clouds are fun, take many shapes, have many uses, but the world remains divided: cloudy days are not fun and keep you in the house – which you may not want for your freedom and control over your data, unblemished skies can get too sunny, with no shade to connect to and no way to get that sunscreen you forgot at home.



Low Tide

The floating Itsukushima Shrine torii at low tide, Takuu. Photo Sputnikcccp, CC by-sa

  • As with the music industry, all the immobilism in the ‘historical’ game publishers will take years to disappear. So DRM will cling to games like tabernacles to their rocks.
  • crowdfunding can leave you dry as a fish trapped in a tide pool. Managing your budget will become critical, or you will be driven away, unwilling to spend the time to sift through the different projects, to find that beautiful seashell you dream of.
  • As on the beach, year after years, you build-up your acumen regarding beach vendors… or did you? Managing a budget means looking beyond your first reaction to a project, looking at is viability, its benefits, its costs. How much is an ice cone worth? How much for five hours of core gameplay? Five? If like me you are more drawn to RPGs, this may well be a choice you will have to make. Projects may seem overpriced, but if a project full audience is that of the crowdfunding, it will barely break even if at all. The risk for you is get ripped-off by an overpriced ice cone or two you will drop in the sand. The vendor may lose its stall and shirt there…. and credibility, which may become paramount in the years to come with the increase ‘public’ exposure of the game developers of all kinds. However, you usually don’t spend the whole year at the beach…
  • You never knew there were so many game developers around the globe? Look closer. More are coming. Summer is ending but the beaches will get crowded. Is it a new gold rush in the electronic seas? By the way, they all have great ideas. At least the ones you bother to check up on.


  • ‘Indie’ is becoming a whirlpool term, sucking in everything that comes near it. But from experienced developers going indie (pendant) with their own studio and AAA crowdfunded game to the noob indie looking for 500k$ to buy some hardware and licenses, not mentioning the ‘indie’ studios of large publishers/developers, there is a world. Thankfully it also encompasses ambitious small teams and one-man teams with nicely scoped projects like our host. I do not yet see any vocables rising that would help us distinguish between scallops and clams.
  • Similarly, ‘oldschool’ can now be used for games like ‘ancient’ and ‘old’ can be used for personal computers. If it is older than 6 months, it’s now oldschool. Double that and it can even become cool and trendy. Double that and it warrants an ultra super hd remake or two, a slingshot port, a full range of commercial clones and a GOG edition. Disclaimer: Shellfish abuse may distort your perception of time. Nota: I need to apologize to GOG there, a game can now be a Good Old Game (but not yet oldschool) 6 months before its initial release (and “almost” DRM free…).
  • Crowdfunding platforms really need to improve their software and get real search engines, visible keywords (and somehow wikified to the funders) with rss feeds based on those, status flags, multi-leveled tree structures, better baker-kit, better/more diverse currency & payment options, international delivery agreements (that one’s taking it a bit too far perhaps). Alas I see no trend yet.
  • Single-player is making a comeback (great!), with non-massive on-line multiplayer and other hybrids in the mixed. This is good. The social interaction level often required in MMO is just not possible for the different gamer social & age slices. Moreover, for many it seems to just add stress, which is unhealthy in high doses I’ve been told. So now we will get to build a sand castle and be helped or bothered by a handful of people, with the possibility of looking at other sand sculptures, but without the crowd spoiling the view.
  • Artsy games are now a full genre of their own. They deserve it. But just like art, everything you don’t like is not art and does not fit in the genre.
  • Transparency in crowdfunded gaming development funds allocation is just as in politics and before the IRS/fiscal administrations. Full disclosure if you don’t have much dough or a nice trip to some amenable islands.
  • You can now give your input to how a game should be designed. Except the ten thousands other funders also can. Do you trust their vision enough to respect and build on their opinions? Do you trust the initial project to make their own decisions and ignore the ignominies proffered by the trolling funders? Do you in turn troll to get your way, because, after all you paid to get there? Like most utopias, the first days are full of hope and glory, spent in brotherhood bliss…

If we are shaping that industry, how will it shape us in return? How will the distribution channels (traditional & mass market (e.g. Amazon), large online platforms, apps markets, crowdfunded, non-crowdfunded independent, bundles, ‘promo’ channels) affect the whole?

We can see a stronger division between retroified games and purely innovative ones. This one was already there, but the industry had been mostly dominated by a mass of game-alike [insert year number] with a sprinkle of small novelties. Will this fade in time?

The digital distribution has gained so much support it is now the norm and majority of sales. That also means there is more direct exposure of the gamers (buy one get our free newsletter, new adds every time you log-in, and so on…) and also more involvement in the communities. Will we be able to give as much attention to a game as five, ten or twenty years ago? Not only your social context changes, but if you are passionate about games, there’s just so much material to read, watch or even play.

A game a day, in your browser, on your mobile device, or both. Some weeks I am already doing that, through the excellent selection IndieGames. Will this gain traction? Is the ad monetization enough to sustain it while more and more people block ads? Will a new kind of subscription scheme arise?

From the 1980s we can say that we have now 2 to 3 generations of videogamers. The last one is dematerialized, becoming hyper connected and maturing. They will seek more subtle enjoyment from their games, just like the first generation. Will there be a maturing of the market/offer like the one of the SciFi literature thirty years ago (or so), the Fantasy literature fifteen years ago or so? (movies in those fields are taking their sweet time)? Will the fourth generation erect itself in opposition and reject part or all of what makes video gaming today?

Will internet become our L-space and like some modern libraries include games in the manifest?

Will the copyright wars kill us all before we run out of oil to make the chemicals to make the electronics we are using daily?

Will we run out of drinkable water before we run out of fresh game ideas?

You have read this far (or perhaps just scrolled fast), so I will share the two relevant truths I’m sure of :
We are living in interesting times (no, it is not a Chinese curse).
If you prevent mankind from gaming, you will need another name for it.

– Lee – 2013.09.04. CC by-nc-sa

Filed Under: General - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

  • Infinitron said,

    Crowdfunding has became so ‘popular’ and is draining so much money from gamers that what I will now call ‘historical’ game publishers are (or soon will be) again in need of rethinking the way they do that business if they want to keep their sales & profits

    Not really. In fact, I would argue that the crowdfunding trend may have been enabled by publishers adjusting their prices downwards on PC. People are saving so much money on Steam these days that they don’t mind bumping some extra money to a game on Kickstarter.

    In other words, you’ve put the cart before the horse – the publishers have already adjusted. PC games are damn cheap.

    Anyway, the numbers of people involved in game crowdfunding aren’t yet large enough to bother publishers either way. At best they’re a useful barometer of the attitudes of the hardest of the core gamers, which has marketing applications.

  • Cuthalion said,

    Interesting musings.