How Self Publishing And Crowdfunding Benefits The Gaming Industry


Nowadays developers have a myriad of options available to them when it comes to distributing their content. Self publishing to platforms like Valve‘s Steam digital distribution, Apple‘s App Store, Google Play, and Sony‘s upcoming PlayStation 4 provide a marked increase in freedom for developers large and small to attract clientele. The recent uptrend in crowdfunding via popular platforms like Kickstarter gives prospective buyers the ability to say ‘Yes, this project should be developed, and I’m willing to fund it’s budget up front.’ To say the very least, today’s game developers have a tremendous leg up on the developers of old when it comes to getting their product in front of consumers. As in all venues, a little competition never hurts. Developers successfully self funding and publishing allows genres both new and forgotten to thrive based on consumer demand, instead of the whims of large game publishers.

Valve’s Steam service has been around for a decade now (give or take), which makes it arguably the most reliable digital distribution platform. The popular Steam Greenlight program lets consumers vote for titles they want to hit the platform As of this writing, 66 titles are greenlit and on their way to release. 45 more have successfully released through the program. With enough community support the title is greenlit, and then it’s up to the developer to provide Valve a build of the game. The next phase is to allow the developer to polish their games and finalize marketing plans for the games launch. Red Thread GamesDreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey and KING Art‘s Battle World: Kronos are two such games to have found the support of the Steam community in recent months. The massive amount of diversity Steam offers consumers has grown the platform exponentially, and the games that find themselves in the Steam Greenlight process are given huge distribution potential.

The casual gaming audience is one of the fastest growing genres the industry has ever seen. Games published on mobile devices find themselves with the largest potential buying community on the planet. Cell phone companies make it nearly impossible to deny yourself a smart phone with deep discounts to hardware, in some cases phones are even free with a new coverage agreement. That makes Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play service some of the best places for developers to place their content. Mobile games are competitively priced, and in some cases, developers get their app into users’ hands with no entry cost and rake in the cash via micro-transactions after the user is fully engaged. Game developers like Kabam have found success on the mobile platform after leaving Facebook behind. The company currently has three of the top 25 grossing iPhone titles in the U.S., and they’re revenue stream is inflating to a projected $300M in 2013. Kabam is mostly known as midcore developer, but those kinds of profits beg to differ.

Lastly, we’ll take a stab at crowdfunding. It’s actually a platform that we cover very regularly here on iGR via our weekly Kickstarter Spotlight. As we mentioned before, crowdsourcing gives developers and consumers the power to make projects that would otherwise never see the light of day, a reality. If you recall the largest amount ever pulled from a Kickstarter venture was the Ouya home gaming console, an Android based, open source platform that offers a unique amount of freedom to both developers and consumers. The Kickstarter-campaign collected an astounding $8.5M in funding in it’s short backing window. The hardware has since seen it’s share of letdowns and it’s seeing low review marks from many gaming outlets, but nonetheless the platform concept would have likely fallen into obscurity without crowdfunding. Another success story out of Kickstarter is Double Fine Productions and their Double Fine Adventure campaign (now renamed Broken Age). The developer reeled in $3.3M during their time on Kickstarter, but similar hurdles have challenged the developer to reassess their distribution plan to provide additional funds to complete development. The project has now been broken into two parts set to release roughly five months apart, with Steam Early Access (pre-order) funds stepping in to complete development.

Self publishing and crowdfunding require a certain amount of budget management that your typical developer isn’t used to, and that’s where some of the pitfalls lie. inXile Entertainment is taking a decidedly measured approach to it’s distribution plan with it’s successful Kickstarter – Wasteland 2. inXile is looking to publisher Deep Silver to provide quality testing, Kickstarter reward fulfillment, and international distribution. This is an approach that more Kickstarter project creators should take note of. inXile crowdsourced the funding of development ensuring the project’s creative control was firmly with Fargo and company, and then set Deep Silver to the task of successfully distributing the finished product. This lets both parties effectively ‘Do what they do best’.

The combination of self publishing and crowdfunding offer developers a new vehicle to deliver their products, and it also allows consumers to better voice their opinion of what’s relevant to them content wise. As a self publisher or crowdfunded project, being able to identify your outfits strengths and weaknesses is paramount to success. In time publishing giants like Electronic Arts, Activision, Bethesda etc. may start to notice the value in diversifying their portfolios, and offering niche products along with their larger budget projects. At that point the playing field will level out and funding will be more readily available on risky, innovative ideas. Until that time, self publishing and crowdfunding will undoubtedly continue to benefit the games industry.

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Dylan Zellmer

Dylan splits time between games journalism, designing video games, and playing them. Outside of his deep involvement in the games industry, he enjoys It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Shameless, A Song of Ice and Fire, fitness, and family.
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