[Following both an initial article which included the views of developers who tried crowdsourcing projects and an article in the May 2011 issue of Game Developer magazine, this latest look into the crowdsourcing revolution compares and contrasts the options available to game developers.]
In March of 2009, Josh Freese (a session drummer who's played with every band you've ever heard of) combined preorder-funding, tiered pricing, and a huge dollop of punk rock ridiculousness to fund his second album, Since 1972. For $7, you could download the album. For $50, you would get a signed CD, a T-shirt, and a personal thank-you phone call from Freese.
For $1,000, Freese would wash your car, take you out drinking, and then you'd give each other haircuts in the parking lot of the Long Beach courthouse. For $20,000, Freese, Tool's Maynard James Keenan, and Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh would take you mini-golfing, and then drop you off on the side of the freeway.
The publicity stunt was a huge success, getting write-ups everywhere from Wired to NPR, and "crowdfunding" took off. This was a huge boon to Kickstarter, a crowdfunding service that launched a month after the release of Since 1972, and quickly established itself as the market leader.
Crowdfunding services – websites that act as both a social network to connect projects with backers and as a marketplace or escrow house for project funding – have become a popular business model in the last two years, and several more have sprung up alongside Kickstarter, each with their own perks, quirks, and twists on the basic model.
Crowdfunding is a natural fit for an independent game developer who needs to connect with an audience and secure funding at the same time; rather than having to "prove" your game to a publisher, you're "proving" it directly to your customers, and you don't have to go out on a limb funding it yourself with no idea of whether or not you'll sell enough copies to recoup your investment.
While Kickstarter is the most well-known crowdfunding service, it may not be the best fit for every video game project, so we're taking a look at five different crowdfunding services for video game projects to help you decide what will work best for your needs.
Kickstarter, the leader of the pack, has successfully funded over 6,500 projects since launching in April of 2009, 67 of which have been video games. IndieGoGo actually launched over a year before Kickstarter, but limited its funding to film projects until 2010.
RocketHub and ulule are two young up-and-comers who launched last year and are taking the basic crowdfunding model in interesting new directions; RocketHub is building gamification and an incubator of sorts on top of the basic model, while ulule is coupling its crowdfunding service with a message board and keeping costs to a bare minimum to create a very friendly and inviting space. Finally, 8-Bit Funding is the underdog of the bunch, launched at the beginning of this year as a crowdfunding service exclusively for video games.