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MechWarrior Online's unconventional crowdfunding pays off
 MechWarrior Online 's unconventional crowdfunding pays off
October 16, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

Infinite Game Publishing pulled in over $5 million in preorders that will go toward development on MechWarrior Online, thanks to its gamble with an alternative funding model for the free-to-play game.

While the client-based game will be available for free when it launches, for a limited time IGP allowed players to pledge $30-$120 to join its Founder's Program, which entitled them to benefits like early access to MechWarrior Online, special in-game and forum tags, $40-$80 worth of in-game currency, exclusive Founder's BattleMechs, and more.

IGP and MechWarrior Online developer Piranha Online join a growing list of companies who've found success in crowdfunding their projects outside of Kickstarter and managing campaigns by themselves, offering exclusive rewards and early game access to fans who pledge money.

Introversion Software, for example, has made hundreds of thousands of dollars through its Prison Architect crowdfunding campaign in just a few weeks. And Wing Commander creator Chris Roberts' new project, Star Citizen, has already raised nearly $850,000 since last week.

The money IGP has picked up from the Founder's Program preorders will go toward Piranha's efforts developing MechWarrior Online and supporting it post-launch. The independent publisher has two other free-to-play titles it intends to launch open betas for later this year: MechWarrior Tactics and Sins of a Dark Age.

"The success of the Founder's Program reinforces IGP's vision to help independent developers build exceptional games with the right economic model for the global marketplace," says IGP CEO Nick Foster.

Montreal-based IGP notes that it's grown considerably in the last year, expanding to more than 50 workers and now planning to extend beyond Canada.

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Benjamin Leggett
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It helps that the beta is a blast if you play in groups, and that there's a lot of subtle depth to the mechanics.

Ardney Carter
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I'll just add to this by saying it's quite fun to play solo as well. There is enough information available through the interface to make informed decisions about movement and team/enemy positioning that you don't have to explicitly group with people to be sucessful.

Once they iron out the performance kinks that were introduced with the latest build and push into open beta I have a feeling it'll really catch on. They've handled closed beta pretty well from what I've seen. Interesting to see the numbers on the Founders program and it gives plenty of reason for optimism going forward.

Dave Ingram
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This proves that crowdfunding is a fundamentally sound practice (movement?), and that the concept does not rely on a single platform (Kickstarter). Go crowdfunding!

Matt Robb
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To be fair, we really won't know that until these crowdfunded projects have been released a few years and we get some proper post mortems.

That said, we can certainly be optimistic.

E Zachary Knight
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That is true for the larger projects that have raised $1+ million. However, there have already been a number of successfully completed smaller projects all over the place.

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So Kickstarter is becoming a way to cut out the publishing market and make the developers beholden to the contributors / shareholders? Is this a save and secure way to do business? Also do contributors and shareholders stay in that role for the entire life-cycle of the products they back? I'm just wondering how much benefit and reward comes from contributing towards a successful product, and how access does one have to the direction of the project though giving.

Chris Edwards
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I think the author of this article is using an extremely loose definition of the term "crowdfunding". It is my understanding that MWO was already funded and heading into production with or without their Founder's Program, and it was essentially just a "Pre-Order Bonus" not unlike what many contemporary commercial games use. Purchaser's of MWO's Founder Program get virtual goods in exchange for their money. While Kickstarter and other crowdfunding can also have some item perks, the primary goal is to get funds to start production, not to get bonus items when the game is released.

Kickstarter campaigns and projects like Star Citizen's crowdfunding operation happen because indie projects need funds to START the projects (that's the START in Kickstarter). MWO's Founder Program revenue, while still probably impressive, would not count as "crowdfunding" unless you consider everything you can buy for a game before, after, and during production (such as pre-order bonuses, DLC, and expansion packs) "crowdfunding" as well.

Alexander Silva-Sadder
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I am with you on this, the article says 'pulled in over $5 million in preorders'. So right away it really isn't the same as crowdfunding from a Kickstarter perspective. Kickstarter recently revised their terms to point out that it is not meant for pre-ordering products. People ordering a product expect it to be delivered. They have rights to refunds. They are not just pledging support for a project they may or may not directly benefit from. If collecting money from lots of people in advance of delivery is the only way crowdfunding is defined then sales, pre-sales, pledges, etc. all become the same muddy thing. If a company is successful in using pre-oreders or pre-selling their product, that really isn't anything new (in terms of financing mechanisms) and it really isn't crowdfunding in the sense it is usually used. Of course, the more people get loose with the definition (the way this article does), the more confusion will be created when folks try to discuss or compare financing models.

Andrew Svahins
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Star Citizen now actually have over 1.9mil in raised funding and more than 2 weeks to go on RSI website and 3 weeks on kickstarter. They have completed 500K funding on kickstarter in a matter of 3 days. And its growing still. Here is info:

Information and Links:

GDC announcement:

Kickstarter -

RSI Website -

Official FAQ -

What we know so far about Star Citizen: the-devs-on-the-forums/

Come support the development of the best space sim evah! Become a backer and reserve yourself some great rewards!