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Valve's Newell On Community-Funded Games

Soulskill posted about 5 years ago | from the video-game-tycoon dept.

The Almighty Buck 176

Modern games are extremely expensive to make. High-profile, AAA titles have budgets in the tens of millions, and even the smaller, independent titles can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to make. Couple this with development times that frequently reach three or four years and you have publishers who are very shy about investing in new projects, particularly for unproven IPs. Valve co-founder Gabe Newell recently spoke about a new way of funding such games: "There's a huge amount of risk associated with those dollars and decisions have to be incredibly conservative. What I think would be much better would be if the community could finance the games. In other words, 'Hey, I really like this idea you have. I'll be an early investor in that and, as a result, at a later point I may make a return on that product, but I'll also get a copy of that game.'" Such a system would certainly relieve some of the pressure to stick with tried-and-true concepts (and possibly get management to grant a little more leeway with deadlines and resources), and it would make the video game industry more of a meritocracy than it already is.

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176 comments

Then open it up (2, Informative)

CarpetShark (865376) | about 5 years ago | (#28767253)

Well all they've gotta do is start an open source project for it, like blender, and make sure it's something that can continue to develop so it's worth the investment. No one wants to invest in a projec they play once, or that won't be available for their multi-Cell watchphone in 15 years.

Re:Then open it up (4, Insightful)

rumith (983060) | about 5 years ago | (#28767313)

I think that what Gabe suggests is quite reasonable, to say the least. People do pay for games right now, even those that they play once and those that won't be available for their multi-Cell watchphone in 15 years. Think of it as an early preorder method. Think of it as of a way of listening to customers instead of PHBs. After all, if people pay the devs for the right to tell them what kind of a game they want to play when it's done, it is good. Besides, this will even massively boost sales to those who didn't invest early (because the game is more likely to be good/popular).

Re:Then open it up (3, Interesting)

CarpetShark (865376) | about 5 years ago | (#28767439)

People do pay for games right now, even those that they play once and those that won't be available for their multi-Cell watchphone in 15 years

They certainly do. However, asking people to be venture capitalists for a game project requires a little more in return than just asking them to buy a complete, well tested game that other people have played, reviewed, and said they got something out of. Most venture capitalists would be asking for at least a share of the project's rights (including related trademarks, merchandising, etc), AND its profits.

Re:Then open it up (2, Informative)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 5 years ago | (#28768133)

So tier investments.

£10 gets you a copy of the game, £30 gets you a copy of the game and a vote in feature requests, £50 gets you two votes, £100 gets you direct access to the feature list to make suggestions yourself (without requiring votes to appear in a shortlist), etc. with a bracket for those who will get ROI in form of dividend based on performance.

Re:Then open it up (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 5 years ago | (#28768179)

Most venture capitalists would be asking for at least a share of the project's rights (including related trademarks, merchandising, etc), AND its profits.

Bingo. If the users are going to finance the development of the game, then they need to be the owners of the game. I say the production house needs to set a price and collect payments into escrow, once the escrow account reaches the asking price, they get to work. Once finished they collect their payment out of escrow and in turn release the game to the public domain.

That won't work for Valve though, it negates the whole point of the DRM that is Steam.

Re:Then open it up (4, Insightful)

omega_dk (1090143) | about 5 years ago | (#28768409)

Why do you assume the game has to be public domain at the end? Couldn't you just assume it is shared property of a corporation-like entity comprised of those that funded the game? After all, there's always the sequel, and why not share some of the profits from selling the game with those that funded its creation?

Re:Then open it up (2, Interesting)

Steauengeglase (512315) | about 5 years ago | (#28769321)

"Once finished they collect their payment out of escrow"

I thought Newell's idea was that it would ease development costs. With this solution who pays the employees to make the game over say, a 4 year period?

Re:Then open it up (4, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 5 years ago | (#28767449)

I've been advocating this model for TV shows for a few years. Currently, a group makes a pilot, then tries to sell it to networks, which fund the series. It wouldn't be a massive change to release the pilot publicly and ask people for contributions towards making the full series. Once you've raised enough capital, you start production. You then encourage peer-to-peer distribution of the first season's episodes, because anyone who enjoys watching the show is someone you may be able to get money from to make the next season, or to make your next project. Unlike draconian copyright amendments, this model has the advantage that it funds the really valuable act, that of creating the work, not that of copying it.

The problem with Gabe's idea is that he wants to combine this with the existing model, where you charge for copies. I can't see that working well in the long run, because it limits distribution which makes it harder to get new investors for the second round.

Re:Then open it up (4, Insightful)

Tom (822) | about 5 years ago | (#28767795)

The only downside to your idea is that it's been tried (by Stephen King, no less) and found to be lacking.

People who enjoy getting something for free don't pay for getting the next installment. Not in big enough numbers for a book - see the problem with financing a TV show this way?

Re:Then open it up (3, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 5 years ago | (#28768239)

The only downside to your idea is that it's been tried (by Stephen King, no less) and found to be lacking.

King did it backwards, he asked people to pay after they already have the product in hand. Only the most generous of suckers is going to do that. Word was the story kinda sucked too.

The key is in holding the next episode/book/song/installment ransom. Sure plenty of people still won't pay, but when you've got a billion people on the net worldwide, you only need a miniscule fraction in order to be profitable.

It would also help to arrange the financing creatively, one way being a subscription. Sign up for the subscription and the money is auto-billed each month, works the same as music clubs, gyms, etc, and to a lesser extent cable tv does. You can also sell physical items like memorabilia that include a dedicated mark-up just for creative production costs, kind of the way PBS and NPR went to donation levels with guaranteed "gifts" in return - that move increased their revenues a couple of hundred percent. People like getting "stuff" for their money even if it is just incidental.

Re:Then open it up (4, Interesting)

careykohl (682513) | about 5 years ago | (#28768747)

I read the first couple of chapters of that Stephen King crapfest. The only idea he had for that was to see how little actual content he could string together in an incoherent jumble and sell as a "Chapter" to get people to pay way more then they would have for an actual book.

The big problem I see with Valve's idea is you would need a community that actually trusts you to deliver on your promise. Pre-Left 4 Dead 2 announcement Valve probably had that kind of community. They don't any more and apparently haven't begun to realize it yet. Valve had a great community that would plunk down money for a promise. Why will that community keep plunking down money when Valve has shown that they'll walk away from their end whenever they think it serves them better?

Besides this idea isn't that far off from what is already happening in the game market. Heck, how many games come out now that aren't really any where close to being a finished product with the idea that if they are successful enough the company might (or might not) bother to fix them? All he's really proposing is that instead of paying to beta test the games like we do way to often now, we start paying at the barely an idea phase. How many times will the community invest in game ideas that go no where before they stop throwing good money after bad?

Another thing, what would stop Valve (or anyone who tried this approach) from taking the money, creating some barely working mishmash of ideas that show some promise, release a barely working version as the "finished product', and then promptly turning around and releasing the a more polished, "completely different", even though it's almost exactly the same game, as a separate property?

The answer? Not a damn thing.

I'm not saying this idea wouldn't work. But it would depend a large part on the level of trust your audience had that you would actually deliver a final product.

Re:Then open it up (1)

Ost99 (101831) | about 5 years ago | (#28768899)

The experiment was a HUGE success, over 50% of those who downloaded paid. It's a miracle 50% of the downloaders even had access to a valid credit card. Mr Stephen King just had a VERY unrealistic view on the share of internetusers with a valid means of paying for something over the internet in year 2000 (and willingness to give credit card details over the net). Anything above 10% for a tip jar business model is fantastic results.

Not to mention the HUGE ego the man must have to assume 75% would actually like it and be willing to pay him to continue.

If he'd settled on a set sum for each chapter that needed to be reached before the next got published, that would have been a much better business model.

Re:Then open it up (1)

Aceticon (140883) | about 5 years ago | (#28767905)

Currently, a group makes a pilot, then tries to sell it to networks, which fund the series. It wouldn't be a massive change to release the pilot publicly and ask people for contributions towards making the full series. Once you've raised enough capital, you start production. You then encourage peer-to-peer distribution of the first season's episodes, because anyone who enjoys watching the show is someone you may be able to get money from to make the next season, or to make your next project. Unlike draconian copyright amendments, this model has the advantage that it funds the really valuable act, that of creating the work, not that of copying it.

In a way of sorts this already happens with some MMOs like Lord Of the Rings Online or EVE Online - the game developers put out the initial game world, with most of the programing and the engine in place plus a decent chunk of content. People pay a monthly fee which is mostly goes into adding content and tweaking/improving/adding-features to the game engine ("free" content updates). By receiving a monthly fee from the players, the developers keep on adding content and improving the game in order to keep those players in (and paying) and attract more players.

At the moment, the main differences from what you describe in TV Series and MMOs is that:
- In MMOs the initial chunk of content is quite large and requires a significant up-front investment to get started.
- It has mostly been successfully deployed in content rich games (basically those with big "worlds" which take time for the player to explore) which have some kind of sticky component to the subscription (i.e. the player invests a significant amount of time in-game to "get stuff" or "level up" and finds it hard to part with those things) - thus those games are mostly (if not all) MMORPGs.

That said, in the old days (I'm feeling old now) companies like ID Software became successful by releasing part of the game free and having those that were interested pay for the rest of the game - although in their case the "rest of the game" was already mostly developed when they released the free part and before people payed them for anything - which is how Quake came to be.

Re:Then open it up (1)

ScrumHalf (911476) | about 5 years ago | (#28768401)

I agree with the basis of your points, but I think the biggest reason EVE has become so successful is that the players actively shape the game and it's events. More so than any other MMO, EVE's players really seem to have a large influence on what transpires, and how the world/economy work.

Re:Then open it up (1)

tibman (623933) | about 5 years ago | (#28769225)

Thanks for mentioning EVE-Online. CCP, the parent company, has worked almost non-stop to improve and expand the game. They also remade every model to bring them to today's standards (and they are damn sexy ships too).

I think people in general have always laughed at eve and compared it to an excel spreadsheet (which is, honestly, very funny). But Ambulation will change the public's perception of the game a lot. I think everyone will be amazed.

Re:Then open it up (1)

squoozer (730327) | about 5 years ago | (#28768061)

I thought a model similar to the one you describe could be used to fund cult projects. The one I was thinking of in particular was the Red Dwarf film which everyone seemed to be up for but they could never get all the backers to agree at the same time. I would have paid for my DVD copy up front if they promised to return the money if they hadn't finished the film by a certain date. I'm sure a lot of fans would have done the same. I doubt you would have got enough up-front money to cover all the costs but if you could get 20% that would show there is serious interest in the production.

Re:Then open it up (1)

Deliveranc3 (629997) | about 5 years ago | (#28768211)

The problem with this model is that the current producers of public TV are funded by advertisers. Advertisers generate good will by pumping money into media and extract value by getting eyeballs onto their brands (and hopefully products).

This good will goes to crap when the people watching the show paid to produce it, fact I suspect many people would be upset about Megacorp taking credit when they dropped $50 to make Firefly 2 a reality... of course knowing that Megacorp dumped $30mln into a show might produce the good will we've forgotten for corporations. This is an ideal business model, it has amazing advantages in terms of being a fair way of producing content but has the problem of seriously hurting start up companies and helping the entrenched... valve would clearly have boat loads of money dropped all over it for whatever project but others might suffer.

Also investors would probably try to encourage development locally, maybe only supporting developers in their home countries, if you're paying their salaries directly it becomes more obvious just how much money you're sending overseas (probably into the U.S.) to produce software.

Re:Then open it up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28768319)

They already do what they're suggesting to an extent, but it already doesn't work.

Look at games like Left 4 Dead. That was not a complete game when release, it was so short on content it could be said to be little more than an extended demo. They've promised to add more content later on with it but now they're announcing Left 4 Dead 2 and many wonder if their commitment to new content is still there for the content Left 4 Dead lacked.

Based on Valve's record alone there are two main issues I see:
1) Once they've got your money they have an attitude whereby they don't care what they promised anymore, effectively bait and switch.

2) Valve are second only to 3D Realms in terms of failing to deliver on time, if I pay for a game promised for next December and it doesn't come until December 2013 by which time I'll have lost interest do I get my money back? More importantly what if htey fail to deliver at all?

Those aren't the only issues though, generally when people are asked to help fund a production, they get something more back in the long run - like a cut of the post-release profits, Valve aren't offering that. Also, do I own my copy of the game if i help fund it's production or is it still going to be attached to just be tied to Steam's long term loan service (because that's what it is, you don't in practice own anything you buy that's linked to Steam)?

What gets me is it's not like Valve aren't making pretty hefty profits anyway. So what is the point of this exactly other than to further increase their profits at greater risk and greater detriment to the consumer? If SiN episodes taught us anything (company went bust after creating first episode, so you're left with only 1/3rd of the total promised game) it's that episodic content and getting consumers to help fund development just screws the consumer.

Re:Then open it up (1)

sorak (246725) | about 5 years ago | (#28768897)

Why not just make a weekly TV show that shows pilot episodes? The networks are obviously trying to find cheap ways to fill airtime (google "Jay Leno" for more information), so why couldn't they create a one hour slot at some point in the week, when they display either two half-hour pilots or one hour long pilot.
.
They could measure the success of the show by checking nielson ratings, and by asking audience members to vote by texting, the way they do in American Idol.

Re:Then open it up (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 5 years ago | (#28767453)

Aren't they kind of doing this now?

They spend a bunch of time to create a game, realize they won't be able to complete the game with the money they have, so they polish and release what they've got, then release expansion packs and patches to that game(some free, some paid)?

So they basically get early customers to pay for them to complete the game...

Re:Then open it up (1)

Mike1024 (184871) | about 5 years ago | (#28767533)

I think that what Gabe suggests is quite reasonable, to say the least. People do pay for games right now, [...] Think of it as an early preorder method.

I agree that it could work in principle - but the summary talks about "publishers who are very shy about investing in new projects, particularly for unproven IPs" and "Such a system would certainly relieve some of the pressure to stick with tried-and-true concepts"; would it actually accomplish that?

I mean, sure, I'd pre-order "Half Life 2 Episode 3" because I know I'm going to buy it anyway - but how would you get financing from fans when a "new unproven IP" by definition doesn't yet have any fans?

Some people might be willing to invest in a game that didn't yet exist on the strength of the studio or people involved (John Romero! [wikipedia.org] ), or simply on the basis of a written description and some concept art, but that would represent a much higher risk investment than waiting for the game to come out and reading reviews of it.

You know why he's suggesting it, right? (1)

tlambert (566799) | about 5 years ago | (#28767825)

You know why he's suggesting it, right?

It's not to fund Valve games, it's to fund boutique software houses getting into the business.

His company wants to license their "The Source" game engine and their "SteamWorks" and "SteamPublishing" technologies. In order to do that, they need new boutique game developers that can't afford to develop their own versions of the technologies in question. And right now, the funding just isn't happening from the VCs for new, untested development teams, particularly when even theoretically "safe bet" companies are failing to deliver product and cutting staff.

-- Terry

Re:Then open it up (1)

SerpentMage (13390) | about 5 years ago | (#28769105)

I say this is a dumb idea. Here is why. The problem with games are its costs and the costs to lay money out. Thus if you get 200 USD to produce a game you will use up that 200 USD and then some to produce the game. If this were not a problem then game producers would not have the cost overruns that they do now. And who would not want to make sure that the game is "perfect". Hence there will be budget shortfalls and the likes. The "investor" of the game will not get an excess returns since if there were excess returns hedge funds and the likes would jump on this one quicker than a fox in a hen house. After all hedge funds love to make money. Thus if hedge funds are not interested then it means that excess returns do not offset the associated risks. And yet again retail is the bag holder. Granted you might get a great game for "free", but I would highly doubt you would make an excess returns.

Re:Then open it up (1)

Loomismeister (1589505) | about 5 years ago | (#28767431)

The guy wants to make money, and you suggest making it open source? Doesn't open source mean letting anyone have access to it for free?

Re:Then open it up (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | about 5 years ago | (#28767451)

The guy wants to make money in advance. To pay for his living expenses etc. WHILE he works on it. But my point is that it's not about everything he wants, if he's asking for community help --- it's about what's good for the community too.

Re:Then open it up (1)

Kreigaffe (765218) | about 5 years ago | (#28767563)

That's pretty unrealistic. That means that the ONLY money he'll make from the game is during the game's development. Three cheers to people who do make open source games and all, but your solution is not really a solution for most people.

Two examples of funding the development of a game that I can think of offhand: Mount&Blade and NS2. M&B has already been released, a while back. I'd paid them about 10 bucks long before it was finished, got a copy when it was done (beats payin full price!). NS2's doing something similar, with a cheap pre-order, and a more expensive pre-order that also gives access to Alpha. I think that's working out real well for them so far.

Just because you ask a community for help doesn't mean it has to benefit the entire community. you can ask the community for help, and in turn only return a benefit to those who decide helping you is worth their time. If it works out, the people who didn't invest early will have to pay full price for a game that's good and the early adopters get to play a good game for a bargain-basement price. If it doesn't, the early folk are out usually 10-20 bucks. It's really a good model if you can't find a more definite source of funding, at least if the game you're making looks like it's going to be good.

Re:Then open it up (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | about 5 years ago | (#28768087)

That's pretty unrealistic. That means that the ONLY money he'll make from the game is during the game's development. Three cheers to people who do make open source games and all, but your solution is not really a solution for most people.

I'm not promoting this as a solution. I think the whole proposal the guy's making is pretty unlikely. What I'm doing is pointing out one of the reasons why it won't work.

Re:Then open it up (1)

gparent (1242548) | about 5 years ago | (#28768467)

Will you open source freaks ever read the article before you post your religion crap in here, and realize it's unapplicable when you're trying to make a profit out of your mod?

So... (3, Interesting)

rbarreira (836272) | about 5 years ago | (#28767259)

... the real investors won't fund something, and they're expecting to sucker gamers into doing it?

Haha. Good luck.

Re:So... (4, Interesting)

u38cg (607297) | about 5 years ago | (#28767487)

Traditionally, this is how book publishing worked in the 19th century - you'd circulate a prospectus advertising the work, you'd collect a certain number of subscribers, and then you'd go ahead and publish it. It works well for "long tail" stuff; it sounds like it would be worth a try, at least.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28767693)

[[citation needed]]

If the premise looks good and the dev team is... (1)

Animaether (411575) | about 5 years ago | (#28767853)

If the premise looks good and the dev team -is-... then sure, why not?

Personally I don't like my game choices to be largely at the whim of financial investors ( publishers and distributors, largely ) who have very little connection with the game at all and are only looking for 'sure fire success stories'.

Thankfully even the big publishers do try new concepts from time to time - often using chunks of the money they got from the 'sure fire success stories' - but it can't hurt to have more developers try to innovate instead of producing [licensed sports title] 2010, 2011, 2012, ...

If being able to privately and -directly- invest in a title increases the odds of that title being made, I don't mind putting a small amount of money in, and risk losing/breaking even/making some profit off of it.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28768479)

Valve isn't publicly traded. They have no investors except themselves.

Legal complications? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28767271)

Unless you are a first class citizen, like Goldman Sachs or a venture fund, investing can get complicated, if not dangerous (swimming with sharks and all that).

Patronage might be simpler for the fourth class people of the world.

PLEASE ALLOW SIX TO EIGHT WEEKS FOR DELIVERY OF YOUR 10x ROI.

SellABand? (3, Interesting)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | about 5 years ago | (#28767289)

Looks exactly like the SellABand [sellaband.com] model, but for games.

Actually, I think it makes more sense for games than for music. Studio time may be expensive -- for that matter, so is making a living -- but compare that to the cost of feeding a team of programmers for a year.

Waiting to be modded down by people who know more about music than I do. (No sarcasm there -- this is just armchair speculation. Move along.)

Re:SellABand? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28767975)

It made me think about SellaBand as well. In fact, it seems exactly the same model. And to apply it to games (or other media) sounds like a great idea actually.

And for those people posting "it's retarded because if the game never gets made you lost your money": in the SellaBand model you get a refund if the project you invested in never makes enough money to get off the ground.

I shall call it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28767323)

Vommunism.

We don't already do this? (2, Insightful)

Loomismeister (1589505) | about 5 years ago | (#28767383)

I have pre-ordered games before while they were still being closed beta tested. It seems to me that what he described was a form of pre-ordering. What won't happen is people pre-ordering games that are purely ideas. If you want investors to put something into your game, it needs to be impressive and exciting.

Re:We don't already do this? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28767513)

What won't happen is people pre-ordering games that are purely ideas. If you want investors to put something into your game, it needs to be impressive and exciting.

Actually, we already do this, so it's hardly a revolutionary idea. This is exactly how games are produced for the board wargame market.

A publisher will announce they're planning to make a game, list the major features (setting, operational level, general type, complexity, etc) and ask for preorders. This is usually accompanied by a mockup of the game or some early counter/map graphics, but can also just be an outline. The preorders will typically be at a 30% discount from the final retail price.

As development progresses, more information will be added to the listing. Rules excerpts will go up along with sample games from the playtest reports. Final art for the finished product will be posted as well, since it's something that is typically done early in development. The whole time this is happening, additional preorders will be coming in. Also, the designer will be listening to feedback from the people who have preordered, and possibly adding requested features.

When the number of preorders reach a certain threshold, the game will go onto the schedule to be printed, but will not be published until it is complete. Typically, this will mean several months more of playtesting to tweak the rules for optimal balance. Unlike computer games, there's no releasing a patch for a shoddy wargame. They have to be more or less right the first time. Again, more preorders will be added during these final months.

When the printing date draws near, the publisher will look at the total number of preorders and multiply that to decide how many copies to print, usually times 3-4. The key being that at this point, the number of preorders will allow them to break even on the number of printed copies, even if no further games are sold. Anything sold after the preorders is profit.

And that's how wargames are made.

However there are differences. Wargaming is a smaller hobby, which has well established companies with good reputations, and whose players are intimately familiar with the subject matter. This is why companies are able to make sales based on nothing more than an outline.

Would this work as well in the computer industry? Who knows. Gamers have been burned far too often in the past with pre-rendered screenshots that looked nothing like the actual game, and fly-by-night companies that barely lasted past their ship date. It's even less likely to work on the console market, where sales are driven purely by graphics and not gameplay.

Re:We don't already do this? (0)

saintm (142527) | about 5 years ago | (#28767773)

> It's even less likely to work on the console market, where sales are driven purely by graphics and not gameplay.

[citation needed]

Re:We don't already do this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28768171)

Don't be an ass. Of course it's not verifiable information since it's an obvious overstatement. "Sales driven purely by factor X" True or false? False of course, but he's using it to emphasis his point that console gamers are a bit more shallow than PC gamers. I mean, publishers feel the need to remind them of "good games" coming out every so often (TGS, E3, Games Convention Online, not to mention the wall of television adverts). When's the last time you saw an advertisement for a pure PC game, not multiplats.

Re:We don't already do this? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28768189)

You are an ass [1] [slashdot.org]

Gamers can be demanding (5, Insightful)

pwilli (1102893) | about 5 years ago | (#28767391)

If I were a game developer, the last person I would like to be financially dependent on would be the "gamer".

"Why is developement taking so loooong? I want the game now!"
"You want to cut out that cool-sounding feature to be able to finish the development (in time)? No way!"
"Look, game studio XYZ makes the same game, but better - I'm outta here!"
"I think I heard that the game might not be 100% exactly what I thought I wanted, so I told everybody I know to not to give you any money, ever!"
"I f*cking paid for the development, why aren't you doing it the way I want!?!"

Although publishers tend to screw some game developement up with uber-tight schedules and other unrealistic demands, they will at least not destroy "their" product with bad press or force development to go on and on and on (till THE game "to rule 'em all" is produced), just because they feel like it.

Re:Gamers can be demanding (1)

tnok85 (1434319) | about 5 years ago | (#28767463)

How are those demands any different than what we already demand of developers? (And even though we haven't 'paid' for development yet, our potential dollars are enough to justify that sort of I pay your salary attitude)

Re:Gamers can be demanding (1)

runlevelfour (1329235) | about 5 years ago | (#28767547)

Ultimately the developer dances to the pressures of the publisher who is usually the one holding the purse strings. The publisher may or may not dance to the pressure of the gamers clamoring the release or features or whatever. Usually what happens is publisher wants their investment return and wants it now, and starts leaning on the developer to get it done yesterday. If the game is rubbish then the developer runs massive PR and marketing on a level appropriate to how hyped the game was including trying to manipulate reviews. The fans have very little impact on the current model of development until sales time which impacts the future of the franchise. Good games get cranked out ad nauseum (sequels!) because they are shown to profit, and all the "me too" clones get developed to try and cash in. That is the current model of game development.

As for the proposed one by Gabe, I can help but wonder...what if I threw my lot in on games like Kane and Lynch, Army of Two, or FSM help us all: Duke Nuken Forever? I salute Gabe for at least trying to come up with an alternative but it will require a lot of work to refine and get off the ground.

Re:Gamers can be demanding (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 5 years ago | (#28767477)

If I were a game developer, the last person I would like to be financially dependent on would be the "gamer".

Except its not a gamer. It's a whole load of gamers. It would have to be a whole load of them to raise the necessary budget.

I'm sure $richdudewhopaidforit was always on Michaelangelo's case while he was painting that roof: Those cherubs are too fat! I didn't ask for clouds, you dauber!

This "distributed patronage" model is all that multiplied by the factorial of how many investors^H contributors there are.

Re:Gamers can be demanding (1)

Kreigaffe (765218) | about 5 years ago | (#28767603)

$richdudewhopaidforit

... do you maybe mean... the Pope?

and yes, he was on Mike's case, he hit him with his cane once and actually had to apologize for it.

Re:Gamers can be demanding (3, Interesting)

CarpetShark (865376) | about 5 years ago | (#28767479)

Which are all valid points, if expressed in an immature style that you'd expect from most teenagers.

Another interesting aspect is that, if any contract was involved... would gamers be bound to it, since many are minors? And if no contract is involved... what guarantees would they have?

Re:Gamers can be demanding (1)

mike2R (721965) | about 5 years ago | (#28768331)

heh, you could probably find most of those exact comments on any forum for an upcoming game right now, from people who haven't yet paid a penny.

I think the "gamer" bit here is something of a red herring; as I see it the meat of the idea is: "is it possible to finance a game with small investors, rather than from a single publisher?" I don't think that doing it as "very advanced pre-orders" would work (how many people are going to pay for a game several years in advance?), what is needed is investors not customers; people who are hoping to make a return on their investment rather than just play a game, and would be willing to invest a lot more than the price of an individual copy.

No idea at all if it could work, but I can see it might appeal to developers who are frustrated by their publisher's demands (1 single investor will always have more clout than a large group), and think they can handle distribution and marketing inhouse or through contractors.

I can imagine some games being an attractive investment.. as long as the developer and the IP had a good track record of course.. Funny how thinking about my own money makes me sound like the most unadventurous publisher out there :)

Re:Gamers can be demanding (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28768497)

"Although publishers tend to screw some game developement up with uber-tight schedules and other unrealistic demands, they will at least not destroy "their" product with bad press or force development to go on and on and on (till THE game "to rule 'em all" is produced), just because they feel like it."

Duke. Nukem. Forever.

Sure, but... (3, Interesting)

dkf (304284) | about 5 years ago | (#28767419)

There needs to be some way for people to bail out too. Otherwise there'll be idiots like 3D Realms out there, all too ready to piss away our money on another DNF debacle. Guess what, this is called investment. All the developers have to do is to sell shares in the game. (And yes, this sort of thing does need to be protected by the usual rules for investments.) Of course, there's always a chance that this'll mean that developers get squeezed out of working on their own creations, but if they can't knuckle down and deliver a product, they deserve to get shafted.

Re:Sure, but... (1)

Kreigaffe (765218) | about 5 years ago | (#28767739)

I doubt any actual gamers would have given money for DNF's production. No, a debacle like that can only be financed by monkeys in suits who are completely disassociated from reality in every way.
That's not saying nobody would have bought DNF, but it's been a running joke of a game that never would be released for YEARS. Only an idiot would finance something like that.

Re:Sure, but... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 5 years ago | (#28767809)

Guess what, this is called investment. All the developers have to do is to sell shares in the game.

Sounds like we're back to business as usual; those eevull corprashun$$$ that everyone likes to rant about.

Maybe the reason they exist is that it's the worst way of producing something - apart from all the others we've tried.

What happens in case of developer bankruptcy? (1)

declain (1338567) | about 5 years ago | (#28767443)

I suppose I won't see the game and the money. Errrr, no thanks. If this takes off we can expect a lot of "developers" to come with ideas.

Re:What happens in case of developer bankruptcy? (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | about 5 years ago | (#28767539)

Indeed. If you were really just funding development (rather than buying a percentage of the rights/profits, which I would not advise) then you'd probably at least want some sort of staged-delivery escrow system. That way, the developer would be paid monthly or whatever, when they meet targets. Without the game being open sourced and hosted openly though with public code auditing and all, all of that paid work could go down the crapper easily. The developers would simply be able to say they've hit a wall, can't continue, and don't want to be paid any more. It's much easier to start a project and work on it for a while, than to actually deliver a finished project.

Re:What happens in case of developer bankruptcy? (1)

Clockowl (1557735) | about 5 years ago | (#28767629)

I suppose you should be able to get your money back some way? Or at least part of it. Maybe you could just invest a little at first, see how far the dev comes, then invest some more...?

Flip a coin (2, Interesting)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | about 5 years ago | (#28767499)

So let's see here.
1. Expect a lot of people to pay ~$50 for a game before it's developed.
2. Give these people absolutely no guarantee that the game will ever be produced or that it will be anything like what it was originally billed to be.
3. ???
4. PROFIT!

Seriously though, this just confirms my suspicion that Gabe Newell is completely fucking retarded and has absolutely no sense what so ever. What happens when the budget falls short (not enough investors)? The game isn't produced but the money has already been spent.

Here's a better idea. You want to buy a game, so you go to the store, give the clerk $50, he flips a coin. Heads, you get a game, tails you don't, in either case he keeps your money. This accomplishes exactly the same thing but doesn't involve all this business with investment laws and the FTC.

Re:Flip a coin (1)

path0$ (1600175) | about 5 years ago | (#28767733)

Honestly to me this sounds as if you try to make the idea sound like BS out of some personal problems with Newell?

I for one think that the idea is quite good. Of course a developer shouldn't rely only on the support he gets from these "mini-investors" but it could definitely reduce cost and grant customers a greater influence on what is produced.

I didn't see anything about 50$ and I agree that that might be a bit much but investing i.e. 25 bucks for a game that I'm sure will rock (Diablo3; Starcraft 2; DUKE NUKEM !!!; etc.) seems reasonable to me even if I'd get nothing for the game in return.

This could be a great idea especially for "indie" games where studios aren't that big and still create great stuff and would give them quite a backing.
Of course some control mechanisms would be needed, development reports but maybe monthly and chances to give feedback maybe in a forum. But you should always keep in mind that these mechanism can't cost too much otherwise the whole idea won't make sense anymore.

To sum it up you wouldn't be flipping a coin but rather making an investment with (more or less) foreseeable risks, as long as you inform yourself.

Re:Flip a coin (2, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about 5 years ago | (#28767823)

There Games G-A-M-E-S Really why should we care if someone has the ability to make them or not. It is not like a failure to make a game will end civilization or even harm it. If it comes out then we decide to buy it or not. Play with it for a few months dump in archive and pull it out every couple years for. That is if your lucky. This story makes it seem that a failure to produce a game is a huge loss to the world. Sorry it isn't. Failure to make a game isn't our fault it is due to poor management at the place making the games. Even with Indy games, if they fail they didn't manage the process right. Sorry. If the programmers can program write the program doesn't work and we give them no pity. But if wasn't managed right we give them pitty, Ohh lets give them more money to finish it. Why bad managers take more money then they should for the results they make. Good managers use the money and resources efficiently to produce the product with the budget given. Giving a company your personal bailout money just so they can manage their product poorly isn't a good investment or a good idea.

Re:Flip a coin (2, Insightful)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 5 years ago | (#28768213)

Your list is missing some extra points.

1. Expect a lot of people to pay ~$50 for a game before it's developed.
2. Give these people absolutely no guarantee that the game will ever be produced or that it will be anything like what it was originally billed to be.
3. ???
4. PROFIT!
5. Realise that 4. was short term, and you've lost the investment base you had.
6. Realise that your reputation as a skilled and inventive game developer has been smeared all over the internet, with major game publishers (keen to see if the model works) seeing that you're now hated by the gaming community.
7. Realise you've killed your employment prospects for ever working in mainstream games development.
8. Get McDonalds application form.

Re:Flip a coin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28768415)

Oh, I don't know. It's not too hard to find people in the games industry who had massive failures but are still working. I'm thinking in particular (without malice) of Bill Roper, whose Flagship Studios had a disastrous business plan for a mediocre game. Sometimes you fuck up not because you're greedy or grossly incompetent, but because you've taken some risks and made a few big mistakes. And someone's always left holding the bag for all those salaries paid without a decent product finished.

So if you're not willing to make what amounts to a micro-investment...don't! But there's nothing inherently crazy about looking for direct investment from the end users.

Requirements? (4, Interesting)

ScaledLizard (1430209) | about 5 years ago | (#28767501)

If I were to invest in game development, I would require the following:

1. Access to a weekly build. I want a full build of the current game status, not a reduced-functionality demo. This is necessary because if game development would stop, I would still have something. The extreme programming technique could be used to reduce the risk of loss in investment.

2. Ability to request changes. If I invest in a game, this should give me a certain degree of voting rights.

3. As long as money is invested in the game, development should continue. When a game developer wants to stop supporting a game, he should stop people from investing in it.

4. Online platform. Ongoing projects should be listed on a service like ebay.

In particular for game topics neglected by the big publishers, this would open up ways for newcoming game developers to implement ideas from and for communities with special interests. While I think this would be a welcome change, many people will prefer buying games without risking loss of investment. If trolls are kept in check, I think the game development process could work in a very open way.

Re:Requirements? (5, Insightful)

Kreigaffe (765218) | about 5 years ago | (#28767617)

With that list of demands, I'd make a large wager that you'll never invest in any sort of game development. Request changes? So you know better what a nebulous idea of a game will need better than the developer? Why don't you just go make it yourself, then?
Mass-sourced funding like this is banked on the fact that the people buying in have some level of trust that the game dev is going to make a good game. If you don't believe that, you're not going to give them money, no matter what concessions they make. Large investors changing games just because they're funding them... that's exactly why people dislike big players like EA so much, because they'll buy out a small studio and then dictate how they make their games.

Re:Requirements? (1)

ScaledLizard (1430209) | about 5 years ago | (#28767945)

If I say, "I'll give to x$ if you build this feature into the game", that's voting rights. If the developers are uncertain which option would work best, why not ask the community? They know best what they want. We're not necessarily talking about fundamental changes here. However, a developer could certainly be rated regarding the openness of his development process, with judgments from "Doesn't stick to votes anyway" to "Sticks to what was agreed" and "Gets everything right without asking". This could start on Steam soon. You start by buying a core game package and get to vote for added content with your payments. If not enough money gets raised, payments should return to the investor/buyer.

Re:Requirements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28768327)

If the developers are uncertain which option would work best, why not ask the community? They know best what they want

Let me guess: you've never done software design/development? Design is really, really difficult and in context of any non-trivial design problem your statement is just plain wrong: People do not know what they want. They might be able to tell if they like or dislike a feature they can try, but that's about it.

Re:Requirements? (1)

Dhalka226 (559740) | about 5 years ago | (#28768575)

If the developers are uncertain which option would work best, why not ask the community?

If the developer is struggling to figure out what works best, then perhaps asking the community could work--but that's not really the same thing as "voting rights," nor would there be any particular reason that they should restrict commentary to the people who've given them some money.

Keep in mind that in order for this to work, we're either talking reeeeally large donations or tens of thousands of donors. Just managing that many people with the "right" to demand weekly builds and demand changes is going to be a full-time job, even if you develop a community-based moderation system similar to Slashdot or Digg or what-have-you.

Pledging to a feature is a bad idea in most cases. Occasionally things are simple enough to be able to just be slipped in somewhere in the process, but most changes are ones that are going to need to be planned for at a very early stage. You also have the problem of actually collecting your money. What do you do? Announce that the pledged money is worth it and then try to collect? You're almost guaranteed not to collect 100% of it. Do you yank the feature and waste time and money returning all the pledges if it turns out you only collect 75%? 50%?

Speaking as somebody who does some programming--and nothing nearly as complex as game development--I can tell you that nothing pisses me off more or hurts the end product as consistently as meddling from people who don't know what they hell they're doing and don't know what's actually going on in the development process. Maybe you personally are a programming savant capable of making fully educated suggestions for a foreign code base, but your 10,000 friends who donated alongside you aren't going to be. Even most professional venture capitalists are smart enough not to involve themselves in the process as much as you seem to want to be involved, for what I'm sure would be a significantly smaller donation. Too many cooks in the kitchen and all that.

Re:Requirements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28767627)

And since you're on /., a Linux build.

Yikes (3, Insightful)

EnsilZah (575600) | about 5 years ago | (#28767669)

Wow, as someone planning to make a game as my thesis project and as someone who enjoys games that sounds terrible!
I generally expect a work of fiction to be created from the vision of one person (possibly using the skills of people he directs) I doubt I'd enjoy watching a movie or reading a book or playing a game designed by a committee for the lowest common denominator.
And although watching a game develop in incremental stages might be interesting for someone interested in game development, personally I think it would ruin my enjoyment of the finished product.

You forgot the most important requirement (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 5 years ago | (#28768483)

The resulting media must be under a Free Sofware license (or Creative Commons, as appropriate) so that I can benefit from the software I paid to have developed.

There's absolutely no way whatsoever that I will pay for directed development on closed-source software.

Further, there must be no DRM involved, which pretty much rules out Steam. So Valve's Newell can go piss up a rope.

Re:Requirements? (2, Interesting)

kenp2002 (545495) | about 5 years ago | (#28768485)

"A camel is a horse designed by comittee"

A simple but powerful quote.

I am fond of:

"Too many cooks in the kitchen spoils the soup."

Investors are not always partners, that's why investors have a board of directors to advocate for them.

Re:Requirements? (1)

migla (1099771) | about 5 years ago | (#28768697)

In theory, gamers (or any other group that wants a commercial-grade Free software app) could get together in large enough numbers and employ developers and artists who make a Free/CC game, right? The project could obviously also have people contributing for free. No need for Valves or other middle-men (or women).

Is there any real reason FLOSS communities couldn't now or in the near future pull off a polished commercial grade project?

Give your head a shake (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28767599)

So consumers should shoulder the cost and risk for game development? Utter nonsense!

How about reducing your development costs? How many iterations of game engines exist today? Why not reduce them to a few "best of breed" engines and then use those engines for more than one property life-cycle before designing a new engine. Just because Microsoft releases a new version of DirectX, doesn't compel a developer to implement it. Stop chasing the eye-candy ideal, and get back to the fundamentals of compelling game design.

Steam (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28767645)

If he's serious then he should add something to Steam to support this process. I'm assuming that Steam has enough checks when signing up as a developer that people wouldn't be able to use this as an easy tool to con people, and it's possible that existing developers and publishers might even use this for some of their more unusual ideas.

I predict accounting arguements... (2, Interesting)

asdf7890 (1518587) | about 5 years ago | (#28767677)

I would be very wary of making such an investment, certainly for as much or more than I would expect to pay for a game once complete (and it is rare that I pay full-price-as-at-release-date for a game), because the cynic in me would expect something akin to Hollywood Accounting to be used to make sure that I didn't get the cut at the end.

Though if the level of investment required is less than what I'd expect to pay for the game once complete, the risk of getting nothing back (no game, no cut of profits) might be small enough considering the investment amount for me to be willing to take a punt on an idea I like the sound of.

Re:I predict accounting arguements... (3, Interesting)

Karlprof (993894) | about 5 years ago | (#28767781)

Agreed that a payment investment which is reduced from the price of a full game would limit the potential losses to any one consumer, and is a good idea.

If 10,000 people like your idea and the assets you've come up with so far well enough to give, say, $20 each, that's $200,000 to play with, which isn't too bad a budget for an indie game. I think that's a very achievable goal - the idea would have to be innovative and enticing, the development process would have to be open enough that people see their money is being put to good use (I'm not saying to give the consumers any real power over the game, but a blog with semi-regular screenshot posts would keep people assured that it's not abandonware), and you'd have to pump a little bit of your own money into it at the start to get those initial assets looking good... if you can do that then I would imagine that the community support would come through for you.

I'd see the "payback" on your investment being a copy of the game at the end, as well as beta access etc if applicable. If all goes to plan you'd be getting a good deal as one of those 10,000 investors; you'd have paid $20 for a $40 game, perhaps.

Stop experimenting (1)

master_p (608214) | about 5 years ago | (#28767691)

Lot's of resources are spent in experimentation. Stop experimenting and then game development will not exceed one year.

How long do these things take? (1)

Fross (83754) | about 5 years ago | (#28767791)

If I'd paid $20 for HL2 - Episode 3 6 years ago, and still didn't have it now, I'd be pretty pissed.

Re:How long do these things take? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28768505)

However, if you had pledged $20 for HL2-E3, you would still have the money. Combined with the possibility of withdrawing your pledge at any time at no cost, this would serve both as an incentive for the developer, an idea of future income for the publisher and you will get the game cheaper, maybe join a closed beta.

This model has worked wonders for Ironclad games with Sins of a Solar Empire and (I believe) for Flagship Studios with Hellgate: London.

This probably only works for really good games. (2, Interesting)

NoPantsJim (1149003) | about 5 years ago | (#28767801)

If someone had offered me a glimpse of Schizoid or Braid (both from Xbox 360 arcade) and said "Would you like to invest? I would have dove in head first.

Good Game (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28767849)

This was an exclusive of the TV Show "Good Game" not kotaku.com, credit where credit is due.

Hey (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | about 5 years ago | (#28767903)

Tell Gabe to answer my emails. I'd like the TF2 source code opened up, so that people can make real mods for it instead of the half-assed server mod hacks that they have to use now.

CustomTF extended the life of TF by 10 years, and CustomTF2 could do the same.

He'd get a community game thatno one would have to pay for. Does anyone make money off mods... if they're not bought out by Valve? They're labors of love, and as such, the programmers are often much more productive than people working for money. When you're getting paid for something, it oftentimes ceases to be fun.

IPO (1)

Yuioup (452151) | about 5 years ago | (#28767927)

So, basically, like an IPO.

I'm doing this right now, at a nice profit (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28767937)

(Pardon the AC, it's been years since I posted on slashdot)

I'm working on a game called Minecraft, which uses pretty much this model. It's been in development for a bit over two months, and pre-orders have been online since June 13. I've sold over 1000 copies since then, which more than pays for the remaining development time, and the curve on sales is still pointing upwards.
I know Mount & Blade used a similar system, and so does Dwarf Fortress. If small indie games can do this, why can't valve?

not only useful for games (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 5 years ago | (#28767991)

There are some other areas where some community funding would be welcome:
For example, the implementation of web standards, like HTML5.
The sooner it gets done, the better.

--SC

The stock market for games (1)

icedcool (446975) | about 5 years ago | (#28768085)

I like it.

It's basically investing.

I like it. we already donate to many stuff (1)

unity100 (970058) | about 5 years ago | (#28768105)

in its and bits. i would have no issues donating 5-10 frequently to a game title i was enthusiastically waiting for.

errr.. what about some market research.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28768137)

Are not games being funded by people just buying them?
I see the gaming industry having a heart palpitation as sales have dropped in these
economic times because get this:

"Games are a luxury product and are the first things to go in tough economic times."

What about some plain old simple market research to probe viable ideas/markets,
or have they already blown the riches from the last couple of years on shit they didn't
need. Cry me a river, i hope they are out done by a bunch of kids in a basement.

Motivate the programmers.. (2, Interesting)

PhilJC (928205) | about 5 years ago | (#28768187)

First of all I do think that his idea has merit but it doesn't take a genius to start seeing the flaws - in particular what motivation does the development team have to continue developing the project?

1. Generate interest
2. Collect investment
3. Profit
4. Interest wanes, Investments slow
5. Developer thinks of new idea
6. Goto 1


With this business model we'll never see any completed games.

What you need to do is set up a third party finance company who sign people up for a subscription. Subscribers then get access to all the games currently in development and then each month the subscriptions are divvied up between the various projects in a fair and quantifiable manner (i.e. number of players/hours played/etc). This way the investment is incremental so encouraging longer term development rather than letting developers grab a quick cash injection before moving onto the next project.

DNF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28768197)

Hey, there's this new game in production, "Duke Nukem Forever". Duke's great, that'll be a hit! I'm investing everything I have in that one, I'll make a killing when that comes out!

Return on Investment? (1)

happy_place (632005) | about 5 years ago | (#28768363)

Game companies invest in a game not to get a game they want, but for a return on investment... that's called making money. Sometimes game makers get into this mindset that they're doing the world a favor by creating the perfect game, when their objective (if they're a business rather than a hobby) is to make money. Usually those two goals coincide and you get a great offering, but the idea of having your everday gamer invest in an idea ignores reality. The only way this sort of thing could work would be if an extremely popular game series was cut loose by a major studio. This would also mean the studio would have to be willing to release all rights to the franchise (ain't gonna happen) and that once it started to sell, that it didn't come back in and try to take over. With the proposed model, what's being proposed is that rather than the game company foot the bill for a fancy game demo, you're getting people to do it... but what's more likely to happen is that you (as a fan) would spend money investing in your favorite idea, which would then build a really interesting demo/prototype, which would then, after enough folks jumped onboard, be picked up by a stinking expensive game publisher, which would then change the product to fit their marketing models. Thus in the end perpetuating the status quo, only now even the game prototypes would be expensive and overly complex. --Ray

see "bloatware" (1)

Swampash (1131503) | about 5 years ago | (#28768387)

"Modern games are extremely expensive to make. High-profile, AAA titles have budgets in the tens of millions"

Seen Gabe Newell lately? That's just for the catering.

Player Bonds (1)

kenp2002 (545495) | about 5 years ago | (#28768445)

I thought about this process a few years ago. The concept of a player bond. You donate $20 and we give you a $20 credit on your first month's subscription (I was looking specifically at MMO development.) Donate $100 and get a $100 dollar credit against your subscription fees (so assuming $10 a month you would get 10 months free.)

Sadly checking with the IRS and SEC this is a paperwork nightmare and would eat most of the donations.

I don't know how you make this work (1)

westlake (615356) | about 5 years ago | (#28768461)

It takes Pixar four years to produce a feature film from an story concept that has been kicked about for five to ten years -
and even then there will be many false starts.

It is easy even for the pro to become enamored with an idea that isn't working or is fundamentally second-rate.

The fan will find it even harder to let go.

But the greater risk may be the fan-driven production: "Snakes on a Plane."
 

Investor matching (1)

kenp2002 (545495) | about 5 years ago | (#28768519)

The real power of player driven investment and pre-orders is investor matching, which happens a lot in other industies.

Developer announces the game. Investor A comes up and says, "I'll chip in X if you can clear 60,000 pre-orders." Investor B comes in and says I'll match player donations. Investor C says, If you can get a contract with Wallmart to distribute the product I'll throw in Y dollars.

There are plenty of ways in which player driven investment could take form, I would wager leverage against traditional investment is more a likely avenue to pursue.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28768525)

The game Mount & Blade was funded using a similar model. The idea is simple, buy an undeveloped version of the game and feel free to download it later on in development. I still have my installation key after years, and the game is still in development. This idea definitely isn't new for video games, just not publicly endorsed.

Developing from scratch (1)

sherriw (794536) | about 5 years ago | (#28768549)

The problem is the lack of sharing and re-use that goes hand in hand with competition. My friends and I all think how awesome Left4Dead would have been if it had been built on the open city of GTA4 (or is it 5 now?). How much work went into building those huge worlds or the engines that generate those worlds say, in GTA or Fallout3 or Oblivion. Then they are used for maybe one game and a few addons and that's it. What a waste.

Re:Developing from scratch (1)

Lord Byron II (671689) | about 5 years ago | (#28768733)

Exactly. We need the code sharing of open source. I think the city of GTA4 would be awesome for any number of games. Imagine being able to start with a fully functioning city including buildings, people, and vehicles and then drop in your characters and your story.

Natural Selection 2 (1)

zephiros (214088) | about 5 years ago | (#28768943)

I'm surprised the article doesn't mention the Unknown Worlds team, who are using this model to produce Natural Selection 2 [naturalselection2.com] .

I suppose it's less revolutionary for them, as they have a history of community-funded development. In the original Natural Selection, players could pay a modest fee to enroll in the "Constellation Program." Members received a variety of perks, including early access to beta releases and an in-game/forum icon.

Of course, the NS2 developers have a history of transparency and delivering on releases, and have ready access to a supportive community. So the model works for them. I doubt a new studio would get similar traction. I suspect it will be even harder once a few community-funded games fail, leaving behind a bunch of pre-rendered screens and angry gamers.

some community developed games aren't worth money. (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | about 5 years ago | (#28768989)

sad, but it's true. There needs to be a way of sorting the chaff from the wheat with both concepts and developers.

I've got 5 or 6 concepts that developed properly could be hits, but I don't have all the skills necessary to develop them into games.

As well, there are plenty of developers who have the skills necessary, but have crappy concepts.

There needs to be a matchmaking lobby for developers and designers. Then once the concept is hammered out, the "investors" get to choose what they want to put money into.

Most projects will never get fully funded. They will likely die. But once the project receives funding, the developers must be under some sort of contract with the "investors"

Stardock is already doing this (2, Interesting)

Itchyeyes (908311) | about 5 years ago | (#28769217)

Stardock has already been doing something similar to this for some time now. Those who pre-ordered Sins of a Solar Empire, Gal Civ 2, or any of either game's numerous expansions got access to closed betas very early on in the games' developments. The payoff, for those who invested in the games early on, is the ear of the developer and a chance to have a much larger say in how the game turns out than is usual.

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