This February is proving to be a fascinating month for non-traditional development and funding paths in game design. While Double Fine's Kickstarter proposal has been in the news, indie title Dear Esther has been making small waves of its own.
Dear Esther became available for purchase on Steam yesterday, and launched to mixed reviews. (The Kotaku review found the game to be obtuse in many key ways and yet still recommended playing it.) And yet the niche exploration-based title, that began life years ago as a Half-Life 2 mod, was the top-selling game on Steam on its launch day (remaining in second place on day two) and reached full profitability in under six hours.
The money necessary to make the game came in a loan from the Indie Fund, a small group whose mission is to provide loans to indie developers to help them become successful enough to self-finance in the future. While this model is somewhat more traditional than the still-novel idea of crowdfunding, it still provides small, unusual projects like Dear Esther with the resources they need to help keep the indie scene thriving and fresh.
Dear Esther may not be for everyone, and it may be a flawed game. But the wider the array of possibilities and experiences we can try, the better off we all are. Personally I'm a big fan of seeing what experimental, indie, or avant-garde projects come up with because the best new ideas often end up with lingering influence on the wider world.