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Why Kickstarter is Best For Old Games & Dead Genres

Illustration for article titled Why Kickstarter is Best For Old Games  Dead Genres
Total RecallTotal RecallTotal Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.

Not very long after adventure game legend Tim Schafer proposed resurrecting a long-dormant genre, and made a ton of money for doing it, another long-dormant kind of game - this time an 80's RPG - did something similar.

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The amount of money Brian Fargo and his Wasteland team has already made is raising eyebrows. Where did all these people come from? And why are they spending so much money on a game (and franchise) that proper publishers didn't want to be a part of?

The answer is simple. Because nobody is making, or more importantly, no publisher is funding, the games they want to play. Or the games they want to keep playing.

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The mainstream video games industry moves at a breakneck pace. A genre that's topping the charts one year might be dead in the water only a few short years later. It's a fate that fans of flight simulators, space combat sims, real-time strategy games and World War Two shooters will only be too well aware of.

Once a booming genre starts to run out of steam, it can be swiftly and suddenly abandoned, publishers sensing that a game which went from five million sales to two million sales is a has-been. Old hat.

What they're over-looking is that two million people were still buying them. And that there may be millions more out there who were fans of a genre, or franchise, who dropped off along the way as a series progressed and changed in pursuit of relevance and sales.

That can, and obviously is if Schafer and Fargo's Kickstarter achievements are anything to go by, be a sizeable market. One that's perfectly suited to the grass-roots kind of development effort the service encourages, that's able to tap into an established fanbase, one which doesn't need to be sold on a style of game or the talents of the developers involved.

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I bet if Larry Holland, of X-Wing and Tie Fighter fame, opened a Kickstarter project tomorrow for a space combat game, he'd get a similar response. Ditto for Wing Commander's Chris Roberts, or Ken and Roberta Williams, the driving forces behind many of Sierra's classic adventure games.

There are still millions of people out there who still want games like that, and there would be tens of thousands of fans willing to kick in money based solely on the chosen genre and talent involved.

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Compare that to the Kickstarter project of Christian Allen. This is a guy who has worked on some big, recent shooters, and who wants to make an "old school tactical shooter". He has made...$48,000 at time of posting. He can call it "old school" all he wants, but the words "tactical shooter" sound like the kind of game that gets released every few months on a current generation console, which in turn - and regardless of the kind of game he has in mind or its chances of success - reduces the effectiveness of his campaign.

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It's sad, and can be brutal, but that's how Kickstarter is going to work, at least for video games that need any sizeable amount of money (as in, anything more than an indie game that only needs $10-$20,000). Despite what it actually is - and what it's pitched as makes it sound cool - Allen's game sounds like something we're getting already from publishers.

His other problem is that, while he's got some great games to his credit, the name "Christian Allen" isn't one consumers are familiar with. Since the service relies on people putting money down with almost nothing but a pitch and a name to go on, they're going to go with what they know. And what they know is the people they already know and the games they grew up on.

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I contributed to Schafers campaign. And would do so for every single one of the examples I listed above, and many many more. I know the style of game is one I enjoy, and I know the people involved are capable of making the kind of game I enjoy. That's an easy sell.

But somebody promising the kind of game we're already getting? No way. We're already getting those games. And somebody promising something new is as unlikely to get my money, because I have no idea how capable a developer some upstart kid is, and I've likely got nothing to convince me that their idea on what would be the best game ever would be better than my idea for the best game ever.

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I'm not saying this is a problem. In fact, I hope other people with their eyes on the service agree and ensure that's how it shakes down. Because if it ends up being a useful and successful means for consumers to get the kind of games they want that they're not being given by major publishers, then everybody wins.

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DISCUSSION

I'm a little disappointed to see that Christian Allen's Kickstarter isn't able to pick up any steam. His premise is something that is different, it's just that nowadays, the people that would typically fund a Kickstarter, see 'FPS' and spew uneducated bile.

Yes, Call of Duty is popular. Yes, Battlefield 3 was just released. And yes, Halo 4 is coming out soon. So what's that, 3 games? And none of them are what Christian Allen is proposing. You can look a bit deeper and see stuff like Hard Reset or Serious Sam, but again, they are not what he is proposing.

There really is only a handful of FPS's available at the moment, and most follow the same formula. So again, what he has offered, is something different.

Now, if you take a look at Steam, you can see that even now Adventure games are still being released. Just not one by Tim Schafer. But it is far from a dead genre, and it has more releases than FPS's do.

Now Wasteland, I can appreciate that a little more. It's an RPG (which there are loads of!), but it's a different kind of RPG. So it's something new. But an Adventure game? I can understand why people would back it, it would be like if Hironobu Sakaguchi came out and said that he wanted to make a JRPG. There are loads of JRPG's, but this is one by Hironobu Sakaguchi.

I guess people are voting with their wallets, which is a good move. But I think that it also goes back to what Dave Jaffe summed up perfectly; that it's just becoming a popularity contest.

I see gamers whinge and moan everyday that they want to see innovation, that they want new IP's. And here they are, funding a sequel and a insanely unoriginal game genre (play wise). But a guy who wants to create a new IP, and try something a little different in a popular genre is getting the boot...most likely because he is not Tim Schafer.

Like I said, I understand why people want a new Wasteland and why they want a new Adventure game from Tim. It's just unfortunate that a guy with the exact same goal, cannot gain any traction because he's not famous, and his genre of choice is 'FPS', the current devil genre for the 'gamer'.

But then again, I'm pretty sure that Half-Life 3 as a Kickstarter would do alright...