Fundraising Website Kickstarts Creator-Owned Projects
Published: Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 13:02
Using the crowd-fund raising site, game developer Double Fine Studios has fully funded their next Xbox Live downloadable game, entitled "Double Fine Adventure." The studio had hoped to raise $400,000, and the response was explosive. In one night, the Kickstarter had hit its $400,000 goal, the next day it had passed $1 million, and by the end of the first week, it's funding is at more than $1.6 million, with still a few weeks to go.
The site that Double Fine used was called Kickstarter, a fairly new online service that allows anyone to pitch in his or her own money to make a project a reality. These projects range from independent film funding to band sponsoring to publishing.
"I thought, in the first night, we'd be lucky if we hit $2,000 and we hit $400,000 in the first night," said the studio's CEO Tim Schafer, best known as the designer of critically acclaimed games Grim Fandango, Psychonauts and The Monkey Island series, in an interview with Giant Bomb. "I didn't expect for it to become a phenomenon, but it's fun because I know that everybody trying to plug their new games has to answer questions about Kickstarter now."
The site works through the means of crowd funding, where the project's owner sets up a goal and hopes to reign in pledges by the project's expiration date. Those who help fund the project are promised awards in return which can be as small as an autograph to as huge as being part of the project.
Every Kickstarter project must be fully funded before its time expires or no money changes hands. The reason behind this, the website explains on its Frequently Asked Questions page, is to be less risky to funders, who don't have to hope that a project that was underfunded will somehow be completed. It is also said to be motivation for the project owners, going with the idea that if a funder wants to see a project come to life, they're going to spread the word.
Word of mouth is a huge propeller in Kickstarter projects. As for the case with Double Fine, most of the excitement branched from social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. It was this kind of publicity that caught the attention of Haemi Choung, a recent School of Visual Arts graduate, looking to find means of publishing work on a broader scale.
"I heard about it from a professor at school," Choung said. "They said how it was a fundraising site, but being a stingy college student I didn't want to give any money. However, I got more into it when classmates started to use it for their thesis funding."
School of Visual Arts has its own page on Kickstarter's site, which lists dozens of projects from animations to multimedia projects, showing how popular Kickstarter has become for college-level students trying to gather funding for projects. Choung graduated from the school this past May, and decided to start up a studio with her fellow alumni.
Choung, who saw her fellow graduates' potential started, wanted them to continue working on art and started 789 Studio. Since then, the group of recent grads created an anthology of their work to feature to publishers. The project was entirely funded by Kickstarter.
Megan Brennan, a fellow School of Visual Arts graduate and an artist that was part of Choung's project, had already worked with the site before to fund her own projects.
"It took us a while to get it started, since we knew we wanted to print a certain amount of books and what that would cost, but setting too high a goal is dangerous," said Brennan. "You also need to decide how long you want your Kickstarter to run, which is also tricky, because if it runs for too long people forget about it, but if it's too short you might run out of time before you get funded."
"Before using Kickstarter, I was really hesitant because the idea not making our goal before the deadline was terrifying," said Choung. "Though once we started it up and got the word out, we were quickly receiving donations from around the world and by huge increments."
While setting-up a Kickstarter is free, the site takes roughly 10 percent of the funded goal as a fee. However, Kickstarter does not take any percentage of ownership or intellectual property of things made through the site.
"Kickstarter's been really great for letting creators take on projects they wouldn't have been able to otherwise, especially in this economy," Brennan explained. "If you can get enough people behind your project, you can make it happen without having to try to convince a publisher or whatever company to take it on, and in doing so take part of your profits."