Now that Kickstarter has shown it is a very viable wallet-vote platform for delivering excellent games we would not have otherwise gotten, I’m wondering if a general sense of ‘backer-envy’ isn’t something that has happened already, and will continue to grow.
Take for instance Pillars of Eternity. The game is selling very well, which means most of the people playing it aren’t part of the original 77k backers who made the idea a reality. In a very real way, that enjoyment everyone is getting is BECAUSE of those 77k, and while a delayed wallet-vote helps fund future RPGs, or the expansion+sequel for Pillars itself, the money that talked loudest came from the original 77k.
The general concept of the wallet-vote is very familiar to MMO players, since unlike every other genre pre-DLC, the MMO genre best captures the continued support (or lack of) for a game. If the devs do things right, subs go up. If they don’t, subs drop. In a normal game once you buy the box, that’s it. Whether you loved or hated what you bought, your wallet-vote said you wanted that game, and because of that wallet-voting strength was greatly diminished.
It should be no surprise that we will soon see more games like Divinity or Pillars. Studios copy what works, and currently the ‘old school’ RPG is working. Yet without Kickstarter, and the amplified voice backers got, that wouldn’t be the case today. After all, how many years did we go between Baldur’s Gate 2 and Divinity/Pillars without anyone seriously trying?
To get back to the envy aspect, I think in some ways its a good thing. While plenty of Kickstarter games will fail, either because they just aren’t that great or they never get released, I feel the money donated via Kickstarter towards something non-mainstream is still better spent than only buying top 10 titles, so that in the following year we can see the exact same top 10 get rehashed over and over.
Big AAA studios losing power isn’t a bad thing, and creating top quality games is clearly not the exclusive territory of anyone who can spend tens of millions to make it happen. Between Kickstarter helping solve the funding issue, and Steam solving the retail exposure problem, today more than ever an individuals wallet-vote has great power. Use it wisely.