The Community Driven Future of Videogames

Community Driven Development

Skullgirls, an independently developed fighting game (and a very good one at that) recently reached $829,827 in it’s Indiegogo campaign to keep the developers creating new content, a huge milestone, and one that poses some interesting questions about the direction the game development industry is heading. Is crowdfunding the future of the videogame industry? Are games going to become more community focused? I think it’s going to be healthy for the industry and here’s why.

Crowdfunding is a relatively new idea in the online world which takes a lot of its core fundamentals from crowdsourcing. The idea is that a collection of individuals donate some of their own money to another individual or business in order to fund their idea/project/business. Traditionally used to fund startup companies, funders generally get something in return for their faith in an idea. The very first crowdfunding website “Artistshare” debuted in 2000 solely for music but it was another 6 years before anyone else worked to bring the concept to other industries. Fast forward 7 years and websites such as IndieGoGo and Kickstarter are rapidly becoming household names among the technologically aware and the games industry has taken notice.

At the start crowdfunding was generally used by independent developers who had an idea and the skills to create games, but lacked the funding. It is, however, rapidly becoming common for wider known developers and titles to take their ideas to crowdfunding, in the last couple of weeks for instance, American McGee, (creator of the Alice series of games) took to twitter asking if people would be willing to fund an Alice 3 on Kickstarter. As Skullgirls has proven, there is obviously a lot of money to be made in crowdfunding, but the industry may not benefit from the change in the long run.

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The biggest change that this is making is the added element of choice that gamers get when it comes to what games get developed. There are a large number of funding campaigns that allow contributors to donate money to a game that is just a concept, meaning that if enough people like the idea of a game then it will get made. It also means that if someone takes their idea to crowdfunding instead of a publisher and the gamers don’t like it then it’s far less likely to get made. Currently crowdfunding is allowing a lot of creative people to make games that they would otherwise be unable to make. This, however, could swing the other way with people funding titles such as ‘Fifa’ and ‘Call of Duty’ and not creative independent developers. I know that this is an incredibly extreme and unlikely scenario but the point is there, if players are getting more power to decide what games get developed, is that really a good thing?

Hideo Kojima, known largely as the creator of the Metal Gear franchise, seems to agree that the future of development is community driven. During an interview with ‘Edge’ Kojima stated that he thinks the industry could employ game trials in the same vein as pilot episodes on TV. These would be used to gauge public interest in titles that the developers are interested in making and will be used to scrap ideas that aren’t popular. This would be great for both developers and gamers because it would save time being wasted. Developers would benefit whether the game goes forwards or not, if a game trial is slated and no-one likes it then they’ve saved themselves a few years of work and a lump of money that would have ended in mediocre sales. If the trial takes off and a lot of people like it then the company knows that they already have a fan base as well as some free marketing. The players benefit because they get a lot more choice in what they play, and they get a taster for games to see if it’s something they’d be interested in.

One more thing worth mentioning is the work that Valve are doing with Steam to greatly increase the interaction that developers have with the community. Greenlight has been around for a little while now and is doing wonders for developers looking to get their games distributed on Steam. It allows the community to surf through information, videos and screenshots of games that are being independently developed and vote for the ones that they want to see on the Steam store. This is just another step towards the player having control over what is being published. Valve have also recently pushed a new service called Early Access. This allows players to buy into games and play them as they are developed, giving feedback to the developers as they are created, thus creating a greater amount of interaction between community and developer.

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If these are a sign of things to come, then the games industry is going to become very interactive with it’s community, and gamers are going to be given a lot of power with regards to shaping what games get developed. It would definitely carry more pros than cons if this was true. The development industry has definitely jumped on the social media train so why should it not adopt a community orientated development cycle? We’ve just heard that the president of Square Enix has stepped down due to the disappointing sales of recent times, THQ was dismantled and closed down recently too and a lot of bigger companies are shown depreciated profits. Moving towards a crowdfunding/community interaction based development model could actually save the industry. Either way, you can be sure that us gamers will be having a greater impact on the development of games in the coming years.

I’d love to hear what you think about this, sound off in the comments section below!

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