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Let's talk about Kickstarter price inflation

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Disclaimer: I am not trying to cause trouble here. I want Double Fine to get all the money in the world and make a cool game too. I have already spent hundreds of my own dollars on Double Fine stuff.

But... I can't help but feel the prices for the extras are far more than what we would pay in a traditional publisher-funded model. It feels kind of unfair to the fans. Let me try to break it down.

$20 for the game. This is totally reasonable.

$50 for early access, making-of video, concept art, and soundtrack. Many big publishers sell "Special Editions" for $20 more that includes all that stuff. This is $30 more. Now you could argue that a lot of special editions don't have a soundtrack and that's where the extra $10 comes from, so it's still reasonable-ish.

$100 for the in-game bloodline. $50 extra for this one feature. Here's where things start to get a bit iffy. I can't think of any big publisher games that include something like this, but I don't think I can value it at $50. Firstly, because it's not a very unique reward: thousands of other people are already going to be in there with you. Secondly, because it could easily be replaced by a built-in character editor that would let you customize your own bloodline/house at the beginning. If they do include a bloodline editor, then paying simply for the privilege of being one of thousands of random defaults doesn't seem all too great.

$150 for a t-shirt and poster. $50 extra. Kind of excessive. If I bought a t-shirt off of this website's very own store, it would cost me $20, and a poster would be $10.

Now, I am not a wealthy person. I don't have tons of money to spend on video games, and I already spend more than I should. Nonetheless I still kind of want to get one of those cool t-shirts. I think a fair price would be $20 for the game and maybe $30 for the shirt. Throw in $15 for shipping. To get what I want, I would still have to spend $85 on top of that. It's just kind of frustrating.

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But kickstarter isn't an ordinary preorder system and shouldn't be judged as such. When you pay $100 you do it because you want to support the project further then just buying a copy of it, and $50 for an immaterial reward such as the in-game bloodline is totally reasonable when you judge it as higher level of support for the game.

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But kickstarter isn't an ordinary preorder system and shouldn't be judged as such. When you pay $100 you do it because you want to support the project further then just buying a copy of it, and $50 for an immaterial reward such as the in-game bloodline is totally reasonable when you judge it as higher level of support for the game.

I think this is key. I backed this for 20 dollars because the game sounded cool. But I upped it to 100 because Brad and the rest of the team were super cool and responsive to my thoughts, and I wanted to reward that. The choice of 100 was certainly informed by the tiers, but they weren't the driving motivation. I think it's understood that the lowest tier is for those who want the game, and higher tiers are for people who want the game, but also have bigger emotional reasons for supporting.

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Why can't we compare Kickstarter to traditional preorders? Developers do it all the time. How many times have we been told that Kickstarter is so much better than the traditional system because it involves the fans more in the development process? But the other side of that coin is that that increased involvement seems to cost more. Maybe some people don't have $85 to spend solely in "support" of some ideal. Maybe some people just want to show their support by purchasing cool goods at fair prices, the same way it's been done for a very long time. That's what I'm saying.

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Why can't we compare Kickstarter to traditional preorders? Developers do it all the time. How many times have we been told that Kickstarter is so much better than the traditional system because it involves the fans more in the development process? But the other side of that coin is that that increased involvement seems to cost more. Maybe some people don't have $85 to spend solely in "support" of some ideal. Maybe some people just want to show their support by purchasing cool goods at fair prices, the same way it's been done for a very long time. That's what I'm saying.
But you're not just buying a good. You're funding development. That is the understanding, and while I understand not everyone can pay over the odds, there's a reason here it's not just market price. They're not *simply* selling a bunch of things.

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But the other side of that coin is that that increased involvement seems to cost more. Maybe some people don't have $85 to spend solely in "support" of some ideal. Maybe some people just want to show their support by purchasing cool goods at fair prices, the same way it's been done for a very long time. That's what I'm saying.

Those who don't have extra money for support should look at the lower levels. As you say, those are very reasonable. But the import thing with kickstarter, when we talk about it being better for us, is that games that otherwise can't get backing are being made. When that aspect is important for you, and you have money to spend, then you look at the higher levels. Discussion about it should always be welcome, but I think that you are missing the point with kickstarter when you want to compare it with a preorder system. It's more about being a supporter then a customer.

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Why can't we compare Kickstarter to traditional preorders? Developers do it all the time. How many times have we been told that Kickstarter is so much better than the traditional system because it involves the fans more in the development process? But the other side of that coin is that that increased involvement seems to cost more. Maybe some people don't have $85 to spend solely in "support" of some ideal. Maybe some people just want to show their support by purchasing cool goods at fair prices, the same way it's been done for a very long time. That's what I'm saying.
But you're not just buying a good. You're funding development. That is the understanding, and while I understand not everyone can pay over the odds, there's a reason here it's not just market price. They're not *simply* selling a bunch of things.
Yeah, I get that. The thing is that Kickstarters are always being pitched as good for the developer and good for the consumer, where the reality is more like it's good for the developer and good for the consumer that has lots of disposable income. Gamers who don't have lots of money are sort of getting the short end of the stick with this new funding model, and that's unfortunate in a way. I understand that's the way it works, though. Yet maybe there is a way to still sell exclusive t-shirts, special boxed editions and other cool goods to poorer fans at reasonable prices while still providing an outlet for richer fans to show their emotional support or whatever. You can't tell me there's no room for improvement in this funding model, right?

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Wouldn't the cost for producing a limited number of items also influence the price? Smaller number of poster/t-shirt prints are way more expensive than doing it bulk, and they can't anticipate how many people might actually be going for that reward tier.

Plus that $50 extra for the shirt and poster breaks down to $25 for each, which is pretty reasonable considering they'll be limited runs

Edit: I really do think the shirt and poster should be a tier before the bloodlines thing, though. I generally have reservations about fans getting too involved in the actual game itself

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Wouldn't the cost for producing a limited number of items also influence the price? Smaller number of poster/t-shirt prints are way more expensive than doing it bulk, and they can't anticipate how many people might actually be going for that reward tier.

Plus that $50 extra for the shirt and poster breaks down to $25 for each, which is pretty reasonable considering they'll be limited runs

The cost of shipping those physical goods out to the backers should also be considered.

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I think they're wiser to how Kickstarter works now. $20 for the game seems to have become the norm, and that extra $5 or so for the base game that earlier kickstarters have done really adds up to a lot when you consider how many minimum price backers just want the game only and want to pre-purchase to ensure it actually gets made.

$50 for the 2PP videos is also a nice second tier in that the documentary videos were a huge selling point for the original Double Fine Adventure and a nice incentive to pay the price of a full retail game up front. I was a little disappointed it couldn't be included in the $20 investment like Double Fine Adventure, but I also recognize that 2PP needs to receive an income as well. So, makes sense given the costs associated, and good incentive for previous backers to bump that that little extra cash to get the game and the documentary videos as well.

And yeah, when it comes to kickstarter, in the end, it's crowd source funding, so really it's realistically fine for a company to charge whatever it wants for whatever perk it wants, because in the end, those are simply supposed to be just that, perks for helping make the game get made.

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$50 for the 2PP videos is also a nice second tier in that the documentary videos were a huge selling point for the original Double Fine Adventure and a nice incentive to pay the price of a full retail game up front. I was a little disappointed it couldn't be included in the $20 investment like Double Fine Adventure, but I also recognize that 2PP needs to receive an income as well. So, makes sense given the costs associated, and good incentive for previous backers to bump that that little extra cash to get the game and the documentary videos as well.

Keep in mind that the 2PP videos for Massive Chalice will be free for anyone to watch whether they backed the game or not, through Vimeo or whatever hosting site 2PP goes with. It's only the HD downloads are only available to those that back for $50 or more.

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Just remember kickstarter is for getting money for development not getting you goods for base price

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$100 for the in-game bloodline. $50 extra for this one feature. Here's where things start to get a bit iffy. I can't think of any big publisher games that include something like this, but I don't think I can value it at $50. Firstly, because it's not a very unique reward: thousands of other people are already going to be in there with you. Secondly, because it could easily be replaced by a built-in character editor that would let you customize your own bloodline/house at the beginning. If they do include a bloodline editor, then paying simply for the privilege of being one of thousands of random defaults doesn't seem all too great.

I have to admit it that's steep price increase compared to broken age. a $100 you got a digital copy of the gam, digital docu, soundtracks and artbook, a t shirt, poster, physical copy of the game and bluray docu.

there should be a $30-40 and a $60-75 tier imo. pledges have stagnated very quickly

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They can charge what they want, it's not fair or unfair. It maybe counter productive, as Steam sales have shown, you can actually bring in more revenue by selling way more copies at a much lower price. The physical rewards on a lot of KickStarters have been too generous in relation to the digital ones, the digital ones cost very little to get to backers, there's no materials to buy, no shipping and handling. People are funding a game, not pre-ordering special editions, you can afford lower margins when you're just selling fan merchandise, but they're not just selling merchandise.

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But after the game is made, the developer gets to keep all the profits, minus a % for the distribution platform (e.g. Steam) costs for patches, and costs to keep the product on said distribution channel). there's no publisher that gets a large chunk of that pie.

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Yeah, I get that. The thing is that Kickstarters are always being pitched as good for the developer and good for the consumer, where the reality is more like it's good for the developer and good for the consumer that has lots of disposable income. Gamers who don't have lots of money are sort of getting the short end of the stick with this new funding model, and that's unfortunate in a way. I understand that's the way it works, though.

This bit of what you're saying, I don't think I agree with. The regular publisher model is often bad for the developer because they often have to give up IP and a lot of the profits, and some creative control. It's bad for the consumer because they only see a limited set of games come out via the publisher model, and stuff that can be successfully kickstarted tends to be broader, and more niche interest. It also tends to be a whole lot cheaper than published games at the lower tiers.

So while I totally understand the point that consumers on a budget are missing out because they don't have $100 to spend on a kickstarter they do at least get to participate at the $20 level, and with that they get the game, and get to watch a cool documentary as well - which is ALREADY a better deal than most published games. For a short end of the stick, it's still pretty pro-consumer. Not to mention the whole pro-consumer aspect of getting a say in which games get made.

Yet maybe there is a way to still sell exclusive t-shirts, special boxed editions and other cool goods to poorer fans at reasonable prices while still providing an outlet for richer fans to show their emotional support or whatever. You can't tell me there's no room for improvement in this funding model, right?

Sure, there's always room for improvement. And I'm not trying to say you shouldn't question or make observations - I'd by a hypocrite if I did. And I can definitely see a case for more intermediate tiers being added, perhaps. But on the whole I think I'm okay with the pricing as it is, for the current tiers, given that this is about making something happen, not just getting a product.

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As a student and, at the moment, economically rather pressed person, I have to sort of agree with the OP here. Yes, the Kickstarter is for founding games, and not reward the pledgers with goods they want to get through it.

However, he idea of the rewards is to make people buy the respective tiers - otherwise they would not have been there, and no matter what the purpose of the kickstarter is, no one in their right mind can deny that this is probably a big reason why Kickstarter is so effective in the first place. Otherwise game companies would've just started an anonymous collection fund or something like that. Thus I think it is somewhat counterproductive to put the price for, say, a t-shirt so effing high. I want that shirt too, and if the price had been lower than it is right now, I wouldn't have minded paying a higher tier for it.

Of course DF will do whatever they want to, and either way they seem to be quite successful with their kickstarters for sure. It's just that to me it seem that the psychological effect offered by the rewards haven't been handled as well as it it did on the previous kicks, and whatever you want to say about 'that's not how kickstarters work', it will inevitably effect the outcome and cut the final sum short of what it could have been.

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Yeah, I get that. The thing is that Kickstarters are always being pitched as good for the developer and good for the consumer, where the reality is more like it's good for the developer and good for the consumer that has lots of disposable income. Gamers who don't have lots of money are sort of getting the short end of the stick with this new funding model, and that's unfortunate in a way. I understand that's the way it works, though.

This bit of what you're saying, I don't think I agree with. The regular publisher model is often bad for the developer because they often have to give up IP and a lot of the profits, and some creative control. It's bad for the consumer because they only see a limited set of games come out via the publisher model, and stuff that can be successfully kickstarted tends to be broader, and more niche interest. It also tends to be a whole lot cheaper than published games at the lower tiers.

So while I totally understand the point that consumers on a budget are missing out because they don't have $100 to spend on a kickstarter they do at least get to participate at the $20 level, and with that they get the game, and get to watch a cool documentary as well - which is ALREADY a better deal than most published games. For a short end of the stick, it's still pretty pro-consumer. Not to mention the whole pro-consumer aspect of getting a say in which games get made.

Yet maybe there is a way to still sell exclusive t-shirts, special boxed editions and other cool goods to poorer fans at reasonable prices while still providing an outlet for richer fans to show their emotional support or whatever. You can't tell me there's no room for improvement in this funding model, right?

Sure, there's always room for improvement. And I'm not trying to say you shouldn't question or make observations - I'd by a hypocrite if I did. And I can definitely see a case for more intermediate tiers being added, perhaps. But on the whole I think I'm okay with the pricing as it is, for the current tiers, given that this is about making something happen, not just getting a product.

I think the crux of this is the whole "getting a say in which games get made" thing. Exactly how much is this ability worth? If Double Fine were forced to set an explicit "making something happen" fee in addition to the price of the game, what would be fair? How do you value it? It's obviously not priceless. If DF asked for one billion dollars that would clearly be too much. So, would we base it on how unlikely it would be for the game to be made in the traditional system? In my estimation, turn-based tactics games have a decent chance of being made with a big publisher. Fire Emblem Awakening and XCOM were recent games that were smash hits. There's obviously a demand for it. Also Iron Brigade is arguably a more niche game that what we've heard of Massive Chalice so far, but it still cut it in the traditional system.

You mentioned emotional reasons earlier. I can understand that, since Double Fine has given me a forum that has sucked up so many hours of my life for six years now. I feel a certain affinity as well, but when does an emotional connection become emotional exploitation? I see that you're okay with the pricing as it is, but at what point would you not be okay with it? I'm curious about that. Kickstarter, at its most basic level, asks us to put an exact dollar amount to how much we care about something, whether that be a company or a genre.

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If you're looking to just purchase goods straight-out for a regular price, just go to the DF store.

If you want to invest in a game and be involved in the process of development, then donate to kickstarter.

Its really two different things. They aren't trying to sell you a tshirt. They are trying to fund development on a cool game.

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I think the crux of this is the whole "getting a say in which games get made" thing. Exactly how much is this ability worth? If Double Fine were forced to set an explicit "making something happen" fee in addition to the price of the game, what would be fair? How do you value it? It's obviously not priceless. If DF asked for one billion dollars that would clearly be too much. So, would we base it on how unlikely it would be for the game to be made in the traditional system? In my estimation, turn-based tactics games have a decent chance of being made with a big publisher. Fire Emblem Awakening and XCOM were recent games that were smash hits. There's obviously a demand for it. Also Iron Brigade is arguably a more niche game that what we've heard of Massive Chalice so far, but it still cut it in the traditional system.

You mentioned emotional reasons earlier. I can understand that, since Double Fine has given me a forum that has sucked up so many hours of my life for six years now. I feel a certain affinity as well, but when does an emotional connection become emotional exploitation? I see that you're okay with the pricing as it is, but at what point would you not be okay with it? I'm curious about that. Kickstarter, at its most basic level, asks us to put an exact dollar amount to how much we care about something, whether that be a company or a genre.

It's absolutely 100% not about whether the game "has a decent chance of being made with a big publisher." Why would we, as consumers want it to be made with a big publisher? Who would set a timetable that might not be reasonable for making the best game, who might not give Double Fine full creative freedom without strings attached and who, if it really is an XCOM sized game like they're implying, might choose to charge close to $60 for it, and definitely wouldn't allow it to be DRM free, and wouldn't necessarily fund Linux or Mac versions?

Even if a publisher WOULD fund it, that doesn't mean a publisher SHOULD fund it. It's true that niche games tend to do well on kickstarter, but I don't mean to imply that they're the only games that should be kickstarted. If it's something that people want to play, and it can be funded on a kickstarter budget, then it's absolutely a better funding model for developers and consumers than most publisher deals.

As for emotional exploitation, I like to think that we're grown ups here, who can make our own decisions. They're not lying or being misleading about their intentions, and that's the important thing.

As for what point I would not be okay with it, I guess the answer is that I'd not be okay with it at the point where I think they are hurting themselves significantly by doing it, because my main ideal is for this game to get as much funding as possible, because that'll get me a cooler game. But this has so far been a highly successful campaign by any standard, which suggests to me they pitched it about right so far. And, I'm hopeful they might improve the tiers further because there's some call for it, and they did improve the tiers quite a bit for Broken Age (e.g. by adding bits to them like the boxed version) Also, the trouble with lowering the cost of physical rewards is that they are more expensive for DF as tiers. For Broken Age they spent 400k JUST on physical rewards - as much as they asked for in the first place. So I'm not surprised that this time they wanted to make physical items more of a premium, limited edition reward, so that they can use as much of their funding as possible on making the game itself.

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Fire Emblem Awakening and XCOM were recent games that were smash hits. There's obviously a demand for it.

Fire Emblem and X-Com were hits, mostly because of their branding. Valkyria Chronicles was an amazing game, but under promoted, and like FF tactics, Ogre Tactics and such; eventually were shuffled off of console development to hand held devices.

The only exception really, to console Tactics games, is Nippon Ichi Software who have made a lot of variations of the tactical genre; primarily driven by their success of the Disgaea series. Even then, its because they are a smaller (relatively) developer concentrating on a targeted player base.

For the most part the industry considers Tactics games like these to be niche. Not because the player base is smaller then it was for when the original X-Com or Ogre Battle came out, or because the fans are any less passionate; but because the demand for your Maddens and Call of Duty's are so much larger. Which is unfortunate.

If I had to make up numbers for it... Your generic military shooters and such are selling 3-4 million coppies, while tactics game probably have a fanbase of about 600 thousand.

I want to see more of these games. I want to see more people attempt to advanced or do new things with these type of games. But that's not going to be done by the major publishers from the big three (five? Arbitrary number?).

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EDIT: Wow, there were a bunch of posts while I was writing this. This is intended as a reply to Friendly neighbourhood stalker.

I'm also a student, but I think this project's approach to funding levels makes a lot of sense. I actually get a bit annoyed when it's the other way around all the tiers reflect reasonable prices for the rewards they contain. Why? Because as someone who backs at a lower tier, pretty much all the money I put into the project goes towards the project, while someone who opts in to the $300 deal where they get 30 physical copies of the game with hardcover manuals contributes much less than their pledge amount to the actual project.

Of course, it's fantastic that there are people willing to contribute more and I'm completely okay with them receiving whatever lavish awards are possible. My only concern is that in the end Kickstarter totals all pledges without considering their reward levels. A project that barely hits its goal but doesn't have many rewards to fulfill is in a better position than a project that barely hits its goal and has to commit half its budget to t-shirts.

Basically, the goal of a Kickstarter campaign shouldn't be to extract as much money as possible for backers; it should be to complete the project.

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If you're looking to just purchase goods straight-out for a regular price, just go to the DF store.

If you want to invest in a game and be involved in the process of development, then donate to kickstarter.

Its really two different things. They aren't trying to sell you a tshirt. They are trying to fund development on a cool game.

This is reasonable argument being made and I hate to see it being dismissed like this.

I mean, whether or not I personally donate to DF, they'll probably reach their goal and even go over, because there are alot of people besides me who have disposable income and/or are willing to drop alot of money on this project simply because they want this game to exist and be able to play it.

I want this game too, I really do. I would like for all of DF's endeavours to see the light of day and be awesome, and for people to be able to enjoy them, but if it came down to just me to tip the scales in their favor, I would probably say "yeah if you could give me the shirt and poster at a lower tier reward I would totally back you"

If I convert my country's currency to what DF's asking for, it comes up to alot. It's harder to justify paying that much for just a game I don't even know I'll like. And then it seems like none of the money was worth it. But maybe if I had that poster and shirt I could say "hey at least I got these out of the deal AND helped DF, even if I didn't really like the game myself"

Also it's just really frustrating that people have this holier-than-thou attitude where if supporting the development for the sake of supporting the development isn't what you're after people basically tell you to fuck off

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That said, while i don't agree that kickstarting is comparable to pre-orders, and while I understand the price points vs cost of rewards...

Even removing the rewards form the equation I find the lack of more tiers between 20 and 100 a little discouraging.

Or maybe its that my kickstarter tolerance is getting tapped out after the wasteland -> Torment managed to rope me into yet another kickstarter, even though none of the things I kick started a year ago have even come out yet.

I can't justify going 50$ regardless of incentive right now. It be nice if I was in a position of disposable income to consider the 100$ or 500$+ tiers purely because I want the game to be made, rather then just wanting the game. But I am no Notch *glances at humble bundle leader board again*

But I'm not sure what the benefits of the 20$ tier are vs waiting and becoming a slacker backer when the design and scope of the game become more clear, or when the game has actually been released x years from now when my financial and time management may be different then they are now.

But but I want to stay subscribed to the DF Behind the scenes newsletter and reality show series, because that has been just as fulfilling if not more so then the games itself. Real design/business development reality show from a cast of characters from one of the few respectable development houses that actually treats games and employees with respect...

Right now my biggest draw to backing at a higher price tier (or any price tier) has been the promise of exclusive behind the scenes content. And right now DF and 2PP are the only ones of any of the kick starters that have provided that experience at a decent quality.

(I really wish once the overlap between DFA and MC projects passes, that 2PP would consider moving full time to MC production.)

/Rambleon

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I would argue the entire thing is self balancing. If the charges are too high for the community that is interested in the game, then it will fail to be funded and that information can be used to inform future KickStarters. If not then funding will be achieved and the project can go ahead. I think looking to BA is possibly not the best angle to come from, since that was the first time DF went to KickStarter and they have learnt a lot about the hidden costs associated, plus BA seems to have undergone a lot of project creep due to the high profile it has achieved in the industry. I would imagine further projects to stick more to their original estimations, and thus not run into as many hurdles, although in development anything can and will happen! ;)

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But I'm not sure what the benefits of the 20$ tier are vs waiting and becoming a slacker backer when the design and scope of the game become more clear, or when the game has actually been released x years from now when my financial and time management may be different then they are now.

Until the game is out and on sale sometime in the future (at least 2 years from now I'd say), $20 is the cheapest you'll be able to get the game. I wouldn't be surprised if the slacker backer price was higher, say $25 which would be fairer to the essentially early bird backers.

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I think the crux of this is the whole "getting a say in which games get made" thing. Exactly how much is this ability worth? If Double Fine were forced to set an explicit "making something happen" fee in addition to the price of the game, what would be fair? How do you value it? It's obviously not priceless. If DF asked for one billion dollars that would clearly be too much. So, would we base it on how unlikely it would be for the game to be made in the traditional system? In my estimation, turn-based tactics games have a decent chance of being made with a big publisher. Fire Emblem Awakening and XCOM were recent games that were smash hits. There's obviously a demand for it. Also Iron Brigade is arguably a more niche game that what we've heard of Massive Chalice so far, but it still cut it in the traditional system.

You mentioned emotional reasons earlier. I can understand that, since Double Fine has given me a forum that has sucked up so many hours of my life for six years now. I feel a certain affinity as well, but when does an emotional connection become emotional exploitation? I see that you're okay with the pricing as it is, but at what point would you not be okay with it? I'm curious about that. Kickstarter, at its most basic level, asks us to put an exact dollar amount to how much we care about something, whether that be a company or a genre.

It's absolutely 100% not about whether the game "has a decent chance of being made with a big publisher." Why would we, as consumers want it to be made with a big publisher? Who would set a timetable that might not be reasonable for making the best game, who might not give Double Fine full creative freedom without strings attached and who, if it really is an XCOM sized game like they're implying, might choose to charge close to $60 for it, and definitely wouldn't allow it to be DRM free, and wouldn't necessarily fund Linux or Mac versions?

Even if a publisher WOULD fund it, that doesn't mean a publisher SHOULD fund it. It's true that niche games tend to do well on kickstarter, but I don't mean to imply that they're the only games that should be kickstarted. If it's something that people want to play, and it can be funded on a kickstarter budget, then it's absolutely a better funding model for developers and consumers than most publisher deals.

As for emotional exploitation, I like to think that we're grown ups here, who can make our own decisions. They're not lying or being misleading about their intentions, and that's the important thing.

Remember that Psychonauts was made under a big publisher. It's still possible for amazing games to come out of such a system, even if the developer has to wrestle with a publisher. I have an employer I have to report to, and if given the choice I'd also like to get out from under my boss, but the quality of the work I do is not necessarily going to improve if I don't have a boss.

The benefit of a publisher is pretty simple. They absorb the "getting it made" cost and the consumer only has to pay the going market rate for their t-shirt or poster. Kickstarter is very exciting but I don't think it's as completely superior for the consumer as you argue. (Of course, if DF somehow manages to make a game on the scale of XCOM with similar production values at a $20 price point, I'll eat my hat and praise Kickstarter forever. I'm betting it's going to be a game that's smaller and in line with the other downloadable games DF has made, though.)

Also maybe exploitation was too harsh a word. I didn't want to imply they're lying about anything. Use whatever word you want that better describes the deep internal conflict of "Me wanty t-shirt but me no have $150."

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“Me wanty t-shirt but me no have $150.”

Yeah. Me too. But really, they aren't selling you a t-shirt for $150. The are trying to fund a game. To solicite your investment, they are offering a kick-back. Its like getting a pen when you open a checking account for a $50 minimum. No way is that pen worth $50, but they are using your investment to create something larger.

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Remember that Psychonauts was made under a big publisher. It's still possible for amazing games to come out of such a system, even if the developer has to wrestle with a publisher. I have an employer I have to report to, and if given the choice I'd also like to get out from under my boss, but the quality of the work I do is not necessarily going to improve if I don't have a boss.

The benefit of a publisher is pretty simple. They absorb the "getting it made" cost and the consumer only has to pay the going market rate for their t-shirt or poster. Kickstarter is very exciting but I don't think it's as completely superior for the consumer as you argue. (Of course, if DF somehow manages to make a game on the scale of XCOM with similar production values at a $20 price point, I'll eat my hat and praise Kickstarter forever. I'm betting it's going to be a game that's smaller and in line with the other downloadable games DF has made, though.)

Also maybe exploitation was too harsh a word. I didn't want to imply they're lying about anything. Use whatever word you want that better describes the deep internal conflict of "Me wanty t-shirt but me no have $150."

I'm not saying publishers can't get great games made - that would be absurd. There are games that simply cost too much to be kickstarted, for a start. But I am saying is when kickstarter is a feasible option it's almost always preferable to publisher involvement because it usually ends up being a much better deal for everyone. There are exceptions. But if someone came to me with a cool game they needed money to finish, and they said: 'I've got some publisher interest, but I don't need that much money, so I think kickstarter is feasible', I'd advise them to try kickstarter first every single time, unless the publisher deal was going to be SPECTACULAR.

Also, DF has already said that they want the single player campaign to be similar to XCOM in length, 8-10 hours and similarly replayable, though they haven't scoped it out completely. Of course it won't have the same high production values, but they won't need it, as you well know Double Fine are well known for creating cool art styles which aren't necessarily as production intensive as a major release (Stacking, Costume Quest, etc...) As long as they find a great look for it, it really doesn't matter whether the graphics are super high fidelity and costly to make. And also, XCOM has multiplayer - they haven't said anything about that for Massive Chalice yet, so that's another place where they might not be as big in scope. But I think they've given us reason to expect a game which at least in terms of the gameplay is around the scope of the new XCOM.

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It's important for independent studios to get royalties and retain ownership of IP, so many studios have gone under or been bought only for the key talent to leave soon after. Psychonauts was released in 2005, around that time it became increasingly hard for mid-sized independents to get funding for $5-10m games that would sell 1-2m copies. Psychonauts was a rarity when it was released, it would have been much harder to have gotten funding in the 4 years following its release, and it simply wouldn't get released now.

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