Taken using the fisheye side of the Olloclip for the iPhone.

What’s He On About? Crowdfunding

In this video, I go into a tiny amount of detail about Crowdfunding (Which I manage to call crowdsourcing twice) which is a newish way to fund projects that wouldn’t otherwise get funded. Read on as I go a little more in depth on the topic.

Now, I say “newish” for a reason. According to Wikipedia, it’s been around since 1997 when a band I’ve never heard of had their tour funded by fans. The movie The Age of Stupid (which I need to get around to watching) apparently also crowdsourced its funding, but here’s why crowdfunding as we know it today is a new thing: That took Franny Armstrong five years to fund. On Kickstarter, there are projects that get funded in a day. Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Adventure (DFA), which I mention in the video, was funded in a few hours. The Olloclip was, as I say in the video funded by people like me, and has proven to be a fully commercially viable product!

That is pretty amazing.

Taken using the fisheye side of the Olloclip for the iPhone.

Of course, it’s not all insane success stories. I’ve seen some projects falter and die with nowhere near enough funding, and I’ve seen projects that barely got the funding they asked for. Lords of Uberdark (LoU), which I helped fund, was one of the latter.

In crowdfunding, you don’t have to cast an incredibly wide net when you pitch your project. In fact, a myopic pitch could work in your favour. Tim Schafer is a funny guy who makes funny games, so for DFA, he made a nerdy, funny video. LoU is a game that takes Minecraft, which many others have done, but adds smooth terrain – a wet dream for many Minecraft fans – so he made a video basically just showing off the engine. With the Trigger Happy Camera Remote pitch, you have a bunch of guys who are obviously more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it, but they’ve already overshot the target massively. You don’t have to be a slick salesman (you could argue being one would work against you in a grassroots platform like this) but you have to be able to convey why you think it’s a great product. Especially with games, films and books, if you can’t engage the audience ABOUT your project, why would they believe you could engage them WITH it?

What has impressed me the most about crowdfunding is that it works for all sizes and kinds of projects and all sizes of markets. Whether it’s a garageband needing their rehearsal space’s roof fixed or someone wanting to build a massive underground park in New York. And the more people get involved, the bigger crowdfunding becomes. And here’s the strange bit: The bigger it becomes, the smaller the markets it can cater to, because suddenly there are more people out there actively looking and waiting for that one project that does the thing they want but which no corporation would ever produce.

Lords of Uberdark was just about funded, making every funder even more important.

Kickstarter is the only site that can really command the massive numbers right now, which makes sense since crowdfunding still is an emerging market and KS has been lucky enough to host some projects that have really captured the zeitgeist. The shame of it is that KS is still only open to US based projects and so if you’re trying to get something going elsewhere in the world, you’re relegated to equally good but less frequented sites like Indiegogo. What they need is something big that grabs mainstream headlines the way some KS projects have.

Here’s an idea though:

Why not make a crowdfunding aggregate site? One that categorises and archives and follows up on projects from all the different crowdfunding sites? Have features, interviews with people putting their pitches out there, etc. It could really bring this new, bottom-up grassroots market thing to a new level. I’d love to see that.

I’ve probably missed out a lot of stuff, especially downsides and problems with crowdfunding, so I’d love to discuss further in the comments. Give it a twirl. 😀

UPDATE:

I just read the following quote at the end of an update for the Wasteland 2 Kickstarter campaign, and thought it was such a wonderful idea and very much in keeping with the grassroots ethos of crowdfunding:

[…] our power as developers will ultimately come from us sticking together.  […] I am going to suggest that all of us that do utilize this form of financing agree to kickback 5% of our profits made from such projects to other Kickstarter developers. […] once a game has shipped and created profit we funnel that back into the community of developers to fund their dreams. I am tentatively calling this “Kick It Forward” and I will be the first to agree to it. In fact, I will have our artists create a badge that goes on all Kickstarter projects that agree to support this initiative. Imagine the potential if another Minecraft comes along via Kickstarter and produces millions of dollars of investment into other developers.