You might recall that Double Fine knocked a lot of gaming industry perceptions out of whack by asking for $400,000 on Kickstarter for its game Broken Age and winding up with over $3 million. It brought a lot of respected game developers to the site and got a lot of games in the pipeline. Unfortunately, Broken Age might also define a problem with crowdfunded games: It is apparently running out of money.
This is apparently because Double Fine wants to put out an enormous game on the scale of a Grim Fandango or a Full Throttle, and backers will be getting a game. Tim Schafer tries to put the best face on it, but it’s pretty clear he’s embarrassed:
We looked into what it would take to finish just first half of our game—Act 1. And the numbers showed it coming in July of next year. Not this July, but July 2014. For just the first half. The full game was looking like 2015! My jaw hit the floor.
The good news is that Double Fine does have a solution, and it doesn’t involve running another Kickstarter or screwing any of the backers. Instead, the first half of the game will be finished by January and put out on Steam Early Access to raise the remaining cash needed to finish the second half: Backers still get early access, and the game shows up on something resembling an actual schedule.
The big question, of course, is what happens if the Early Access release doesn’t raise the needed funds. After all, one of the arguments against adventure games is that nobody buys them, and it’s yet to become clear with crowdfunded games whether the funding is a springboard or just most of the people who would have bought the game anyway essentially preordering it. Double Fine is about to find an answer to that question whether they like it or not.
Secondly, it could be a real blow to the developer and crowdfunded games in general if this doesn’t get finished. One of the problems with Kickstarter games is and always has been that you’re taking a gamble on the developer finishing the product. And there have been cases where developers go to Kickstarter, raise the cash, and then fail to deliver. A major developer like Double Fine failing to fully deliver the promised product would be a disaster that ripples well beyond just Double Fine.
There’s little doubt that Double Fine will get at least Act 1 out the door. Their reputation depends on it. The real question, for both the game’s backers and developers hoping to keep crowdfunding as a source of cash for their games, is whether they can deliver Act 2.