New Crowdfunding Platform for Videogames Fig Launched with Contributions from Obsidian, inXile and Double Fine
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It's been about 3 years since Kickstarter became a big thing for the videogame industry with the Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter, and since then, the crowdfunding platform has been used by a large number of companies to raise funds for the development of several videogame projects, including a large amount of role-playing games (The Banner Saga, Divinity: Original Sin, Wasteland 2, Pillars of Eternity, Torment: Tides of Numenera, Shadowrun Returns, etc.).
For the most part, the platform is so widely-used that it's difficult to imagine successes on the same scale elsewhere, though there have been a few exceptions (Star Citizen, in particular, made far more money outside of the Kickstarter circuit than within it). It's difficult to say whether that will change in the future, but it's certainly what a number of Kickstarter heavyweights from inXile, Obsidian and Double Fine are hoping for with the launch of Fig, a new videogame-focused crowdfunding platform.
The company CEO is Justin Bailey, former COO of Double Fine, and the advisory board includes Double Fine president and CEO Tim Schafer, inXile CEO Brian Fargo, Obsidian Entertainment CEO Feargus Urquhart and Indie Fund co-founder Aaron Isaksen. Here's how the official website describes the service:
Fig is a curated platform for funding and developing games with the direct support of passionate players like you. Our platform brings together rewards-based crowdfunding and investing to create a more balanced and sustainable approach to game development.
By launching a Fig campaign, game studios can combine these two powerful methods of raising funds while retaining creative control and offering fans new ways to get involved. By supporting a campaign, fans journey with each studio as they go from development to launch (and beyond), all while gaining real insights and transparency into the business of making games.
Together we can grow the games ecosystem, inspire new community-informed, investor-backed titles, and provide a creative platform for studios to bring their ideas to the people who matter the most -- their fans.
In short, there are two key differences between Fig and Kickstarter: it's an extremely curated platform, whereas Kickstarter lets pretty much anyone start a project these days, and it offers an official channel for equity investors, rather than backers only, to fund a project. It's worth noting that investors have often already helped fund Kickstarter projects, but have done so through private channels only, so their investments didn't figure into the Kickstarter budget, something which has been a source of controversy for a number of developers and backers.
Several videogame publications have already chatted with the names behind the project and published their own takes on it. For example, Polygon has a good article that explains the platform's approach to investors. Right now, only accredited investors are able to pitch in, but there are plans to open up investing for everyone in the future, thanks to the opportunities offered by 2012's JOBS act. As investors, they will be entitled to a share of the revenue from the project:
Near the bottom of the page, Bailey says that traditional crowdfunding reward tiers will be available, including t-shirts and the like as well as digital and/or physical copies of games once completed. But in addition to these rewards-based options, accredited investors will also be able to dig a little deeper into the site and purchase actual equity in game.
In the coming months, Bailey says, anyone with cash on hand will be able to get a piece of the action no accreditation required. Their reward? A cut of the game's earnings upon release.
"You get a percentage of the revenue share," Bailey said. "That's going to be called out pretty concisely on the page. The terms are static. We have lead investors that are involved. ... They work out the deal terms that they're investing in, and the people investing alongside them get to do it on the same terms.
"We're only able to do accredited investors for the first few campaigns. It means that you have to have more than $1 million of net assets. We have to verify that. But we have plans in the coming months to open this up to everybody."
The number of campaigns running at the same time will also be limited, with a cap of two of them per month, and all three companies involved, Double Fine, inXile and Obsidian, plan to launch campaigns for their own titles on the platform in the future:
The other key to making Fig successful is not to flood the market, so to speak, with equity crowdfunding opportunities. Part of what makes Kickstarter so challenging, Bailey said, was the sheer volume of projects going live on the service every day. With Fig, there will only ever be one or two campaigns live at any time. It will be up to the advisory board to pick them.
Urquhart, Fargo and Schafer will each be spending time and energy to vet Fig projects ahead of time. Only then will they be allowed to go live on the service. Additionally, all three of their companies Obsidian Entertainment, inXile Entertainment and Double Fine Productions will use Fig to fund future titles.
In case you are interested, there are also other pieces online on Fig, like this interview with Justin Bailey and Feargus Urquhart from VentureBeat, in which Urquhart talks about Obsidian's future plans on the platform:
GamesBeat: Does this mean that the companies involved. Will Obsidian, InXile, and Double Fine not use Kickstarter in the future?
Urquhart: For our next games, absolutely [we won't use Kickstarter]. But to be clear, we just worked with another company to do a board game. We did the Pillars of Eternity card game. That would still be something we'd use other crowdfunding sites to do, just because it's not what we do, but it's connected. I don't want to say we would never do anything affiliated with any of the other crowdfunding outlets. But for games, this is why we're getting together to do this together. And I'll say together once more.
Bailey: We're not for board games or anything like that now. We're specifically for video games. That's our concentration.
GamesBeat: Feargus, we know we'll see some sort of Obsidian games on here. Is this going to be what people would expect from an Obsidian game, an RPG sort of experience?
Urquhart: We can probably say it's going to be an RPG. [Laughs] Obviously we like certain genres and setting. It wouldn't be for our first one, but there's definitely a setting we'd love to return to and make an awesome game in. That's something we've been talking about a lot lately.
Bailey: I bet you Double Fine is not going to be making an RPG.
While Gamasutra raises some interesting points on IP ownership:
The lead investor in each project will negotiate the terms of the investment -- which will then be passed on to the investors who sign up on Fig and follow suit. Minimum investments will be high -- in the thousands of dollars -- particularly in the initial projects, but Bailey foresees a future where fans set up trusts to invest in games collectively.
Notably, he says, developers will retain creative control and IP rights to their projects under the terms of Fig's investment scheme. It's also well worth noting that investments are made in specific titles, not in the studios themselves.
The first crowdfunding campaign for Fig is also currently live. It's for a game called Outer Wilds, developed by Masi Oka's Mobius Digital. The title was originally a thesis project for the USC Games Program and won the Seamus McNally Grand Prize and Excellence in Design awards at this year's Independent Games Festival. The project has a $125,000 funding goal and 30 days of campaign to go, and a number of investors are already on board.
Outer Wilds is not the sort of project we'd cover here on GameBanshee, but still offers a first blueprint on the kind of campaigns we should be expecting from the platform. Considering that future campaigns will likely include projects from Obsidian and inXile, it's good to become familiar with how it works, and the pros and cons of this new platform.
Personally, I find it hard to gauge the initiative's potential. I'm not sure if having a curated platform will solve the problems with project discoverability on Kickstarter, or how feasible the idea of opening investing to a larger crowd actually is. Still, having a videogame-focused alternative to Kickstarter with curation from a group of people who are experts in the field by now has definite potential. Ideally, it could at least separate the sort of projects that have absolutely no future from the promising ones. I suppose time will tell.