I’ve been thinking about game design and getting a MMORPG created. It seems that it is almost impossible to get funding for a title from a publisher if your game diverges widely from the WoW template. This causes an inherent conflict between creative control, which is crucial to make a top game and the publisher who wants the game released quickly and a ‘safe bet’ so that they can reach their expected ROE.
So, how do you get around that problem?
One way is the way Blizzard and Bioware (before they sold out) were going about it. Get rich making some single player or network games and use that money to fund your MMO. Unfortunately that takes about 15 years, and I don’t want to wait that long. 38 Studios start up capital (I’m assuming) has come mostly from Curt Schilling’s personal fortune, but even they are tying themselves to venture capitalists and maybe a publisher down the line, which I think they’ll come to regret.
Some of the lower profile titles in production, such as Fallen Earth and Age of Armor look like they’re mostly privately funded, so I guess it is possible to make a game without a big round of funding, but I suspect they’ve got some seed capital somewhere and honestly, neither of those games in my opinion is going to become a major player in the industry.
So here is my idea: A publically owned game company. In brief, after some start-up capital, the company would raise additional funds by selling preferred non-voting stock to the public, namely to MMORPG fans, but to anyone who wanted to invest. The incentive to invest in this stock would be you get the coolness cache of owning part of a game company, and a certain level of stock holding would guarantee to be a beta tester and receive a free copy of the game. In addition, some out-sourceable work would be ‘exchanged’ for these same shares in the company with private contractors. If someone wanted to write ‘lore’ for the game, that could be traded for stock. Or if they wanted to create some 3D objects or do some animation (assuming they had the tools) again, they could submit that work, which would be reviewed and then stock would be rewarded if it was used in the game. There are a lot of talented people making custom content and personal MUD’s around, who don’t want to leave their careers or homes to join a game studio in Austin, TX, and I think this would appeal to many of them.
So what do you think? Plausible or not? Leave aside the legal and technical issues, as I am aware that there would be many of both, but I don’t foresee any being insurmountable.