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Blood in the Water

Tim Eisen Posted:
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Interpretation of information is an interesting thing. Humans have an uncanny ability to take in the exact same information, process it, and see it uniquely to themselves. This happens all the time in the MMORPG universe and Crowfall isn’t immune. Take this IndieGoGo announcement. I saw it as Kickstarter +, the way I always hoped Kickstarter would be back when I first heard about it! A way for fans to feel like they were deeply invested in a company and their games, not just their games.

In a genre where many fans talk about studios and developers as “we” not “they” it’s a natural fit. It's a thing for fans to play with or ignore depending on their preference. Had it come out when the initial Kickstarter did I’d have gone the Indiegogo route. The only sting I felt was a pinch of regret that I couldn’t roll me tier into company stock. In a perfect world IndieGoGo would have happened years ago, and right now I would have stock in Artcraft but I digress.

Then I talked to a MMORPG acquaintance and they had a very different perspective. The conversation sent me down a path of questions I hadn’t yet asked. Was this Aircraft selling out? Is this a step toward Artcraft jumping the shark and selling its soul to the bane of indie gaming-a big publisher? Were they taking advantage of their fans?

I’ve seen Artcraft ask us if we want to invest via IndieGoGo, it’s up to me to decide if I invest or not. No worries, no pressure. I don’t feel like that offer is taking advantage of me or forcing me to invest. If they offer exclusive instant win items to investors I’ll be the first to scream invest 2 win to the high heavens but so far that hasn’t been the case.

As far as selling out, isn't that the point of every company; to build themselves up until a bigger company buys them and makes the founders a return? To their credit Artcraft has never hid the fact that they are open to selling if the perfect offer came in and I appreciate that honesty. I could see many fans reacting negatively to such news (publisher dependent) but as a long-time MMORPG fan it’s something I went into Kickstarter well aware of.

Looking at legendary game studios of yore, selling to a publisher is exactly what most successful developers have done. They start studios, build them up and sell them to big publishers. We all play MMORPG PVP, they play real life company PVP and MMORPG developers (likely due to their gaming experiences) seem particularly adept at it. Most old guard developers did exactly what I described above and I’d guess many of them saw crowd funding as a fulcrum to do it again.

I’d prefer it didn’t happen because I like how close indie studios are to their fans and I’d worry a publisher wouldn’t give us the same main street mom and pop service we currently enjoy. Gordon and J Todd regularly chat with fans and answer questions on Crowfall forums, how cool is that? Would that continue under a publisher? I don’t know, maybe?

On the flip side, it’s their company. All I did was pre-buy a game from them, who am I to say what they can or can’t do? I certainly don’t think they should hold back reaping the rewards of their risk and hard work because I’m comfortable with how things currently are. It’s easy to sit in the crowd and damn business decisions but we can’t understand them until it’s us behind the desk. We might think we would stay on the indie path but I’ll be honest, if I ran a company and I got a good offer with favorable terms and my crew would be taken care of I would likely be foolish not to accept it. I suppose it comes down to how much you value creative freedom and independence vs financial security.

I know this doesn’t quite fit the purely altruistic narrative a lot of us like to imagine. That of developers casting off their chains, giving the finger to big publishers and taking the harder route-the indie route in the name of their fans, creative freedom and the games they’ve always dreamed of! It sounds great but we shouldn’t forget that after the WOW clones tanked publishers weren’t exactly lining up to hand out huge amounts of money to a type of game that usually goes over budget, runs behind on schedule and often ends up dead months after launch.

MMORPG developers didn’t have many places to go so they went to fans that loved their old games. We were content with words on paper and we responded as we always do, by rising to the occasion. For good, bad or ugly MMORPG players always find a way. We floated the bill, pre-paid for the product and took most of the risk out of the development cycle granting some security and the creative freedom they longed for. We showed publishers MMORPG’s not named WOW could still draw a crowd. We revitalized this genre with our trust and willingness to remove ourselves from our funds. If things like Indiegogo mean we have a path to see a return on that then I’m all for it. In fact, I think fans seeing a return beyond a box is long overdue.


Tim Eisen

I roleplay a wordsmith that writes about the technological and social evolution within the game industry