Fig Blog

Crowdfunding and Investing

Travel the world and save humanity in Crazy Justice!

Crazy Justice is a third-person multiplayer shooter in cel-shaded style with steampunk elements, created by Black Riddles Studio Ltd. Play as a hero and save the world from the forces of evil! Complete dozens of missions, find new heroes, gather new special weapons and eliminate the steampunk hordes. Immerse yourself in a beautifully detailed, cel-shaded steampunk world, spanning locations across the globe, from the alleys of New York to Egypt or even the North Pole! Check out the campaign page!

We are thrilled to announce our partnership with Atari to develop and publish two new games: a reboot of one of Atari’s most beloved intellectual properties and a new one from Atari. Read the news here and stay tuned for more details!

Trackless, an atmospheric first-person exploration and puzzle game set in the distant future, is now available on Steam!

Flash Point: Fire Rescue will soon make its way to Steam! RetroEpic has teamed up with Indie Boards and Cards to bring the critically acclaimed board game, Flash Point: Fire Rescue to PC! Make sure to add the game to your Steam wishlist today.

August Wrap-up

It’s our anniversary! This month marks two years since Fig launched its first campaign and we have some highlights to share with you, plus some info about upcoming events!

  • We published our first game, Kingdoms and Castles, and used all the marketing data we’ve accumulated to help make it commercially successful, earning investors a 2X return.
  • Bounty Battle, a Super Smash Bros. inspired fighting game, was just funded this month and features main characters from other indie games such as Darkest Dungeon, Awesomenauts, Psychonauts, Guacamelee!, Nuclear Throne, Axiom Verge, Gang Beasts and more!
  • Our newsletter now has more than 100,000 subscribers!
  • We’ve funded the majority of large projects since the beginning of 2016:

We’re so grateful for all of our supporters for helping us get to where we are today – thank you!

This weekend, we’re heading to Seattle for PAX West but we didn’t want to leave anyone hanging, so here are the developer updates you may have missed from the month of August:

On Friday night (9/1), we will be at the MIX Showcase at PAX West where we will be showing Bounty Battle, Trackless, Flash Point: Fire Rescue, Kingdoms and Castles, and KnightOut. If you’re at PAX, stop by, say hello, and play some games with us! Tickets for the MIX event are totally free and you can register on their website.

On Saturday, SWERY (Hidetaka Suehiro) will be doing a PAX panel where he’ll be giving more details about his Fig campaign for The Good Life, a mystery RPG where everyone turns to cats at night.


Not at PAX? No problem! The panel will be livestreamed on Twitch at 4:30 PST and the full campaign will be open to the public at that time. Check it out!

Unleash your villainous side in upcoming astrological-inspired cosmic JRPG Virgo vs The Zodiac!

As Virgo, also known as “the Dreadful Queen,” players bring mayhem to the Zodiac realms in sci-fi/fantasy JRPG Virgo vs the Zodiac, and leave a trail of stardust along the way to satisfy the obsessed villain’s excessively righteous worldview. Brazil-based indie game developer Moonana has launched a funding campaign to coincide with the astrological calendar’s Virgo Zodiac season and help raise $18,500 for completing development of the game for PC.

Virgo vs The Zodiac combines Moonana’s love of JRPGs and RPGs such as Disgaea, Earthbound and Devil Survivor Saga with her past experience working as an Astrologer. With pixel-based graphics in the spirit of many of the category’s best JRPGs, players carefully guard, counter and time actions and try to predict foe’s actions to advance through the game’s tangled and unforgiving environment. Colorful characters presented in the game’s vibrant visual style each represent Zodiac signs and take on important roles throughout Virgo vs The Zodiac.  Player choices matter in both story and character growth, providing for extensive replayability.

Fig began presenting projects to the company’s Backstage Pass program, which is a small self-selected subset of subscribers from the 100,000+ public newsletter, who are granted private access before campaigns go live to solicit feedback from the community. Virgo vs The Zodiac earned 40% of its funding goal before today’s public launch through the Backstage Pass program. 

July Wrap-up

July has been a super busy month here at Fig! Not only have we launched a couple of brand new campaigns, we’ve also hit a HUGE milestone. This month we released not just one, but TWO Fig-funded games! Kingdoms and Castles from Lion Shield and Solstice Chronicles: MIA by Ironward are now available for purchase! Congrats to both Lion Shield and Ironward for the launch of their games!

We still have a TON of games in development – here are the updates that have been posted for the month of July, did you miss any of these?

Next month, we’ll be releasing our third Fig-funded game, Trackless, from 12 East Games! Trackless is an atmospheric first-person exploration and puzzle game set in the distant future, and it uses text input that allow you to interact with characters and objects. Check it out!

We hope you’ve had as awesome of a month as we’ve had! Make sure to sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram so you don’t miss out on any news, giveaways, special offers and more. Which game are you looking forward to the most? Drop into the comments section below and say hello!

 

Video Games’ Creative Cul de Sac and How to Get Out of It

I first fell in love with video games when I was 8. That was when my dad brought home an Apple IIe. I loved the fact that I could write a program, and this story would come out the other side. It was a landscape of endless possibility—at least it felt that way to me when I was in third-grade.

The first game I ever programmed was “Snow Wars.” To learn how role playing games worked, I hacked into games like “Ultima,” “The Bard’s Tale,” and “King’s Quest.” Whenever a new title came out, it was like Christmas, the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve all rolled into one for me.

After graduating from college, I took my dad’s advice to find a “real” job as a programmer at a software company. I still remember, and deeply regret, the day I took all my game discs and tossed them into a dumpster as a declaration of my adulthood.

But then something strange and magical happened. Just after my first daughter was born, I heard a musician, Jonathan Coulton, tell the story of how he switched careers to become a composer because he didn’t want to end up being a “sad dad with unfulfilled dreams.” Inspired by this, I quit my job as a management consultant and knocked on the door of every game company I could find.

I was super fortunate to land a gig at Bandai Namco as part of their “greenlight” team. For two glorious years, I had the job I’d always dreamed of. I would listen to developers pitch thousands of game ideas. After greenlighting a game, I got to shepherd developers through the publishing process, making sure they met milestones, providing them with marketing support and getting their games made and shipped to stores.

As consoles and computers became more powerful, so did the size and scope of games. At first, we all went gaga over the luscious graphics, smarter-than-hell AI, and awesome physics engines.

But then budgets started to balloon. Marketing spends spiralled into the tens of millions for AAA titles. With so much at stake, publishers everywhere reined in risk. Everyone pulled back on the number of new IPs they were willing to back. Instead, most doubled down on franchises that performed well in the past, pumping out sequel after sequel. Electronic Arts Inc., for example, published 60 games in 2008. This year, they’re publishing 8. Thus, games ended up in a creative cul de sac.

In 2008, Facebook Games came along, promising a new era of social games that would shake the console world from its stupor, followed by the iOS App Store and Google Play for Android. Like circus clowns, we all crowded into the app store minivan and hoped that it would be a better ride. For a tiny fraction of us, it was. The rest of us not named SuperCell or King didn’t win the app store lottery. Instead, we got neck cramps from trying to get players to “discover” our games from the bajillion other apps sitting alongside the 31 flavors of solitaire.

Don’t get me wrong. I love franchises like Final Fantasy (now in its 15th incarnation) as much as anyone. And I’m not proposing that we all return to our batcaves and huddle with our NES’s (the one from 1985)—as much fun as it would be to have a batcave.

But each time games migrate to each new platform, they’ve also ended up in the same loop of sequels. Behold on iOS! We have Modern Combat: Sandstorm, Modern Combat 2, Modern Combat 3, Modern Combat 4, Modern Combat 5, and (coming soon) Modern Combat Versus! There may be loads of new IPs coming to mobile app stores, but they’re buried by games with better user acquisition tactics.

The latest vehicle for funding independent game development is crowdfunding. As the Chief Operating Officer of Double Fine Productions Inc., I hopped on this particular bandwagon with gusto. We, along with 2 Player Productions, turned to Kickstarter in 2012 to raise money for an adventure game that ultimately became Broken Age. We raised $3.3 million, making it the biggest project on Kickstarter at the time in both amount pledged and number of backers. In 2013, we raised $1.2 million on Kickstarter for Massive Chalice.

Through this, I got to see the ins and outs of rewards-based crowdfunding. I’d like to share some of the things I learned from this.

First, the good parts.

Crowdfunding opens up the greenlight process to the people who really matter—gamers. Instead of pitching to a closed room of stuffy publishing executives, developers are pitching in front of people who will ultimately be playing their games. As someone who was once one of those stuffy executives, I can say that while we did our best to find and fund great games, we weren’t always right and we probably missed a few gems out there. These days, traditional game publishers are even less inclined to hear pitches for new IP, preferring to stick to sequels and spinoffs. Crowdfunding platforms give independent developers a chance to vet their ideas in the open, where the wisdom of the crowd also has a say.

Crowdfunding is a great way to see if your game is commercially viable. You can’t ask for a better way to market test a game idea than to see how many people are willing to put down cash money to get a copy. In some cases, the crowd will tell you that your concept needs more work. That happened with Blackroom, John Romero’s holographic first-person shooter. It’s great feedback, because it comes early in the process, before developers have spent four years of their lives on the project.

You can get some really interesting data from a campaign. For example, you can use the total number of backers as a rough guide to set your game budget (more on this in an upcoming post).

Crowdfunding campaigns generate buzz and build an early fan base. Like a good movie trailer, crowdfunding campaigns help to generate awareness and build excitement around titles. It also helps to galvanize your existing fans (assuming you’ve published other games) around a new project.

Now, for the not so good parts.

Until recently, crowdfunding has been primarily rewards-based. The money people contribute to campaigns are essentially one-time expressions of support, with the organizers promising a reward at the end. Many contributors to crowdfunding campaigns aren’t invested in your financial success (though most would be genuinely glad to see you succeed). In fact, if you’re perceived as too financially successful, it can backfire.

You can easily run out of goodwill. Publishers are noting that it’s becoming harder to raise money on rewards-based crowdfunding platforms. There are signs of fatigue from donors.

Mainstream crowdfunding platforms aren’t geared for interactive entertainment. They’re better suited for board games or projects where there is a physical product that can be shipped within months. Asking people to wait years for their payoff looks out of place alongside projects that promise a physical reward in a much shorter timeframe than those required for video games, which can take years to develop.

They don’t give fans a stake in the game’s financial success. I see this as the biggest drawback of rewards-based crowdfunding. Fans donate money to projects, and in return they get rewards. If the project is wildly successful and your game sells millions of copies, fans still just get the rewards. The end.

That said, I still think crowdfunding has tremendous potential to fix some of the problems traditional publishing, namely the lack of transparency and the pathological aversion to creative risk-taking.

So how do we adapt crowdfunding to work for interactive entertainment? How do we take the best parts of crowdfunding and make it so fans feel more invested in the game’s success? How do we structure the relationship between developer and fan so that it’s based on more than just a one-time transaction? Is it possible to build a community that can sustain creative game development for the long-term and help us break out of our cycle of sequels?

Those are the questions I’ve been grappling with for some time. As a lifelong gamer and as CEO of Fig.co, I have a vested interest in finding the answer. The games business has grown a lot since I bought my first copy of A Bard’s Tale. For one thing, it’s now a massive $99.6 billion global industry. But its future depends on our ability to bring about the right environment for the next generation of creative ideas.

To do that, I think it’s necessary to rethink how we’ve been funding game development. Giving fans a seat at the table and a financial stake in the outcome solves two problems. First, it lets developers have a direct conversation with players, taking out the middleman working for a risk-averse publisher. That increases the odds that a crazy, but totally innovative game gets made.

This isn’t just wishful thinking. A study published this year California Management Review found that crowds tended to back more “artistically daring” projects that established professionals shied away from, according to the study, entitled “Democratizing Innovation and Capital Access.” The authors (Ethan Mollick at the University of Pennsylvania and Alicia Robb at U.C. Berkeley) noted that while those projects were slightly more likely to fail, some achieved great success, including winning awards. That means crowdfunders took on more creative risk, and in some cases, were rewarded for it.

Secondly, community publishing in particular solves one of the major drawbacks of rewards-based crowdfunding, namely the vulnerability to donor fatigue. With community publishing, fans can choose which games they want to back, much like a traditional publisher, and get a financial return based on how well a game sells. Through recent changes in federal regulations, non-accredited investors (read: average people) are now allowed to buy equity in startups that raise money under certain provisions of the 2012 JOBS Act.

Fans who buy shares under these new regulations don’t just show up for a one-time gesture of goodwill—they invest in a project’s ongoing success. This makes the dynamics of crowdfunding less like a novelty and more like a self-sustaining mechanism to fund independent games.