by Joshua Dennison
Let’s just get this out of the way: There’s no reason for it to suck. Double Fine are moving into production of their new adventure title, invigorated by the success of their Kickstarter and four smaller, download-only titles, and we’re going to witness a game made by a creative team arguably in its prime.
Even so, what would happen if it didn’t turn out to be The Adventure of Yore that we’re all pining for? Would the games press be forced to take back its claims about Double Fine revolutionizing game publishing?
Double Fine has had a trajectory unlike many others in the industry. After publishing several critically acclaimed but commercially underperforming titles, they were forced to undergo internal restructuring of their own volition – and, unlike so many others, survived to tell the tale.
How have other companies fared in similar situations? Majesco pulled off a similar feat, having drawn themselves from the edge of financial ruin by completely shifting their own studio’s focus. Along with the success that came with aligning themselves with the Cooking Mama series, Majesco also started making more intelligent, unique business decisions.
For example, in order to get a Japanese title released in the U.S. companies will traditionally have to negotiate separate licensing and (of course) localization. Instead, straight-shootin’ Majesco (as nobody in the industry likes to call them) chose to go right to the source. They went to Parappa The Rapper creators Rodney Greenblat and Masaya Matsuura and commissioned the game themselves, effectively finding the road less traveled in securing a U.S. release.
With only positive outcomes on the other side of each of these restructuring decisions, it’s hard to say whether or not bankruptcy would’ve been the result otherwise. Majesco would represent an inspiring turnaround for any company; although, in the case of Double Fine, not only are they riding high after the success of their Xbox Live Arcade titles, but they’ve also got the winds of crowdfunding beneath their wings.
Kickstarter has literally made dreams come true for millions of artists, and it’s now affording Double Fine a chance to make a game with over eleven times the budget they’d originally planned for. There is no shortage of conjecture about how this “Kickstarter quotient” will affect the game, but all of the related fawning about how this will change the industry is really just excessive preening. Generally you don’t care if your strawberries come from plants in California or a plants in Florida, so why would you care where the money to make the games you play comes from?
Over 85,000 people helped fund The Double Fine Adventure through Kickstarter. To put that number in perspective, before even a single line of code has been programmed the game has sold more copies than Child of Eden and Shadows of the Damned did together in their first week.
Game developers need money to make games (surprise!), and they’ll look wherever they can to get it. Double Fine used to get its funding from gargantuan publishing companies, but this time Tim Schafer’s crew knew that no publisher would touch a point-and-click adventure title, so they took the Kickstarter idea and ran with it.
There will be “core” naysayers that think the company has already missed the mark. They’ll say Double Fine has already flown so far off the rails from their original adventure games that they may never come back. But Once Upon a Monster and Double Fine Happy Action Theater have seen more play in some households than Skyrim. I’m not saying toddlers are silly for skipping play on a hiking simulator with dragons, but it’s worth pointing out that hardcore gamers are not exactly the target audience for those titles. And that’s a good thing.
Simply put: At this point, Double Fine’s creativity – both in an artistic sense and a business sense – can’t be questioned. They’ve proven that they possess a deceptively adaptable business acumen with which they are capable of producing a wide variety of titles. They’ve been bucking game industry trends for the last few years already: let’s see what they can do in 2012.