It would be nice if it were uncommon for the public to watch a well-known company declare bankruptcy and then proceed to sell all the assets that made them. Yet this is 2013. The public has seen many seemingly untouchable financial institutions and companies take harpoons to the rib cage until they released that final death knell. This is a long way to say that THQ has gone bankrupt and sold all of its assets back in late January. Before moving on, the gaming community should have a moment of silence or spill out some Mountain Dew Code Red for the poor publisher. Luckily, for many of the studios and games in development at THQ, plenty of still functioning publishers bought up studios, games and publishing rights for tidy sums. This will ensure that the clever and good game series THQ has published over the years will continue to entertain gamers in the future (thankfully, the world will get another Saint’s Row from Volition). Sadly, there should be a vigil held for the studio that built Darksiders.
There is a proliferation of crowd-sourcing creative endeavors through Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and other sites with a similar philosophy. Everyone has seen them. They are everywhere now; everyone and their brother’s brother can start one up. For a small donation to the progress of their game’s development, the public who gives graciously receives a promise of a copy of a game, a t-shirt or possibly for a generous sum to appear in the game (NPC, of course). If a game achieves its funding goal by the set time limit, it will ostensibly become a real product that the investor/donator will eventually get to play. If it does not make its goal, then the game becomes another in a long line of cool ideas that have the same possibility of existing as Final Fantasy Versus 13 and the Last Guardian. Despite the very real possibility of the game never coming out due to unforeseen circumstances in development, the development team wasting the money (on party buses or an inflated Monster drink budget) or just simply taking the money and running; there have been a larger number of successfully funded Kickstarter games. It is not simply small newbie indie developers who use Kickstarter to try to fund a new idea; plenty of industry luminaries such as the Oliver Twins, Peter Molyneux, Double Fine and Tim Schafer, and studio Obsidian Entertainment have used the crowd-sourcing platform. Then of course, there is the whole case of the Ouya becoming a console becoming a reality through Kickstarter. Although, Ouya may becoming far too egotistic before a physical product gets into donators’ hands, not to mention the actual consumer.
The successful funding of these games through consumers rather than publishers shows the possibility of a new model for making video games. Instead of larger publishers chasing trends and trying to predict what the public wants by funding high budgeted games (to mixed results generally), the gaming public will decide with their dollars directly what games they want to see made. While there will always be, at least a few, larger publishers as long as physical product needs to exist, these larger companies may need to start competing against smaller studios with less overhead. Games will not be subject creatively to a board of rich investors who want the game to appeal as broadly as possible to recoup a budget, but games might be only subject to what ideas the consumer find interesting. This will leave developers to create a game that is creative and satisfying with only worrying about making the best product for the consumer. It is a fascinating proposition for gamers to vote with their wallets by contributing to the production budgets of games they want to play. This way the public will not have to watch the tragedy of these companies selling their shirts in the middle of Times Square.