Comics Reacts To Double Fine’s $1.3 Million Kickstarter Success
Video games designer Tim Schafer is renowned for creating some of the most quirky and lovable adventure games in the past two decades, including Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango, Full Throttle, and Psychonauts. Though he still commands a rabid fan base of the genre, the nature of the video games industry is such that financing a new adventure game through traditional publishing channels is unfeasible. Undaunted, Schafer and his studio, Double Fine, took to the crowd-sourced fundraising platform Kickstarter to raise money for Double Fine Adventure and a companion documentary piece. Schafer's also working with Ron Gilbert, considered by many including the Double Fine leader to be the inventor of the adventure game genre, which essentially makes the project a perfect storm of talent, demand, and timing.
Double Fine Adventure has become fastest-funded Kickstarter project of all time, as the $400,000 goal was met in just a little over eight hours. What's more, in just over a day and a half, the funding goal had been tripled, with over $1.3 million pledged and 32 days of fundraising left to go.
Comics fans and creators are no stranger to Kickstarter, as many comics projects exceeded their funding goals in 2011. As recently as this week, established creators such as Preacher writer Garth Ennis have turned to crowdsourcing their latest passion projects. Double Fine itself could be considered a comics creator as it employs several webcomics artists and hosts a webcomics collective called Double Fine Action Comics. Naturally, the sheer volume and speed with which the Double Fine Kickstarter got funded has elicited some interesting reactions throughout the comics creator community on Twitter.
Captain America and Fatale writer Ed Brubaker seemed inspired by Double Fine's successful Kickstarter:
The main reasons commonly given for going the Kickstarter route have been to attain complete creative freedom and produce works that may otherwise never appear through existing publishers or channels. It's a reasonable thing to desire, especially for established creators who have already worked within the constraints of "the machine." Freedom from answering to investors and publishers should theoretically result in a more "pure" piece of work from a creator, and perhaps also a situation where creators can enjoy a more equitable share of profits.
However, the lack of professional accountability in Kickstarter projects worries some people, including Avengers and Scarlet writer Brian Michael Bendis and our own Andy Khouri, who's written before about the perils of Kickstarter.
I wouldn't underestimate the power of "social pressure," though, as it represents an obligation to the most valuable currency that a creator has, his or her fanbase. If Schafer were to completely ditch producing the Double Fine game and move to Barbados, laughing like a cartoon villain with fistfuls of cash, you can bet that he would never receive another dime from his fans. It's the sort of career suicide that most rational people would not make.
Still, it's a legitimate concern to keep in mind as we enter an age where fan-funded projects are not only feasible, but perhaps preferable for creators in certain situations. Kickstarter warns in their FAQ for people to "use their Internet street smarts" when it comes to accountability for projects, but there's no concrete way of assuring that whatever project you back will actually be made (or made to your liking). As long as fans are aware that they are donating money for the artist to create what the artist wants to, they'll be in a lot better state of mind for when the final product is delivered.
As of this writing, about 40,000 people are backing the Double Fine project, which would equate roughly to the sales numbers of a top 50 comic book. It's not truly an apples to apples comparison, though, as a comic book retails for far less than the price of a video game.
While subsequent projects in both games and comics may not achieve this same level of success, at the very least the Double Fine situation is serving as proof of the viability of fan-funded, creator-owned works. We will see more Kickstarter projects from established creators in the very near future.
Let's hope that any potential bad apples out there don't ruin it. As Powers artist Michael Oeming said, in conversation with Brubaker, Bendis and Warren Ellis, "[A Kickstarter lawsuit] would suck. I think the (far) future of comics is totally DIY."