As you know, the space simulator Star Citizen is not only one of the most prominent examples of long-term construction of the game, but also holds the record for the amount of funds raised through crowdfunding.
While game designer Chris Roberts has received a record $250 million from various sources over the course of eight years, Star Citizen’s path began on Kickstarter, where Roberts received the first money to develop the game of his dreams.
Since then, the platform has given many developers the opportunity to fund projects that most industry publishers looked at with suspicion. Below you will find examples of the biggest Kickstarter grossing video games.
Wasteland 2 — $2 933 252
Thinking about the romance of the post-apocalyptic wastelands, most modern players imagine, of course, Fallout. However, the developers from Black Isle Studios themselves, when creating the original parts of the series, were inspired by the real father of this setting, namely Wasteland, which was released back in 1988.
The director of the title, Brian Fargo, has since worked on dozens of different games, and in 2007 he unexpectedly hinted that he wants to bring the progenitor of Fallout back to life. In 2012, his studio inXile Entertainment launched a Kickstarter campaign in which Fargo revealed that he had brought together the original writers of Wasteland to develop a sequel.
inXile asked for $900,000 but raised almost $3 million, which allowed the studio to bring in Chris Avellone and other well-known developers who have made a name for themselves in the isometric RPG genre to create the game.
Fargo decided to contact crowdfunding, inspired by the success of Tim Schafer and the history of Double Fine Adventure (future Broken Age). Interestingly, many Wasteland 2 bakers were players who supported Shafer’s campaign.
In 2014, Wasteland 2 received positive reviews from critics and, according to Fargo, earned the studio over $12 million.
Yooka-Laylee — $3,260,353
Over the 35 years of its existence, Rare has managed to develop more than 120 titles, and among this mixture of various genres, real diamonds sometimes appeared, like GoldenEye 007 and Battletoads. Another such diamond was the Banjo-Kazooie series, which is known primarily to fans of Nintendo consoles.
In 2012, several key developers of the series, who by that time had already left Rare, decided to create a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie, but did not launch a Kickstarter fundraiser until two years later.
It cost £175,000 (≈$272,982) to give players a cheerful 3D collectathon platformer. The developers deliberately asked for as little as possible and were extremely surprised when they received £2,090,104 (≈$3,260,353), while collecting the first million dollars in record time (5 hours and 41 minutes).
Unfortunately, after the release of the game in 2017, critics agreed that apart from the nostalgic feeling Yooka-Laylee has nothing to offer players. Despite the fact that Playtonic Games managed to perfectly capture the spirit of Banjo-Kazooie, critics saw Yooka-Laylee as a quality clone, rather than an interesting original game.
Double Fine Adventure — $3 336 371
Tim Schafer is considered one of the latest old-school adventure fans, having earned the love of players with titles such as Full Throttle and Day of the Tentacle. It is not surprising that when his studio Double Fine Productions launched a fundraiser for the development of Double Fine Adventure, the public enthusiastically supported the idea.
In fact, Schafer’s primary goal was to make a documentary that would showcase the process of making a video game, with all its pitfalls. Since any intervention by the publisher would distort the final picture, the game designer decided to fund the project through Kickstarter. Schafer asked for a minimum of $400,000, a quarter of which was to be spent on filming.
Adventure fans quickly realized that they could get another adventure with well-developed characters and Schafer’s trademark humor and raised almost three and a half million dollars.
“We have always had loyal fans, but I never thought that we would raise so much money. I was hoping to raise 400 thousand in thirty days, but as soon as we got a million in the first day, I realized that we had stumbled upon something big, ”recalls Shafer.
Double Fine Adventure later turned into Broken Age and told the story of two teenagers: an astronaut from the future Shea and a girl Vella, who must be sacrificed to a giant monster.
Unfortunately, Schaefer’s initially low expectations prevented him from properly planning the project. In order to have time to release Broken Age as soon as possible, Double Fine Productions turned to SuperGenius for help, and it was decided to split the game into two episodes. At the same time, the second episode was funded by sales of the first in Early Access on Steam. In 2014, finally, the players received both parts of Broken Age and, fortunately, were satisfied with the result.
Mighty No. 9 — $3 845 170
When the NES became the main console of the gaming industry, the Mega Man series was one of its main hits, but over time it lost its former fan interest. In 2013, one of the key designers and producers of the line, Keiji Inafune, decided to revive the spirit of Mega Man by launching an all-new series Mighty No. 9.
Inafune promised to work closely with the players during development, deciding many issues through votes among bakers. The game designer also spoke about his plans to make an animated series and even a full-fledged film based on the future game. As a result, the campaign turned out to be convincing enough that future players instead of the requested 900 thousand dollars collected almost four million.
Unfortunately Mighty No. 9 is one of the failed projects on today’s list. The endless delays in the game’s release date already pissed off bakers, but when Inafune’s studio Inti Creates launched yet another fundraising campaign for another title in parallel, players were furious. According to Inafune, by ending the Mighty No. 9, some employees were left without work, and they decided to start the development of Red Ash: The Indelible Legend, which for some reason also resembled the Mega Man series.
The final chord of the story of Mighty No. 9 was that after the release, critics saw nothing in the game but a second-rate product that did not even come close to justifying Inafune’s ambitions.
Project Eternity — $3 986 929
When Kickstarter had already managed to establish itself as a platform capable of financing a serious project, one of the designers at Obsidian Entertainment, Josh Sawyer, realized that sooner or later fans of classic isometric RPGs like Icewind Dale, Planescape: Torment, and Baldur’s Gate could use the platform.
Given that the developers of each of these games ended up under the roof of Obsidian, who better than them to revive this genre. In 2012, the studio asked the players for $1,100,000, but ended up with four million. The most generous bakers received a free copy of Wasteland 2.
With a team of big-name developers like Sawyer, Chris Avelon, and Tim Kaine, Obsidian just couldn’t go wrong. Pillars of Eternity went on sale in 2015 and was named the studio’s best game. Despite the fact that the developers put a lot of emphasis on nostalgia, critics recognized Pillars of Eternity as a standalone and strong role-playing game.
Moreover, as it became known later, the success on Kickstarter saved Obsidian from bankruptcy, because she was experiencing financial problems after the cancellation of a large project for the next generation of consoles.
Torment: Tides of Numenera — $4 188 927
A year after inXile Entertainment raised money for Wasteland 2, it launched a new campaign to fund the development of the spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment RPG Torment: Tides of Numenera.
The fact is that when one of the Planescape developers, Colin McComb, came to the studio, inXile managed to acquire a license to create a game in its universe. The studio again turned to the players for help, this time collecting an even larger amount. By the way, among the main backers of the campaign were the founders of companies such as Mojang and Razer.
Tides of Numenera only came out in 2017 and has been a massive success, proving itself to be a solid game for a niche audience.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night — $5 545 991
According to one of the main producers of the Castlevania series, Koji Igarashi, when he left Konami in 2014, fans bombarded him with requests to develop a new metroidvania title. Igarashi and left the big company, feeling that the legendary series had gone completely off course.
In 2015, Igarashi launched a Kickstarter campaign, primarily to convince future investors of the demand for such a title. The developer asked the fans for only half a million dollars, which, according to the plan, should have been about 10% of the game’s budget.
When the required amount was collected in just four hours, the developers had to come up with additional goals. The final amount allowed Igarashi to invite voice actors David Hayter (“Snake” from Metal Gear Solid) and Robert Belgrade (“Alucard” from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night), as well as to commission the development of a small additional game Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon with graphics in in the spirit of the NES of another studio, not to mention the gift art that each owner of a physical copy of the title received.
Although fans had to wait no less than four years, but when Bloodstained reached the shelves, she was able to do what she promised – to give players the emotions of Symphony of the Night in a modern shell.
Shenmue 3 — $6,333,295
When Shenmue was released on the Sega Dreamcast in 1998, it not only became one of the most expensive titles in the history of the industry, but also made a huge leap in the development of open world games. In 2001, series director Yu Suzuki presented a sequel to the public, which received the same result – indescribable fan love mixed with poor sales in the eyes of Sega.
Fourteen years later at E3 2015, Suzuki shocked the industry with the announcement of Shenmue 3 and the launch of a related Kickstarter fundraiser. This campaign not only set several speed records, but also ended with incredible success – instead of two million, more than six were collected. The remaining costs were covered by Sony and Deep Silver.
Unfortunately for Suzuki, his desire to pay tribute to that same Shenmue from twenty years ago was met with enthusiasm only in theory. In fact, the title, released at the end of 2019, evoked fond memories, but seemed hopelessly outdated to critics.
Come on — $8,596,474
When Ouya unveiled a prototype microconsole on Kickstarter, they didn’t expect their $950,000 goal to be reached in just eight hours. The public was so captivated by the compact Android-powered box that it turned Ouya into the most successful Kickstarter project in 2012, raising over $8 million.
Ouya promised that those wishing to develop their title for the new platform would not need to purchase a license, and that a free SDK would be included with each set-top box.
When Ouya went on sale, its price of $99 was far below the prices of competitors, and many developers predicted a bright future for the console itself.
“If Ouya truly becomes the first truly open gaming platform to give indie developers access to the gaming industry’s living room, we’ll be thrilled. With such a development of events, it is possible that all Mojang games will be on this platform, ”Mojang reasoned.
However, events developed differently. Few developers were willing to take the risk of developing projects for a new platform, and Ouya found it difficult to build an audience. In 2015, the company was sold to Razer. The latter first transferred all Ouya content to its own Forge TV micro-set-top box ecosystem, and in June 2019 completely stopped servicing all OUYA accounts.
To the above titles, you can also add, for example, the successor to Ultima, Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues, and MMORPG Ashes of Creation. The latter raised more than three million dollars on Kickstarter, but is still waiting for release.
Having gained enough experience on Kickstarter, Fargo, Schafer and several other eminent representatives of the industry, including the head of Obsidian Fergus Urquhart, decided to create their own crowdfunding platform that would allow backers to receive a share of the profits if a particular campaign was successful.
On the Fig platform, studios inXile, Double Fine Productions, and Obsidian have already successfully funded their next titles, Wasteland 3, Psychonauts 2, and Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire, respectively.
“I liked doing business with Kickstarter, but the question was always in the air: “Is it right to take all the profits for yourself if you received the initial capital from someone else? How do the bakers feel knowing you wouldn’t be rich without their help?”