The video game industry recently announced its fourth consecutive monthly decline, posting a 31% drop in sales on video games and video game consoles in June of 2009. The decline in revenue may create a major set back for video game developers seeking large amounts of invested capital for development. While most game developers feel the crunch, some companies believe that community crowd sourcing might help generate the pool of capital needed to create new game titles.
Publisher, Roundhouse Interactive, has teamed up with Frima Studio to create the first community-designed video game, The Game Cartel, by December of 2010. The community will function as a democratic voting system in which developers will place ideas out to the cartel members and they will decide the direction of the game from genre and story-line to even the name. To join the cartel, members are charged an upfront fee of $50 which gaurantees them a copy of the game and covers incentives that will be offered to keep members active in every step of the process. Roundhouse and Frima hope to attract up to 100,000 community members in order to generate an investment pool of $5 million for the development of the new title.
Crowdsourcing game development seems to be a hot topic in the gaming world as revenues continue to slump. Gabe Newell of Valve, has also eluded to a strong interest in community financing. Gabe stated in a recent interview, “What I think would be much better would be if the community could finance the games. In other words, ‘Hey, I really like this idea you have. I’ll be an early investor in that and, as a result, at a later point I may make a return on that product, but I’ll also get a copy of that game.”
There are many trends influencing developers seek this community outreach, such as the recent surge in use of social media and participation in gaming communities, the popularity of highly customized game experiences (such as Little Big Planet and XNA Creators Club, and unescapable economic pressures. If The Game Cartel proves successful, expect to see a lot more developers using crowd sourcing as a means to end. What I question is whether or not creative integrity is lost in the process of crowd source development for an entertainment product. Most games are created by a group of developers that have become experts in user experience, creative game-play, and design. These crowdsourced games may lack the innovation and dynamic game play that most gamers now expect. It will be an interesting experiment none the less.