The idea of crowdfunding has been around for quite a while now and the concept has had plenty of ups and downs. Game developers have gone to site like Kickstarter to fund entire games or the final stretch of a games development. Some of these get funded, others do not. And some of the ones that do either never actually come out, or they come out and they’re not as great as was originally pitched to backers.
Mighty No. 9 is a game that was touted as the second coming of Mega Man, but ended up falling far short of that goal on release if many statements are to be believed. Project Phoenix, another crowdfunded indie title, has yet to even materialize. Of course some games get farther, like Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and Star Citizen. The latter title may not be close to a final release, but at least the developer has something to show for all the money they’ve gotten over the years and is turning it into a playable product.
However, for every one completed and worthwhile crowdfunded game, there are about 10 or so duds that poison the well and make backers hesitant to fund anymore projects. Now and again I have conversations with people about crowdfunding and they always express how they’d rather not back a crowdfunded game because they don’t believe it’ll actually release or it will be bad if it does. They don’t want to waste their money. That’s something I can agree on, it’s a risk to back something if you don’t know if you’ll ever actually get it or that it will be what was promised. But what if those fears were just... not relevant? There are a few things I believe crowdfunding could be used more regularly for.
1) Localization Costs
Not all Japanese games release simultaneously worldwide, and not all are localized while the game is still in active development. Some don’t even get localized at all despite vocal demand from western gamers with knowledge of the product. Nintendo of America was hesitant to bring Xenoblade Chronicles to the United States because they weren’t sure if it would sell(For some reason.), and thanks to vocal demand from gamers, Nintendo of Europe stepped in and did the work for them. And thanks to that, we got Xenoblade Chronicles X and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 without having to ask. But what if that never happened? Gamers outside Japan, that didn’t know Japanese in any capacity, would be left without this gem of a game(And even then region locking would require you to buy a Japanese Wii anyway.).
When it comes down to it, there can be a few factors that play into developers or publishers not wanting to localize a title. Perhaps they feel it would cost too much and not enough potential sales to justify said cost, perhaps they feel there just isn’t enough interest. But wouldn’t crowdfunding the localization solve those problems? If the risk is taken away by consumers who want the game localized, then the publisher and developer have nothing to lose. Sure, the game still might not sell a whole lot once everything is said and done, but because they didn’t pay a penny out of pocket for the localization, they get to keep everything the game does make in sales, and fans are happy because they got the game. And because they already knew what the game was like from translated articles and videos, it’s not like they don’t know what they’re ultimately getting.
Now, mainly I’m talking about text translations. Voiceover and other extras like licensed music would bump up the localization cost, but those could be covered as stretch goals. Not essential to the localization, but nice to have if they can be reached. You’re not funding a full game at the very least and you know what you’re getting. It’s better than throwing money at something that there’s only a concept of and no guarantee of delivery.
2) Licensing & English Dub’s for Anime
In todays world of online streaming, every anime in existence is there for you to watch... in subtitles. You also can’t own some of it physically or even digitally. It’s all streamed to your computer if it’s not officially licensed for release in your country. I don’t mind streaming anime, I do it a lot, but the quality of home video will always be better. One series in particular that I’d love to own is Konosuba. I think it’s a fantastic series, but sadly, in the two years since the first season aired, no one has seemingly picked it up for home video distribution in the United States. And while I am content with streaming it from Crunchyroll, it still sucks that I can’t pop a blu-ray in and watch it that way. First world problems and all that.
Sometimes licensing comes down to: What do you think will sell? What do you think consumers want? Is there anything attached to the license that you don’t want? A lot of factors go into such licensing decisions. I’d love DotHack The Movie, but I have a feeling that, in order to license the movie, then the associated game, DotHack//Versus would also have to be licensed and localized and that’s just extra hassle for an anime publisher.
Likewise, English dubs aren’t exactly cheap, but they do expand the potential audience as not everyone is willing to read subtitles. It’s a risk and reward type deal, and not one that every licensor is willing to take. Look at Aniplex of America. They view anime as collector’s items, hence they’re ridiculous prices. They also don’t dub all their shows or movies. Aniplex decides on a case by case basis what would be worth dubbing. Sword Art Online was apparently worth it, Persona 3 The Movie was not. Sometimes they dig into their back catalog of licenses and dub something to try and squeeze a few more sales out of it, but not very often.
Crowdfunding can solve a lot of headaches for licensors. Think a license is too costly? Comes with too much baggage? Crowdfund it to take the risk off yourself. Can’t afford an English dub or don’t think you’d make enough to justify it? Crowdfund it. Hell, expand your talent pool to other cities and countries, using crowdfunding to fund plane trips for the actors or just the cost of hiring a studio there to do the dubbing for even just one actor. Since the licensor isn’t the one paying for it, it removes a lot of barriers.
I may be oversimplifying things, there may be things I’m not even considering(And I’m sure you’ll let me know.), but I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that consumers would likely be more willing to fund a project if they already know what they’re getting, and companies can take more risks by asking the consumers to take on the risky part of the deal. Money is always a pain in the ass. It’s needed for everything and things we take for granted can be costly for companies while we don’t even think about it. Crowdfunding isn’t ideal for everything, especially projects that surpass a million dollars, but in some instances, like what I mentioned above, it could work out a lot better, both for the companies involved and the consumers who want these things.