Last year, Double Fine announced they’d overscoped their eight-times-funded Kickstarter adventure game and would be funding its second half with the sales of its first (which we really liked in our Broken Age Act 1 review). More profound than the split of the game itself was the sudden and cataclysmic rift in its audience - while backers who’d been watching the dev team’s progress month-by-month seemed to take the news in their stride, broader public goodwill turned instantly to goodwon’t.
Whatever your stance, Double Fine’s financial statements say that it’s worked.
Said Tim Schafer: “We've made enough that we can make the second half of the game for sure.”
“We've shipped enough that people can see we weren't kidding, and that's a big relief,” he told GamesIndustry. “Because I think there's a lot of pressure on Kickstarter projects, especially the really big Kickstarter projects, to just not screw it up for everybody else. It's such a great, positive thing for us, and being able to be funded by our fans opens so many doors for us to do original, creative things that we just wanted to live up to.”
“Great” and “positive” aren’t the adjectives Schafer would use to describe the reaction to the split announcement, though - the “hardest part” of Double Fine’s crowdfunding experience thus far. The studio were washed over by a “wave of anti-Kickstarter hate”, as if disembarking from protagonist Shay’s coddling ship into the real world for the first time.
“That was really a lesson for us, learning that even though our backers are really well informed, the rest of the world hadn't really heard of us since the Kickstarter happened,” said Schafer. “It’s weird because the Kickstarter experience had been wading in a sea of love from the fans. Because you don't just get money. You get all this positive support from the backers who believe in what you're doing. They hang around and cheer you on.”
By contrast, making the announcement was “like being dumped into this cold pool of Internet Twitter hate”.
“That was crazy,” said Schafer. “It was like, ‘Oh yeah, right! There's a bunch of people who hate the idea of what we're doing and are waiting to pounce on us if we make a single mistake’.”
Schafer and his team learned that onlookers believed Double Fine were out of money and “going under” - when in fact they were expanding Broken Age on their own dime, as the Americans say - “not asking for more money”. For their second Kickstarter project, they’ve resolved to be even more transparent.
I’m not entirely sure it was people who hated the idea of Kickstarter who reacted so negatively to the news that Double Fine had exceeded their funding. In fact, I think much of the bile - and the quieter, deeper disappointment behind it - came from those who’d pinned their hopes on Broken Age as the iconic Kickstarter project. They were saddened to see that idea tainted and compromised, just a week after Double Fine had finished a month of further crowdfunding for Massive Challice.
In the end, though, I suspect Broken Age will be remembered for the game it is, rather than the manner in which it was released. And Broken Age is a dead good game. What do you lot reckon?