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What is the future of crowd-funding in gaming?

It is something we often see theories about. It is something no one is really sure on, and while this year has seen some of Kickstarters largest successes, it has also seen a worrying decline in the amount of spending on smaller projects. We’ve also witnessed a decrease in the trickle-down effect that large crowd-funding efforts used to cause, wherein a big project drew attention to Kickstarter and people would see other projects around on Kickstarter. The decline raises questions on the future of crowd-funding for smaller projects, especially given the fact that many people misunderstand the budget of game development as crowd-funding is almost never the sole source of funding.

There’s been a lot of different approaches being looked at since. One is “kick-finishing” like what Divinity: Original Sin or Shadowrun: Hong Kong did where the game was already going to be made but the developers sought additional funds and community involvement to help further improve the game. Another is using Kickstarter as proof of interest as we’ve seen in some cases, such as Bloodstained and Shenmue 3. A third, and perhaps the most sustainable option, is using more targeted crowdfunding to get certain portions of a game funded, like Vidar did to get its art budget, or Pathfinder Online did to get its tech demo put together.

Ashen Rift is doing something similar, yet different with creator Barry Collins seeking funding to help finish a demo of the game and cover the cost of a trip to Pax East. This is the third time that Ashen Rift has been up on Kickstarter, each time with a different approach to the changing marketplace, and we talked some about that in our interview with Barry. One of the points he brought up was the number of games on Kickstarter and the largely increased competition:

If you’re an indie, there’s 500 games up on Kickstarter right now, how are you going to stand out? How are you going to actually get what you’re asking for?

It’s an important thing to think about with the crowdfunding revolution because there is only so much money going around on those smaller projects. While big name projects draw people from outside that small group of crowdfunders, those people are not going around and seeking other projects as the excitement and novelty around Kickstarter a couple years ago is no longer there to anywhere near the same extent.

If you can learn to adapt to the current Kickstarter market, it’s worth doing. To get yourself to an event, to get yourself 10 thousand, 20 thousand those sorts of things. Those are reasonable, and anything more than that, if you need 200 thousand dollars to make your game you gotta make a demo and find an investor or you gotta make a demo and pitch it to a publisher cause Kickstarter isn’t where it’s at any more for getting that.

Kickstarter’s landscape change isn’t out of nowhere. Last year, according to Ico Partners, saw the least amount of money on Kickstarter games funding since 2011, with only just over 20 million being pledged to successful projects. That money did fund more projects than expected, but this year has seen even a decline there, as the first half of the year showed new highs in projects failing to get any pledge, and projects failing to get funded compared to previous years.

So what is Ashen Rift and what does it do to stand out? Why should players stop and take a look at this project that failed to receive funding to create it in the previous two times it was up on Kickstarter?

Ashen Rift is a post-apocalyptic world that focuses on the story of a Man and his Dog who are dealing with the horrific landscape that remains. Utilizing first person exploration and shooting mechanics, you traverse the game along with your loyal companion Bounder as you try to figure out what is going on in this place. The world features highly destructible environments, a focus on storytelling first and foremost, and the focus on the tale of a man and his dog in a game that isn’t a simulation game, a “kids game” (Nintendogs…), or an adventure game either in the point and click or new Telltale style.

The world in particular has some really interesting things in the screenshots and information available as unlike your Fallouts or Wasteland 2, Ashen Rift is more at The End of The World As We Know it. The world is falling apart, apathy and barbarism rule, and nothing appears to be able to stop what is the destruction of all that remains. To help get across this bleaker future, when talking with Barry said he calls the setting more post-post-apocalyptic:

“I kinda almost like to say its post-post-apocalyptic … and now it’s at the end of the end of the world. And so he’s trying to figure out what to do with his time and his life and he’s trying to get to the source of what caused everything, to see if there’s anything he can do as a last ditch effort.”

Continuing on Barry talked about where it takes place, and the eponymous Ashen Rift:

“Everything is just totally drained of life and energy, and there’s nothing left really and so it’s … [The End of the World as we know it?] Yes, exactly, so he’s heading towards the rift, which is where it started everything, which is where Ashen Rift, the name comes from. So it’s based around the Cheyenne mountains in Colarado. There currently is a nuclear facility in the mountains in real life, and so in the Ashen Rift story they have decommissioned that aspect of it and turned it into a science facility. So things like large Hadron collider, pushing the limits of physical science and that sort of thing. And obvious the worst of the worst happens …”

Listen to the rest of the interview below where we talk about Ashen Rift, Kickstarter, Early Access, and more, as well as a special star appearance by Barry’s pet pit-bull Scully who joins us part way through for the discussion!

Ashen Rift is currently on Kickstarter and has raised over 14k, and will be heading to Pax East with the demo that it will be distributing to backers and hoping to get additional funding at Pax East. Backers can get the demo as well as other rewards there on the page.

Don Parsons

News Editor

I've been a gamer for years of various types starting with the Sega Genesis and Shining Force when I was young. If I'm not playing video games, I'm often roleplaying, reading, writing, or pondering things brought up by speculative fiction.