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Examining the viability of crowdsourcing models like Betabrand for game development

This post has been edited by the GamesBeat staff. Opinions by GamesBeat community writers do not necessarily reflect those of the staff.
Editor's Note from Jay Henningsen:
Jesse poses an interesting question: Could games benefit from crowdsourced development? Let us know what you think in the comments.

The Betabrand business model has always intrigued me. Essentially, they crowdsource ideas and designs for clothes (like purple disco pants), and depending on the reception, these ideas might get developed into prototypes. Crowdfunding kicks off to support these prototypes and get them produced at a greater scale for Betabrand’s catalog.

First of all, this creates exclusivity. If 50 purple disco pants are created, and 100 people are craving them, 50 people are going to miss out until the next batch.

Secondly, this model is a solution to idea cannibalization (everyone has great ideas but nothing comes to fruition as they eat each other). It’s a bootstrapped solution that ensures a niche buyer market, as niche as it may be.

After witnessing the recent Flappy Bird drama, I wondered how this model might fare in the game development sphere.

I found GamesBeat covered the two video-game-only crowdfunding articles listed on Wikipedia; Gambitious and GamesPlanet Lab. These features are both from 2012, so I checked each platform to see if their current model has incorporated crowdsourcing design and/or development. Gambitious remains as a crowdfunding platform tailored to game publishers. GP Lab seems to have adopted crowdsourcing elements, but right now it’s in Beta with only two games on their Beta page. They’re using Ulule as the crowdfunding platform, and while it seems like their Beta Lab page is progressing, the current state should not be live if 90% of the links are redirecting and only two games are in their system. It looks promising — maybe the closest thing to a Betabrand development model yet — but we can’t make any judgments with its current state.

gamesplanet lab

GP Lab Beta suggests we’ll be able to:

  • Influence and vote on design choices
  • Collaborate & debate directly with the studios

The big question is: How much influence will creators/publishers grant the community?

The complete product life cycle for a game with crowd sourced ideas/designs, crowd sourced input and debates, and crowd funding will naturally be relative to the platform. Mobile games or even HTML5 browser games with quick turnaround could prove to be the only real ideal situation for a publisher to actually work with a community on — not just to consider suggestions but actually implement them.

It’s a lot of speculation at this point, but any average Joe has promising opportunities to contribute.

For example:

  • Story development
  • Character development
  • Design mock-ups
  • Compositions or other interactive sound elements
  • Voice acting

 

Hop monster

Above: Hop monster

The thought that really consumed me about this working and being innovative is how accuracy might flow into development. By accuracy I mean contributors who’ve experienced element of the game themselves, giving them the ability to offer more insight than expedited secondary research. This might be a stretch, but if the lighter side of Reddit has taught me anything, it’s that you never really know who is participating in a thread — and that’s a good thing. Imagine the design of a mutated hop vine monster supported by a homebrewer who grows their own hops or a Generals’ weapon room with gun cabinets designed by an actual gun cabinet craftsman. It’s more than just validation, it’s authenticity, and it adds context around the game. Instead of the product being “the game” it’s, “Woah, did you know a master brewer from Victory Brewing Co. helped create those diabolical hop vine monsters?”

I’m not suggesting the general public will be jumping (or capable) or writing some breath-taking awe-inspiring plot, but a college student might try their hand at it, just as a freelance designer might contribute a cast of character designs. It’s a way for people get real-world experience, add a little to their resume, and tell their friends, “You know that blood-curdling scream when you reach the final boss? That was all me.”


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