Brian Fargo. It’s a name you’ve likely seen in the credits of your favorite classic game, and lately on many successful Kickstarter campaign pages. An influential member of the video game industry since the 80’s, Fargo has significantly impacted the gaming landscape, and continues to do so. inXile Entertainment developed the highly lauded Wasteland 2, and hit its Kickstarter goal for The Bard’s Tale IV with time to spare.
Fargo’s passion for gaming began in high school when his parents bought him an Apple II computer. His first foray into game development and design arrived in 1982 with Demon’s Forge, a text-based adventure game. A mere year later, Fargo founded Interplay Productions. Interplay’s roster of games reads something like a “best-of” list: Mindshadow, The Bard’s Tale, Wasteland, Fallout, and even a slew of Star Trek titles.
Although 1988’s critically acclaimed Wasteland didn’t receive a proper sequel until 2013, 1997’s Fallout is generally accepted as a spiritual successor. Fallout blossomed into a thriving franchise, with the fourth iteration slated for a November 2015 release. Fargo’s impact on the gaming industry is evidenced in the longevity of his creations, and their influence and inspiration on popular franchises. Interplay published The Bard’s Tale, as well as the following two games in the series, and the 2004 Bard’s Tale. The fourth entry in the series has been successfully crowdfunded, and is scheduled to drop in 2017.
The role playing game scene wouldn’t be what is today without Interplay and Brian Fargo. Interplay’s early works, like The Bard’s Tale and Wasteland, spurned franchises like Fallout and The Elder Scrolls. During the 90’s, Black Isle Studios emerged from within Interplay, creating Baldur’s Gate. Since Baldur’s Gate’s release in 1998, several Dungeons & Dragons games have followed. The Bard’s Tale, while not set in the D&D universe, is heavily inspired by the table-top RPG, and Fargo was one of the pioneers in crossing the border between real-world play and computer gaming.
Talks of reviving Wasteland with an official sequel came as early as 2007, and the crowdfunding campaign was announced in 2012. It achieved full funding in record time, hitting the Kickstarter goal in less than two days. This was no small feat considering the goal of $900,000. Ultimately, the campaign raised almost three million dollars, making crowdfunding history. This success wasn’t relegated to Wasteland 2. inXile’s forthcoming Torment: Tides of Numenera, spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment hit its target in style, quickly becoming one of Kickstarter’s hottest campaigns. Similarly, The Bard’s Tale IV has surpassed its $1,250,000 goal with time to spare.
Fargo hasn’t merely helped revive multiple classic franchises through crowdfunding. He’s truly been a champion, and leader in the space. In a Game Insider Summit speech, he explained that crowdsourcing for himself and inXile Entertainment reached beyond just Kickstarter campaigns. Rather than simply putting up a Kickstarter campaign for Wasteland 2 and assuming fans would back the project, he actually reached out Wasteland fans. Advice and feedback from fans shaped Wasteland 2‘s Kickstarter campaign.
Without probing fans, Wasteland 2 would likely have been funded, but not nearly as successfully as it was. Fargo’s message and intent is clear: crowdfunding transcends mere transactions on an Indiegogo or Kickstarter page. Rather, it’s about understanding your community, and giving them what they want. Because we’re not gamers, we’re a gaming community.
Fan input even extends to the games themselves. With Wasteland 2, some gamers were paid to make their opinion on design a reality. A rare feat, it shows Fargo’s commitment to delivering exactly what his fans want. Fargo’s model is less crowdfunding than crowdsourced. It’s not just monetary support inXile seeks from fans, but feedback and suggestions. inXile even switched to the Unity engine for developing so as to create resources and assets more rapidly, thus having visuals to offer backers. It’s a novel approach, and one has clearly worked extraordinarily well.
One only has to look at the record-breaking Kickstarter campaigns Fargo has completed. However, Fargo isn’t greedy, as his Kicking it Forward project elucidates. The venture is a means to allow crowdfunded campaigns to return 5% of the profits from their finished products towards funding more crowdsourced projects. It’s like “Pay it Forward,” minus the depressing finale. The crowd that Fargo considers isn’t his own fanbase, it’s all developers and gamers.
Fargo has truly left his imprint on the gaming scene, particularly with his influence on the RPG genre, and his leadership in crowdfunding. The Bard’s Tale IV is his third major Kickstarter campaign, and his previous two crowdsourced ventures both made history. Wasteland 2 stands as the eighth highest crowdfunded Kickstarter video game campaign, and Torment became the fastest campaign at the time to reach one million in pledges.
Fargo’s vision reaches beyond creating fantastic games for fans to enjoy. Instead, he’s taken a community-centered approach, including and valuing fan input, and Kicking it Forward. A visionary, craftsman, and pioneer, crowdfunding wouldn’t be the widely-accepted, successful, practice it is today without Brian Fargo.
Be sure to check out our other Crowdfunding Hall of Fame honorees.