[dropcap size=big]K[/dropcap]ickstarter, Indiegogo, Patreon, and others are all pretty excellent sites. If you’re reading Cliqist then no doubt you’re a big fan of at least one crowdfunding website — but how do you feel about another entrant into the field? Justin Bailey of Double Fine decided to launch exactly such a site, named Fig, with a focus on video games in particular. Given both crowdfunding and gaming are some of our biggest interests here, this is massive news. But what does it mean for crowdfunding fans? Is this the sort of website that is here to stay or will simmer out soon enough? What does it really offer that’s so different from the competition? We’re going to take a bit of a deeper look at Fig and its aims.
First, the biggest difference between Fig and the dominant Kickstarter is that Fig is tailored toward video games and video games alone. As far as can be seen, they do specifically mean video games and not other gaming concepts such as tabletop games. This isn’t the first time a site attempted to provide such a niche. GamePledge, for example, tried (and apparently failed, as the site is now gone) to craft a gaming crowdfunding space. Why video games specifically? For one, everyone involved in the project is a game developer. Aside from Bailey, the Advisory Board is full of well-established names such as Aaron Isaken (co-founder of Indie Fund), Brian Fargo (inXile Entertainment), Feargus Urquhart (Obsidian Entertainment), and Tim Schafer (Double Fine Productions). Notice how almost all these folks have also utilized crowdfunding in the past?
Here’s a quote with what appears to be Fig’s complete mission statement to get a better sense of their “why”:
“Together we can grow the games ecosystem, inspire new community-informed, investor-backed titles, and provide a creative platform for studios to bring their ideas to the people who matter the most — their fans.”
The other important aspect of about Fig is that it allows for both rewards-based funding (what Kickstarter and Indiegogo are known for) and investment. Yes, that’s actual investment and not the “perceived investment” that backers sometimes believe they get into with Kickstarter. So, what does that entail? Legitimately investing in a game on Fig allows you to “show your support for the game and share in the net revenue of potential game sales on certain PC platforms.” Of course, more terms and conditions apply, some of which can be read in depth here. Speaking of which, this might sound outrageously cool, but as of right now you do need to be an accredited investor to even take part. Why’s that?
Well, for one, Fig currently requires a minimum investment of $1,000 on a project. Rewards-based backers can of course pay far less, but investment is meant to be a bit more serious here. What does it take to be an accredited investor? You need to have an income exceeding $200,000 or a net worth of over $1 million. Here’s a link to learn more about this topic. So basically, you’re going to need to be pretty darn well off to utilize the investing component of the site. That’s smart considering they are asking a fair chunk of change up front. If they let anyone “invest” then things could go terribly wrong. As the official press release summed up, “investments are only available to accredited investors who understand and can afford the risks of investing in private securities.”
There is one scary aspect about this whole investing feature that needs to be addressed, though. In one press release, it is stated that “Fig plans to make investment financing available to everyone.” That just discounts their previous quote about ensuring folks know what they’re getting into with investing. It’s not a game to put thousands of dollars on the line for most of us crowdfunding fans out there! Of course, some already do via superbly lavish reward tiers. It just seems a bit worrisome when you consider how badly a handful of campaigns have gone over the years. Not only that, but backers have certainly become angry over time when just dealing with not getting rewards. How might the dialogue change (or become far more serious) when business investments are on the line?
I don’t know the answer to that question. It’s worth noting that investment-based crowdfunding has existed on a variety of sites and is quite popular with angel investors. However, sites such as those typically focus on non-video game endeavors. Those seem to work without much issue (though that is my outsider perspective) thanks to a class of investors who know what they’re getting into. There’s no doubt that many crowdfunding fans are quite savvy, but it’s unfair to assume that every single one of them holds themselves to a similar standard. Basically, Fig is a site that we’re going to keep an eye on to see what transpires as they work through their launch campaign and beyond.
Finally, Fig offers something else totally unlike Kickstarter and Indiegogo: Curation. Yes, just check the About Fig page to find the line stating: “Fig is a curated platform for funding and developing games with the direct support of passionate players like you.” The curation is handled by the Advisory Board, meaning prospective developers need to impress some incredibly talented people to get their foot in the door. It also means you should never expect to see a low information campaign on the front page of Fig. This is huge in that it cuts out the clutter which so often permeates the crowdfunding landscape. Of course, that’s not always for the best. Is it possible that an incredibly unique and cool campaign gets denied by Fig? Certainly! They are focused on quality over quantity as “Fig will offer one campaign at a time.” There’s no doubt some awesome projects will need to be rejected alongside poor quality ones.
With all this being the case, Fig seems destined to succeed in at least one way. Each campaign it features honestly should succeed. With no competition on the site, and room for investors to thrive, there’s an atmosphere of success just permeating the whole thing. It’s entirely possible some projects will end up flopping, but my assumption is that the early months will do quite well. But really, it depends on how many backers jump on. So far, the majority of the money raised by Outer Wilds is from actual investors instead of general rewards-based funding folks. Without that audience, even a small team of dedicated investors won’t be able to carry each campaign toward its funding goal.