Fallout: New Vegas is the greatest game of all time. Anyone who disagrees is wrong. Those who say it’s a bad game should be put in jail. Anyone who thinks it’s not as good as Fallout 3 or 4, well… let’s just say those people don’t exist.
It should come as no surprise that the man behind that diamond encrusted gem of a game should make it into the Crowdfunding Hall of Fame. His name is Chris Avellone, and he’s behind some of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns of all time.
Avellone has played a part in Pillars of Eternity, Torment: Tides of Numenera, Divinity: Original Sin II, The Bard’s Tale IV, and even FTL: Faster Than Light. Not only have these campaigns been wildly successful, but they’ve all produced great games. While not involved with Pillars of Eternity II having left Obsidian Entertainment, its campaign performed even better than the first.
The Origin Story
For Avellone, it all began in September 2012 with the launch of Project Eternity (later renamed Pillars of Eternity) on Kickstarter. This was Obsidian’s first new project after Fallout: New Vegas and Dungeon Siege III, and they were also working on South Park: The Stick of Truth.
Avellone had to be fed up with the AAA industry. In their partnership with Bethesda, it was agreed that should Fallout: New Vegas score an 85 on Metacritic, Bethesda would pay Obsidian a bonus. Despite many fans considering the game better than Bethesda’s own Fallout 3 however, the game achieved only an 84 on Metacritic. Bethesda refused to pay Obsidian, and days after the Metacritic news leaked, Obsidian laid off several employees and canceled a game they were working on.
When Stick of Truth was released in 2014, publisher THQ went under, and the rights to the franchise were auctioned off. Ubisoft picked it up, and despite the huge success of the original, its sequel was handed off to a different studio.
The Campaign That Started it All
Avellone’s and Obsidian’s contempt with the mainstream industry showed on their Kickstarter page. In this regard, they were no different than many developers seeking crowdfunding at the time.
“We have wanted to go back to our roots and create an epic PC role-playing game adventure for years. But, it’s been almost impossible to get funding through traditional methods for a game like this. […] Plus, we don’t have to make compromises with a publisher. We make the development decisions, we market the game, and we don’t have to answer to anyone but you – our fans.”
Pillars of Eternity would be a return to old-school CRPG’s, but with a modern look and feel. It would feature great writing we’ve come to expect from Obsidian, as well as fantastic gameplay. Lo and behold, it turned out to be one of the most successful video game crowdfunding campaigns of all time, raking in $3,986,929 from over 73,000 backers. It held the title of “Most Funded Game on Kickstarter” for six months before Avellone’s next game, Torment: Tides of Numenera surpassed it.
The Restless Creative
In 1999, Avellone was the Lead Designer of Planetscape: Torment, a sci-fi RPG beloved by fans, but a sequel never happened. When inXile Studios and Brian Fargo began work on a spiritual successor, they brought in Avellone as a writer and designer. All the while, Avellone was also working on Pillars of Eternity. Torment: Tides of Numenera scored big, collecting $4,188,927. After overthrowing Pillars as the highest funded game, Torment sat atop the crowdfunding throne for over two years, eventually being ousted by Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and Shenmue 3.
By August 2015, Pillars of Eternity was finished, but work on Torment continued. Not content to sit around, Avellone left Obsidian to work with Larian Studios on Divinity Original Sin II. Then Avellone worked with inXile again on The Bard’s Tale IV. At least, that was the hope. In order to bring Avellone on to the project, the campaign needed to reach a $1.9 million stretch goal. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, and is his lone failure in the world of crowdfunding. Perhaps fueled by this disappointment, he went on to work for Bethesda on the latest Prey instead.
The final crowdfunded project bearing Avellone’s name is FTL: Faster Than Light, specifically, FTL: Advanced Edition. This new edition is a greatly enhanced version of the original, adding a ton of new content. Avellone’s role was small as a “special guest writer.” That he would lend his time and talent to such a small project, while taking a backseat, speaks volumes about his love of gaming and crowdfunding.
Avellone may not have revolutionized the world of crowdfunding like Tim Schafer. And he may name not have created a wholly new gaming experience. But his devotion to crowdfunding is astounding. Avellone holds the record for the most money collected through crowdfunding in video gaming. Every campaign that bore his name was a huge success. The games that resulted from them are some of the best crowdfunding has to offer. What more is there to say? Welcome to the Hall, Chris.
Be sure to check out our other Crowdfunding Hall of Fame honorees.