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Has Double Fine disproved the 'ideas don't matter theory'?

Double Fine's stunning progress has been so well covered this week that simply writing an article about it already seems clichéd. Nonetheless I feel compelled to do so!

Finlay Thewlis, Blogger

February 10, 2012

3 Min Read

Over the past few years I have learned a great amount about game design and development and everything that it encompasses. Some of the phrases that were often told to me and my fellow students by experienced game developers and tutors at University was that 'ideas are cheap' or 'ideas aren't special' or even 'your ideas don't matter' - not said out of any malice or to kill any enthusiasm but often quoted to us to knock back any over-excitement that would inevitable snowball into major disappointment that our awesome idea didn't work or succeed, which in theory is good advice.

To clarify a little; what I mean about 'ideas' in this context is very simple: Game Concepts - The rough outline of design of the world, characters, mechanics, visual style, sound etc. Don't get too excited by an idea because:

a) It is most likely already been done in some capacity

b) It won't work out the way you think it will

c) ...and so on and so forth...

With Double Fine's momentous week many things have been said about 'Have they broken the publishing model for good?' and 'the industry has changed forever', of course, all valid theories. So, I kept a close eye on Tim Schafer's lucid approach and awesome progress to their Kickstarter pledge. The money pledged to DF rose and rose. Currently they have roughly tripled their original target (this will already be obsolete by the time you read this no doubt!).
I looked at the pledge-beg video and it got me thinking, assume the theory of crowd-funding becomes a more 'industry standard' way of funding games, and simultaneously publishers prominence decreases. Effectively what is happening is that the marketing aspect gets done for the developer by the fans and who better to understand what fans want than the fans themselves? Rather than a publisher, well to put it bluntly, guessing (This isn't me having a cheap shot at publishers marketing departments, but look at Denki's 'Quarrel', and look at Tim Schafer stating how publishers wouldn't take him on with a project that has turned out to already be such a success story).

With that in mind, who's to say what ideas aren't special? Who's to say what ones are less worthless than others?  Certainly not the publishers. If a hypothetical developer comes up with an idea for a new game they think strongly fans will love and don't have to go to a Publisher to prove that thought then they can go straight to the fans themselves.

Obviously, not needing a publishers isn't a new theory but what does strike me as new in regards to Double Fine's Kickstarter project is how they can give fans just a taste, just the simplest little taste of what the game is and if fans are excited by that then they can invest what they like. If that taste wasn't good enough for the publishers then often, the game never sees the light of day.

Ideas, gaming worlds, concepts, mechanics, art and sound are all great aspects of the gaming experience, allowing people to get insight into what they could play allows them to value that idea itself. So can it be argued that, what is happening now is that the idea itself IS important, the ideas that are pitched in a crowd-funding method such as this CAN be special, and above all else they really, really DO matter because it is the idea itself that gets people excited.

So I do think that while phrases such as 'Ideas are cheap' do have merit in order to keep a developer's expectations about a concept in check and realistic, it does show that a game idea can flourish if you let it.

Anyway it's just an idea.

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