Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer independent game studios the opportunity to get funding directly from interested gamers. But unlike traditional investors, backers don't receive any kind of equity in the company.
That changes with new startup Fig, the brainchild of game developer Justin Bailey.
Fig, which is backed by Spark (an investor in Oculus, Twitter, and Slack), allows crowdfunding backers the chance to purchase equity for the first time. Equity investment is open to accredited investors now and will be available to unaccredited investors at a later date. (Fig also offers traditional rewards-based crowdfunding.)
Bailey says the game industry is one of the strongest crowdfunding categories, and is responsible for pioneering many of the practices that have evolved crowdfunding as a whole, so it seemed like a natural extension to explore investment-based crowdfunding.
“It seemed to just make sense that you would activate the fan base to help prove there’s interest in the title and also involve investors for the higher amounts of money, rather than just relying solely upon your fans’ excitement,” Bailey says. “Ultimately though, we want to give those fans an opportunity to invest alongside seasoned investors and to share in the financial upside of the games they help make possible—and even though that won’t be in place for the first campaign, I think we’re already very close to that goal becoming a reality.”
Fig’s first active campaign is for indie developer Alex Beachum’s Outer Wilds, which is being developed by Mobius Digital, the game studio of Heroes Reborn actor Masi Oka.
With Fig, investors have the ability to pick and choose individual games they believe will succeed in the marketplace, instead of investing in an entire company portfolio such as Electronic Arts or Activision. Given that many of the most successful games in the mobile gaming market today were created by small independent studios, this offers investors the opportunity to be on the ground floor of the next breakout success.
According to Bailey, there's no proven model to finance games outside of the game studio network like there is with film financing. For the film industry, that model completely changed the landscape and allowed independent filmmakers to create some of the most critically acclaimed films and successful franchises in history.
“The early indicators point to this being a similar inflection point for games, since the established publishers are only investing in existing franchises and genres,” Bailey says. “Almost all the innovative games and genre diversification are coming out with independently financed games, whether the funding be through crowdfunding, studio profits, or investment.”
Joost van Dreunen, CEO of SuperData Research, believes Fig is a smart differentiator because Indiegogo's share of the total investment dollars that go into game-related projects appears to be stagnant, if not on a decline, and Kickstarter is increasingly centered around celebrity designers.
“Offering a greater degree of ownership may re-incentivize the crowd of people that have gotten turned off, now that its novelty has worn off a bit,” van Dreunen says. “Crowdfunding will continue to play an important role in the games industry, especially now that more consumers are 'playing with the game' by modding and creating videos. Committing a few dollars towards a project you like fits well into that mindset.”
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