Gaming developer Harmonix is turning to fans to fund—and own a piece of the profits—from Rock Band 4 for PC.
The new version is being crowdfunded through Fig, a crowdfunding platform dedicated solely to video games while offering both accredited and unaccredited investors the chance to purchase $250 shares in the game through the JOBS Act’s Title IV.
Following a five-year hiatus from the video game business, Harmonix and accessories company Mad Catz released Rock Band 4 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One last year. Mad Catz co-published the game and also released brand new guitar, drum, and other musical controllers for the new game.
After selling over 135,000 in its first week, sales leveled out at about 650,000 year-to-date globally, according to VGChartz.com. Michael Pachter, a video game analyst at Wedbush Securities, said the game generated under $100 million in revenue.
While that’s not a huge amount of money for a big company such as Electronic Arts or Activision, it could offer a solid return on investment for the average gamer.
Justin Bailey, CEO and founder of Fig, said the overall campaign goal for Rock Band 4 for PC is $1.5 million.
“If all $1.5 million is invested, then the share of receipts from the game for investors will be approximately 66% of game receipts until a specific sales amount, equal to roughly where the developer breaks-even, and then 33% thereafter,” Bailey said. “For a game and brand like Rock Band, we believe these to be attractive terms.”
Steve Janiak, CEO of Harmonix, said it can be very difficult, time consuming, and costly for independent developers to secure funding through traditional publishers. That’s why the Cambridge, MA.-based studio opted to crowd-fund this latest game.
“We believe in what Fig is trying to accomplish—a curated, games-only ecosystem that supports developers through rewards and investment crowdfunding,” Janiak said. “Rock Band is a well-known brand that we hope draws more gamers to the Fig platform.”
Janiak says Rock Band fans have been requesting a PC version of the rhythm-based video game for years. That same community had been playing Rock Band 3 for years and downloading new songs without any new games, which is what prompted the revival of the franchise last year.
“With our backers, we’ll have a defined channel through which to solicit feedback on all aspects of the game,” Janiak said. “It’s important to us that we evolve Rock Band 4 into the game that players want to see it become, and PC gamers will have an opportunity to help us shape this.”
Janiak said Rock Band 4 for PC will launch with all the same features available in the console version, and it will be regularly updated alongside the console versions with new features. New downloadable songs will be available at the same time as console as well.
“Unlike the console versions, we’re expecting a ton of user-generated content to be made available by the fans themselves via the Rock Band Network through Steam Workshop,” Janiak said.
One lesson learned from the previous rise and fall of music games is that there were too many sequels and new instruments released annually. Rock Band 4 supports legacy controllers from last generation’s music simulation games, as well as any downloadable songs that were purchased.
“We’re not planning to offer sequels, or ask customers to continually re-buy new controllers,” Janiak said. “We’re building Rock Band 4 into a music gaming platform that will continue to evolve for years. We’ve already released multiple free title updates, and will continue to offer both free and paid expansions—adding substantial new functionality as we hear from fans directly about what they want to see in the product.”
Bailey said the easiest way to think of the Fig crowdfunding model is that they give people the opportunity to invest in the potential success of a single game that it’s publishing.
“From a more technical perspective, we create a Game Share (which is the security we offer), we sell it to investors, we give a large part of the proceeds from that sale to the developer to develop the game, and if and when the game is developed, we publish it,” Bailey said. “The Game Share pays dividends to investors based on Fig’s share of the cash receipts from game sales—such as the sales of Rock Band 4 for Windows PC.”
If all goes according to plan, Janiak says Rock Band 4 for PC will launch this fall.
But this isn't the only new iteration of the franchise. Harmonix is also working with Facebook to bring Rock Band VR to Oculus Rift in the near future.