The Daily Grind: Should mature MMOs consider crowdfunding?


Massively OP commenter The_Grand_Nagus recently pointed us to a conversation on the Star Trek Online forum where a Cryptic Studios employee discussed the studio’s games’ revenues and staffing:

Game Development is directly proportional to revenue generated.

So long as a game is making more money than it costs to run, it will continue to run. And luckily, the costs to run a game are very scalable. The Dev team is most of the cost of running a game, and we can have more or fewer devs depending on the money coming in.

STO has a dev team proportional to its revenue.
NW has a dev team proportional to its revenue.
Champs has a dev team proportional to its revenue.

For the most part, there are very few scenarios where a game will simply shut down out of the blue.

It’s a dirt-simple declaration, of course, one that should give comfort to people concerned about Champions Online’s health in particular. And it made The_Grand_Nagus wonder whether the games wouldn’t be better off if players were more directly involved in directing that revenue.

He wrote in to us,

If the community of Champs(or any game) could decide on a specific type of content they wanted(maybe through a poll), could the devs figure out how much it would cost to develop, and say that if the community spends X amount of money in the game store they would be able to fund that content? Would this be ethical? Would the community be willing to do it?

I would like to presume that by playing certain types of content and coming and going as content is added, players are already “voting” for how that revenue is spent (and that someone is actually paying attention to those metrics), but having now seen so many Kickstarters (and run one!), I also know how motivating a visible bar can be. It’s one thing to know that if I buy a minipet from the cash shop, the devs are incrementally, invisibly incentivized to make more minipets. It’d be another thing entirely to see an existing, mature MMO “go indie,” put together a crowdfunding or crowdspending campaign, and solicit votes on specific stretch goals — like, say, from people still plunking $300 down for lifetime subs.

Maybe it’d work. There are certainly games I’d love to see try it. What do you think? Should mature MMOs consider crowdfunding or stretch goals to boost their incomes and grant loyal players more agency in how the game is constructed?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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