Tim Schafer, Brian Fargo, and Feargus Urquhart have all done very well for themselves and their studios—Double Fine, inXile, and Obsidian—on Kickstarter, and now they make up the advisory board of an all-new crowdfunding outfit founded by former Double Fine Chief Operating Officer Justin Bailey. Called Fig, it's different from other platforms in a few significant ways: It's only for games, for one thing, and it offers actual investment opportunities alongside conventional backer rewards.
For now, equity investment will be limited to "accredited investors," defined by the SEC as anyone who earned more than $200,000 per year over the past two years and "reasonably expects" to do so again this year, or has a net worth of over $1 million, not including the value of his or her primary residence. Put more succinctly, it means "other people," although the plan is to open up investment financing to everyone once the process is approved by the SEC.
Another significant difference is that Fig will be tightly curated, with just one campaign running at a time. The plan is to alternate between "iii games" from studios like Osbidian, inXile, and Double Fine—"iii is a new term and is the indie equivalent of AAA games from a big publisher," Fig said in its announcement, which is something I'm sure we'll talk about later—and projects being created by new, "up-and-coming" developers.
Fig's first gig is Outer Wilds, a space exploration game we looked at in July. It has a goal of $125,000, and like Kickstarter, there are various backer tiers, in this case ranging from $20 to $10,000, each with its own reward package; the total must be raised within 31 days, or else the project gets nothing. Unlike Kickstarter, however, $34,000 of the $50,000 it's raised so far has come from investors rather than conventional backers.
"This investment opportunity is a great way to show your support for the game and share in the net revenue of potential game sales on certain PC platforms, pursuant to the full terms of the offering, which we can share with Accredited Investors," the 'Learn More' button reveals. "To participate as an investor: You must be an Accredited Investor and be able to provide information to verify your status [and] you must invest a minimum of $1,000 USD."
Schafer told Polygon that he wanted to offer equity to backers of his first crowdfunding effort, which took place in the early days of 2012, but was prevented from doing so by US law. Changes to the law brought about by the cleverly-named 2012 Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act (I told you it was clever) are what will eventually allow Fig to open its investing doors to everyone. "If [Outer Wilds] turns into the next billion-dollar game, the people who helped to make it happen should be able to participate in that," he said.
That's fair, but is it enough to make Fig notably more attractive than other options? Kickstarter, for all its flaws and clutter, has the benefit of being familiar and proven, and I wonder if gamers will be hesitant to funnel their support through other platforms. I also wonder about the risks it could expose potential investors to: when the accredited investor requirement is lifted, people who are especially enthusiastic about a project but not well-informed about investing could find themselves in over their heads, without even a decent art book or downloadable soundtrack to show for it. It'll be quite awhile yet before we can really judge how Fig will affect the crowdfunding scene, but for now, the question is simple: Are you interested?