Double Fine's incredible (and ongoing) crowdfunding miracle looks to be one in the eye for the current publishing models which have cramped the studio's style in the past. Speaking to Hookshot Inc., studio co-founder Tim Schafer explains that the idea to try their luck with Kickstarter first emerged when the studio was approached by Oregon-based 2 Player Productions to produce a documentary which would follow Double Fine through the process of making a game.
It was then that the Stars Were Right to see if adventure gaming fans would be able to step up were the larger publishers backed down. You know how it goes from there. Unfortunately, Schafer admits those very stars are now out of alignment for other indie publishing avenues on console platforms, like Xbox Live Arcade and PSN. In the long run, their inherently closed natures will make them too costly even for studios with pedigree like Double Fine.
According to Schafer, indies nowadays will have a much better chance at success trying to make it big either on their own, or on more open platforms like (surprise!) Steam:
"Back when Castle Crashers came out, it seemed it was going to grow and grow. I just wish there was more support, more marketing, more placement on the [XBL] dashboard. It could have been our own little Sundance Film festival, a great sandbox for indie development.
“But the indie community is now moving elsewhere; we’re figuring out how to fund and distribute games ourselves, and we’re getting more control over them. Those systems as great as they are, they’re still closed. You have to jump through a lot of hoops, even for important stuff like patching and supporting your game. Those are things we really want to do, but we can’t do it on these systems. I mean, it costs $40,000 to put up a patch – we can’t afford that! Open systems like Steam, that allow us to set our own prices, that’s where it’s at, and doing it completely alone like Minecraft. That’s where people are going."
The reality Schafer paints for indies on consoles is indeed unfortunate, especially given how the console giants themselves have at least paid the lip service to attract development for the purpose of securing much-needed exclusives. It's not clear if Schafer was referring to the cost of PSN and XBL patches (or just one or the other) in his estimate, but Double Fine did get badly stung when publishers like EA refrained from helping cover the costs for producing patches for titles like Brutal Legend.