Recently, Square Enix unveiled Collective, a mashup of crowdfunding and traditional publisher-funded videogame development. So what does that suggest or mean for the company?
From what’s been released, Collective works in four stages. First, developers can submit proposals to Square Enix free of charge, and are guaranteed feedback as well as a yes-or-no decision. The way Square phrases the feedback aspect on its website suggests that developers are encouraged to resubmit their proposals after addressing any outstanding concerns. After Square is confident in the proposal as well as the developer’s ability to execute, it enters a ‘Steam Greenlight’ period where anyone can voice their support. If there’s a sufficient fan response, the proposal will be crowdfunded via IndieGogo.
It’s not clear if there will be clear crowdfunding targets and what they would be. Square may simply be looking to defray as much of the development cost as possible. After a month of crowdfunding, development formally begins, and Square will fund, publish, and market the new game, with funders influencing serious design decisions.
The first observation here is that Square is actually engaging its fanbase. Us. Square has bemoaned its lack of communication with gamers back in May; at the time, soon-to-be President Yosuke Matsuda was quoted in an earnings call as saying:
…making customers wait for years with little to no information is being dishonest to them. We’re no longer in an age where customers are left in the dark until a product is completed. We need to shift to a business model where we frequently interact with our customers…
At the time, Matsuda also voiced support for the model of Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight, since they increase contact between developers and consumers.
It shows that Square is genuine about its desire to engage with its fans more. I’m certain that they’re still figuring it out – and will be for some time – but they’re taking steps to rectify this problem. Project Crystallis was borne in part by frustration with Square’s silence on Versus XIII and Type-0. If Square is starting to reduce that frustration, and it recognizes the value in regular communication with its fanbase (us), then our concerns are being addressed. (At least in part.)
A bonus: Square is opening up some of its Intellectual Properties to developers who work through Collective. To be more accurate, Square will accept proposals that involve unused Eidos franchises (like TimeSplitters and Just Cause), but it opens the door for some of Square’s own franchises to become available in the future.
There are some concerns regarding Collective’s practicality, since Square’s main problem at the moment is its unmanageable development/marketing/distribution costs. However, Square promises to reveal more at GDC Next in a month, so hopefully we’ll have questions answered and more reason to be excited.