I remember several months back during the #IndieDevHour on Twitter, someone asked about using Patreon to fund their games development.
Back then, Patreon was growing in popularity for independent funding of artists and writers by letting people be regular paying patrons. If you look at the current roll of Patreon Projects, you can see Youtube video producers, bloggers, webcomic creators, podcast producers, musicians and so on, all have a Patreon page. For those content producers, it appears nowadays like it’s a standard form of earning revenue for your work, as I’ve seen some of my favourite online artists and Youtube video creators use the service, both big and small.
But what about game developers and game creators, could they use Patreon to help fund their work? Could they fund a portion of their work using the Patreon system? This is what I want to discuss in this article.
When I mean game developers using Patreon, I mean specifically using it as a platform to fund their work in creating games, while some have used it to produce games development tutorials such as TheCherno, and others have used it for lets plays, this is about using Patreon for games development like how Kickstarter is used for games development.
If you dig deep enough you can find some developers using patreon for developing games. How successful they are is up for interpretation, in the examples I’ve linked some have been moderately successful enough per game/month while others are well below the hundred margins.
Why very few developers are using it however? Well it’s easy to say that unlike Patreon, crowd funding sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo is both a better marketing and funding platform because a lot of backers use it and people who are successful earn more money. However, I think it’s because of two clear reasons.
The first reason is that it’s very new, it only started last year and while it’s growing fast, not all of the large mediums have caught onto it. As such, not every medium knows about it as well as Youtubers, bloggers and short video producers. Asking many of my game developer friends, I found that most either didn’t know or get the Patreon system.
Another reason is the ideal scope of projects on the platform, as the majority of creators on Patreon use it for small projects that don’t require a huge budget up front, but a modest budget to sustain the creator to keep what it doing. Mix that with the amount of people actually putting money down on individual creators and you can see that it might not appear to be the most viable option.
But on the other hand, Patreon has solved one major problem that crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter is well known for, trust based delivery. Some people remember earlier this year how even after getting funded, not every project on Kickstarter had fully delivered. It’s seen as an understood risk that whatever project you are backing on Kickstarter may take years to fully complete, even if it completes at all. Patreon’s solution is to fund creators for what they have done, and not what they will do. By only paying the creator per project, or on a regular basis, patrons don’t have to feel like they are throwing money away if a creator doesn’t finish a project, and you have the option to reduce or stop pledging a creator (TBC).
So let’s go hypothetical on this, what if Patreon, or a similar funding system, takes off and does well enough to be popular and known by many people, and those people are wanting to become patrons for talented creators, how would you go about getting people to be your patron?
You could do what’s currently being done, and have patrons pay per game. However that is only viable if you produce regular content, and that requires developing several small games on short development cycles, instead of producing one or two large games over a long period of time.
So why not use that ideal environment to work with Patreon? Some content creators work really well on a monthly basis, while producing content on a varying basis. This could be done with games by having a game being funded by patrons while in beta, where the patrons themselves can have some or full exclusivity towards testing and contributing to the game before release. I can see that model working especially well towards online multiplayer games, where the patrons themselves can act as a small growing fanbase by interacting with each other.
However, what Patreon needs is for time to grow and people to be aware of who they are and what they will do, and maybe we will find more game developers on there and show more creative ways of using a patron system.