Free publicity, that's what lead designer Tanya Short from Kitfox Games calls Square Enix's The Collective; the company's new foray into helping indie devs leverage marketing, crowd-source presence and community engagement.
Previously, when I wrote about The Collective it was centered around the fact that Square takes a cut from the crowd-funding phase and the distribution of the game as well. A one-two combo of unfiltered profit for the big publisher.
Well, not everyone feels as if the service is out to be a profit-pilfering detriment to game culture, or more specifically, indie game development.
Tanya Short of Kitfox Games reached out to us to talk a bit about the process of using The Collective and what her and the team's experience has been like, so far.
Kitfox is still on the first of three phases that The Collective utilizes: first it's about gauging engagement, then it's about crowd-funding and last is the distribution phase.
Now according to Short, crowd-funding wasn't really the alternative they wanted to go with, as far as funding their game goes, but right now it's all they have until they can get into the Early Access program...
“We haven't decided exactly when we're going to launch our crowd-funding. Ideally, we wouldn't [do a crowd-funding campaign] at all. I really wish there was some way we could survive until Early Access.
Ah, humble indie devs. This is the sort of response that gets the Fry meme tossed up with the “Take my money” quote plastered across it.
However, the process for the team, at present, includes getting as many eyeballs on the game as possible. For the most part, they are enjoying the community feedback and Short believes it offers better insight into how well the community would likely support the title, as opposed to something like Steam's Greenlight service, mentioning...
“It's a little bit Greenlight'ish, for sure. I think they're still working out some of the problems. On Greenlight you don't get to see what some of the percentages are.”
I do admit, Greenlight is like a bag of tricks: sometimes the good games get through, sometimes the bad games get through. The process on what gets greenlit is kind of up in the air.
Nevertheless, Short doesn't rule out that they may go through that Greenlight phase at some point in the near future, but for the moment they're focused on the engagement. As mentioned: their goal is getting people excited about the game and people who not only want to click "Yes" but follow through with it, too. And right now, The Collective is being used to get people excited about Moon Hunters, the four-player, procedurally generated, dungeon-crawling action-RPG.
However, Short does acknowledge what was brought up in the original article here at Gaming Blend: there's a reason for gamers to be wary. Publishers have tried before to leverage the crowd-funding medium for their own gain, and it left a tacitly vile taste in the mouths of gamers.
The Collective is basically a marketing intermediary for indie devs who are considering the crowd-funding route. On paper it doesn't sound like a bad concept, but in execution we have no idea how well this will actually play out and whether indies will truly benefit from it.
In addition to the above, Square's reputation also hasn't been the best as of late; with half-hearted or misdirected opportunities further dragging the company's name into the mud – like the recently released, and poorly scored, Lightning Returns – it's easy to see how gamers would approach their new service with caution.
At present, Square's intentions with The Collective – on the surface – appears to mostly benefit indie devs, with little or nothing to lose at the first phase of the campaign process. Of course, we won't know what the service truly has in store for those who use it until someone's game gets successfully crowd-funded and manages to get distributed by Square. It's a low-cost, low-effort venture for both Square and indie devs... on paper.
Now as far as Short and the rest of the crew at Kitfox Games are concerned, this is basically just free publicity for the team and the game, as they've received more than 300 sign-ups for the e-mail newsletter just by being on The Collective. It's a heck of a lot of more beneficial than no support at all. Short also states that The Collective has been nothing but good to them.
If you would like to learn more about The Collective and Kitfox's Moon Hunters, feel free to pay a visit to the official Moon Hunters page. Whether or not this service will help or hinder indies in the long run remains to be seen, but after a few months through the three step process, we'll be able to tell just how beneficial Square's Collective is for the growth of gaming culture.