Pre-funded titles – where development money has been raised through crowdfunding channels like Kickstarter and Early Access – commonly run into problems or delays. However, when it happens to a Double Fine title it’s worth noting, given how instrumental Double Fine were to making Kickstarter an accepted funding channel for video games back in 2012.
One of Double Fine’s several titles under development is Spacebase DF-9, which was being funded by Early Access revenue through Steam. I’m saying “was” here because its early development version has been bumped to release version 1.0 and a long list of possible future features for the game removed prior to the game being formally released. The source code will be made available for players to work on their own features and content.
In short, Double Fine is pushing this title out the door without adding too much more to it and leaving its Early Access buyers to pick up the pieces.
Spacebase DF-9’s project lead JP LeBreton indicated this release was happening because “Spacebase had a strong launch in October of last year and while sales remained steady for a while afterwards, earlier this year it became clear that we would have to work towards wrapping up development” – or in other words, the pre-funding money being generated didn’t make the project viable up to a more feature complete version, so it’s getting released almost as-is.
A number of Spacebase DF-9’s purchasers are unhappy at this news since they weren’t expecting Double Fine to drop the ball as they have. For this title to grow will require others outside of Double Fine to develop for it, but at this point Double Fine would be the only party to financially benefit from this growth through increased game sales.
One justification I’ve seen used to handwave away any concern about pre-funding is that provided you pick a studio with a proven track record, you don’t have to worry. What’s happened with Spacebase DF-9 provides a counterpoint to that argument: that once you’ve paid your money to a pre-funded title it really is a gamble, no matter who is developing it.