Perils of Pre-Funding: Double Fine Pushes Unready Spacebase DF-9 To Release

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.

A picture of an unfinished jigsaw puzzle; the pieces are multiple colours

Double Fine may have provided some of the pieces, but it will be up to players to make their own if they want to see Spacebase DF-9 in its full glory. (Image sourced from: rgbstock)

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.

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2 thoughts on “Perils of Pre-Funding: Double Fine Pushes Unready Spacebase DF-9 To Release

  1. I don’t quite get what this fuss is all about. You put some money in some project and you are only guaranteed to … put that money in. Everything else is a bonus if it gets to release stage. Early access is even worse, because you put money in some halfbaked product (or worse), which may as well be abandoned quickly or stay in early access for years. If one is willing to spend that money, he should not whine when it doesn’t meet his expectations. It’s a gamble really as you said.

    By the way, some AAA titles should be labeled early access too on release. 🙂 Anyway, it’s funny label as gaming industry has been plagued by buggy, faulty, missing features, hardly working releases for years now. Hence I buy games at discount 3-5 years after, usually with DLCs (another plague) bundled as well. And I still have more games than time to play. Also by this time my PC is good enough for ultra quality graphics. Win, win, win for me.
    Surely if all gamers were like that, industry would die quickly. :p

    • I also end up buying games a long time after they actually come out, which is why I’m currently working my way through Assassin’s Creed 3.

      I think the difference is that if you buy a game at launch you are at least protected that the game features should live up to the ones that are promised on the box and that you can cancel that pre-order and spend that money elsewhere. With pre-funding, you are paying for the promise of a game and the features may completely change between paying your money and seeing the game released (if it ever does).

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