This month Kickstarter launched its first UK based projects. Before then the only way to fund a UK based project through the site was a convoluted setup where you would have to 'fake' a US presence by having a US based phone number, forwarding address and bank account. This was an inconvenient workaround, to say the least.
However, now they have opened up the site to UK users which is fantastic news for anyone thinking of launching a creative project that requires funding. Ok, so Kickstarter isn't the only crowdfunding site out there (run a Google search for 'crowdfunding' and a whole selection will pop up, including Indiegogo and Crowdfunder), but it's certainly the most recognised name and tends to attract the biggest projects and thousands of potential backers.
Here's the science bit...For anyone unsure how crowdfunding works, here are the basics. If you are trying to launch a new game, or a short film or piece of software, you post an appeal on the site which consists of a description of your project and what you hope to achieve, and then offer rewards or incentives to people in return for donations. These can be modest incentives in return for $10 (or £10 now) but can go up into thousands of pounds for huge rewards. It's a great way of spreading the load among hundreds of people who are looking for something new and exciting on which to spend their money, and simultaneously give them a unique experience or product and give them the chance to be part of something a bit more personal than just another new game produced by a faceless company.
|Some moments from the Kickstarter video campaign by game development project Objecty|
One exciting example of this is one of the very first UK Kickstarter projects by a small, new company called SKN3. They are working on an fascinating new game development tool called Objecty. This is aimed at helping 2D game developers create animated characters for their games in an intuitive and efficient way. Rather than having to draw out every single frame of every character's animations (normally a laborious task, at best) Objecty gives the user complete control over individual parts of the character (for instance, head, arms, legs, eyes etc... ). All you have to do is assign start and end points for each element, and Objecty will fill in the intervening frames to give you smoothly rendered, realistic animation. This is all done in a way to minimise the memory size of the graphics used in your games - an important consideration particularly when designing for smartphones and tablets. In addition to this are tools for editing game levels, setting collision detection attributes between game characters and the backgrounds and building realistic physics into games.
Power ShiftFor a small software company producing such a powerful and professional development tool, crowdfunding is a vital source of funding. It gives smaller businesses, well, a kick-start to cover those dreaded overheads which could otherwise only be overcome by large companies. It is also the latest shift of power towards independent operators within an industry previously dominated by the major players. We have already seen major transformations in a similar way in the music, literature and film industries, with people able to produce polished and professional works at minimal cost from their bedrooms and publish them online for a worldwide audience. Crowdfunding theoretically makes this possible in many other industries.
It was long predicted that the popularity of the Internet would lead to much more targeted advertising based on an individual's tastes. I suspect it has been much more of a surprise to find it is also enabling individuals to create and source products according to their tastes as well. I bet the mega-corporations didn't see that coming.