The Needles

The Needles: "Crowd Contributed" Game Development: A Grim Dawn Breaks

Andy Chalk | 9 Feb 2010 17:00
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"On one hand, given the nature of our company and very low burn rate, it is very unlikely that we'd simply go bust. The project is of a small scale that we believe we can complete on our own dime and with our own sweat. Any additional funding is a bonus that could allow us to expand the amount of content in the game," he said. "On the other hand, if we plan to use pre-order money to help pad out our content, then once the money is spent on development of assets, it's gone. Should we somehow manage to bankrupt ourselves, we obviously won't have the money to be issuing refunds."

His advice? If you're worried about the risk, don't take it. "If people are really nervous about this potential worst-case scenario, I'd rather they hold onto their money until a later date," he added. "We don't want to cause anyone unnecessary anxiety over this."

Ironically, most of the anxiety appears to be coming not from gamers but from the companies that process the Grim Dawn pre-orders. Merchant service companies get antsy about taking money for a product that's such a long way from completion, because of concerns about potential chargebacks. Bruno said the original Grim Dawn pre-order page was actually taken down only a couple of days after it went live, because the first merchant services company Crate teamed with got cold feet. It was gone for almost two weeks before another, more reliable company was found to step in and take over. The community, on the other hand, appears considerably more enthusiastic.

"It never dawned on us that so many people would be willing to support us in this way before even seeing anything of substance. Even more surprisingly, most of the pre-orders have been for the most expensive version," Bruno said. "We priced it thinking that only a small portion of fans would buy it and that would help keep our alpha release from being too large. So that didn't quite go as intended, but I can think of worse things to complain about."

Crate has set its sights high: The Grim Dawn website says the game will "attempt to perfect the magical formula of exploration, character advancement and loot collection pioneered by Diablo." And while you're not liable to see Blizzard offering pre-order sales to help punch up Diablo 3 anytime soon, it's not too much of a stretch to envision this sort of user-supported funding becoming a common practice for small indie developers. After all, as Bruno noted, the idea of offering Grim Dawn pre-orders was inspired in part by the success of a similar program from fellow indie studio, Unknown Worlds, for the upcoming Natural Selection 2.

Grim Dawn is expected to launch sometime in 2011, and Bruno is hopeful that its future will be long and prosperous. "If Grim Dawn is a success, I think we'll be working on that franchise for years to come," he said. "One thing at a time, though."

Andy Chalk put his pre-order in yesterday. Want to help out? Learn more at

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