An Example of Indie Game Patronage

by Darius Kazemi on May 6, 2009

in art,business,indie,patronage,publishing

A while back I wrote a massive post offering my thoughts on patronage models for video game development. I noticed this morning that Daniel Benmergui’s new game, Today I Die, comes with a notice:

This game is ad-free thanks to an unusual individual.

I emailed Daniel to ask if this was a patronage situation, and he said yes, so I pressed a little further.

It seems like this is the timeline: Daniel emailed an early build of the game out to some of his trusted associates. I was on this list, and I remember playing and loving the game, and I also distinctly remember that Daniel was looking for advertisers to support the game.

Apparently one of these people liked the game and made Daniel an offer to support the game. “He wanted to see the game ad-free in a clean website,” said Daniel in an email to me. There were no other demands beyond that. The patron did offer some creative input, but he didn’t demand final say on anything. And to be fair, everyone seeing the early builds of the game had creative input; Daniel specifically asked us to critique and contribute.

“I shared the betas and alphas of the game with a sizable chunk of people,” he says. “This is another reason why I believe it’s a good idea to share your early work with people you trust… things get moving even before you release a game.”

This is an interesting precedent for a patronage model of game development, although Daniel himself isn’t sure it’s a repeatable occurance.

Which brings me to the next bit of interesting news: Daniel is pursuing a variable patronage model for his next game. This is the kind of stuff I examined in the “Patronage and the Internet” section of my article on patronage, and is very reminiscent of 20×200.

If you haven’t heard of it, 20×200 is a website that showcases the work of visual artists. They have prints available of the art, in different stages:

  • an 8″x10″ print for $20, in a limited edition of 200
  • a 17″x22″ print for $200, in a limited edition of 20
  • a 30″x40″ print for $2000, in a limited edition of 2

This creates scarcity, which encourages patronage. As a patron, you want a unique work of art to call your own: knowing that you own one of only two prints in the world of a particular piece is a great motivator for dropping $2k on a work of art.

Daniel is doing something very similar on his site, combining it with the model we see at Wolfgang Baur’s Open Design. He is offering Moon Stories Pack for free (a collection of all his free games plus some extra goodies), and is asking for a donation to support the creation of his next game. Depending on how much you donate, you get to put your stamp on his next game in a unique way:

  • Donations up to $26: congratulations, you’ve helped Daniel out!
  • $27-$74: you get your name in the credits along with a link of your choice. There are 19 of these available.
  • $75-496: you get a portrait of yourself (or whoever) in the style of the Moon Stories games. Nine available.
  • $497-$994: he’ll make you a custom version of one of his games, modeling the characters after anyone you choose (a great romantic gift, I might add). He will make only two of these.
  • $995+: you get a version of Moon or Today with an ending customized for you. There is only one of these available. [Edit: someone snagged it!]

I think this is a fascinating experiment, and I hope he publishes a post mortem of how it goes. I would love to know if anyone donates in the upper range for any of the custom work!


Arrakiv May 6, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Huh, that is rather different. I’m curious to see how this next project of his will go over with that idea behind it.

George Austin May 6, 2009 at 7:06 pm

I am in love with non-traditional revenue streams! Greg Stolze released a few games using ransom-model patronage (and brought others along for the ride), and Andrew Hussie did fan-requested game commands for a while…

solipsistnation May 6, 2009 at 11:22 pm

I just played Today I Die and totally dug it. If this weren’t a kind of touch month to start with (moving house and so on) I’d be throwing him some funds. Perhaps his next game…

Jurie May 7, 2009 at 7:21 am

There were also some stories recently about musicians using a similar model – with $25K getting you a private concert in one case.

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