An interesting article on GamaSutra profiles Crate Entertainment, and the innovative techniques they’re using to help fund development of their Diablo-clone action RPG Grim Dawn. They’re taking pre-orders years in advance, selling beta test spots, and even offering naming rights for in-game items. Talk about DiabloWikiRMT!

    Crate was founded by Arthur Bruno and Eric Campanella, formerly of now-defunct developer Iron Lore Entertainment, which released the well-reviewed 2006 PC action RPG Titan Quest. In 2008, newly-formed Crate planned to develop a console RPG called Black Legion, but an overall pullback on new project funding in the industry led the group to return to the area it knows best: PC-exclusive, Diablo-inspired action RPGs.

    The “thematically darker” single- and multiplayer game has now been revealed to be Grim Dawn, set in a Victorian-inspired age when a nearly-extinct human society is caught in the middle of a devastating conflict between warring races.

    Crate doesn’t shy away from the term “Diablo clone” on its own website. The genre has received a bit of a boost in visibility in the years since Titan Quest was released, in no small part due to the announcement of Blizzard’s own constantly-delayed Diablo III, as well as the recent success of Runic Games’ Torchlight.

    Torchlight launched at $20, and Crate is selling Grim Dawn preorders for the same price, but it’s also offering fans the chance to place a greater stake in the game. The preorder page offers two higher contribution tiers: the $32 Epic Fan Edition, which confers beta test access, an in-game item, and a name in the game’s credits, while the $48 Legendary Fan Edition adds alpha test access to that package (along with “holy reverence” on the part of the team).

    While this sounds strange, it’s just a sort of re-sequencing of events. After all, sales are what fund all games; they’re just usually all on the back end. Gaming companies secure loans to cover their operating expenses during the long development time, and pay back those loans and make a profit (if all goes well) once the game is released. The concept of using pre-sales to support development is just a new approach, although it’s sort of putting the cart before the horse.

    This isn’t exactly an issue Blizzard developers must grapple with, but how about the concept? Would you guys pitch in and pre-order if a game the developers needed the support? If you know you’re going to buy a game anyway, why not buy it a year or two early, to ensure that it is released at all? (Just don’t expect a refund if the project disintegrates and the game is never released at all.)

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