These days, many game developers are eschewing major publishers and trying to get their games launched through Kickstarter, followed by Early Access. With Kickstarter, the game developer uses a crowdfunding platform to raise money for their game project. Instead of borrowing money from a major publisher, indie developers turn to the general public for sponsorship. People that donate might get a pre-order bonus. Since they are avoiding major or mainstream publishers, they are called indie developers. The reason being is so they have full control over their project, IP (intellectual property), and including how the money is used.
For example, Iron Lore made the popular action RPG (role playing game) series Titan Quest for now defunct THQ but the Titan Quest IP belonged to THQ. Now, many of the staffers from Iron Lore have moved on to Crate Entertainment and are working on the spiritual successor to Titan Quest, which is called Grim Dawn. Crate Entertainment have already exceeded their Kickstarter goal and the game is currently in Early Access. Two Acts and four classes are currently available, with multiplayer planned to be added in the future.
Early Access is a sponsorship way of quality assurance control. Normally, a major publisher would pay QA testers, people with such experience, to try the game and look for bugs and errors. With Early Access, the public has to pay to play the game in advance and look for bugs, knowing that the game is incomplete. Some people do look for errors, others just pay just to play the game. As a result, the finished product might take longer and who knows if the game will be complete since the indie developer is getting free money with no strings attached. They're making a profit and they don't have to complete the game.
Now, Crate Entertainment is not one of those developers that are "stealing" money from the public. Anybody can see their progress from their official page or through Steam, which is offering Early Access. But there are some companies that do or have folded because of money incompetence. One recent example is Yogadventures. It raised $567,000 through Kickstarter, but experienced development difficulties and now the game is cancelled. All the Kickstarter supporters will get shit back.
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