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Fig: A new model of crowdfunding turns 'backers' into true 'investors'

Fig, a new crowdfunding platform, allows backers to become investors, sharing in the revenue of successful projects. Here's how the service is helping bring to life a sequel to Psychonauts, a cult classic video game.

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    Fig advisor and Double Fine Studios founder Tim Schafer announces the crowdfunding campaign for Psychonauts 2.
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When Psychonauts was released in 2005, the video game – following a young boy with psychic powers – was critically praised. Reviewers loved the game’s quirky dialogue, its diverse cast of characters, and its imaginative art design.

But Psychonauts wasn’t a hit with gamers, and sold so poorly at first that Majesco, the game’s publisher, actually left the video game market for a time before returning with more modest projects.

A decade later, however, Psychonauts has become a cult classic, and this week developer Double Fine announced that the game would get a sequel. And while Double Fine turned to Kickstarter to fund its previous game, Broken Age, the studio is planning to finance Psychonauts 2 through a new platform that allows backers to actually become investors. 

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That platform, called Fig, works in two different ways. People who want to help fund a video game can follow a Kickstarter-style model by chipping in a certain amount of money in exchange for a small reward, such as a T-shirt or having their name listed in the game’s credits. But Fig also allows them to choose to become investors in the game, giving money to Fig’s subsidiary publisher in exchange for a share of the revenue the game will generate if it’s a success.

People “can actually share in the royalties of the game,” Double Fine founder Tim Schafer, who is also a Fig advisor, told Gamespot. “If the game is a big, big hit, they can participate in that along with the developer.”

Fig has already had one hit. Its first game, Outer Wilds, blew through its $125,000 fundraising goal to raise more than $800,000 from backers and investors. It has also had one failure: Anchors in the Drift, a free-to-play PC game, that didn’t come close to its $500,000 goal.

Psychonauts 2, Fig’s third project, is by far the biggest; the game has a $3.3 million fundraising goal, and was 25 percent funded by Friday morning. Like Kickstarter, Fig is an all-or-nothing crowdfunding platform, so backers and investors are only charged if the project meets its fundraising goal.

Fig initially only allowed accredited investors – people with more than $1 million to their names – to invest in games during production. But thanks to an SEC decision in October to allow companies to sell securities through crowdfunding, the platform now allows anyone who wants to support a game to invest. As a protection to backers, Fig won’t allow anyone to pour more than 10 percent of their annual income into the Psychonauts 2 project, and the investment must be between $1,000 and $10,000.

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