If you've been following the news in the last few days you'll know that Critical Role has come out with a 45 day kickstarter aimed at creating an animated version of 'The Legend of Vox Machina'. As I write this they are most of the way through day two and they have raised more then 4x their total goal or just below five million USD.
Most of the people reading this are well aware of how popular Critical Role is but I'd predict that the fact that their popularity has just been monetized in such a major public way is going to have ramifications for our hobby and the wider world of entertainment. To understand why I think this you need to understand a few fundamental truths about business. First business (and yes this hobby is a business) is risky. People put up money and hope to make a return but that doesn't always pan out and they often end up losing money. This is even more true in entertainment. Hollywood accounting aside if you make a significant investment of both time and money to produce a product (movie, video game whatever) and it bombs at the box office the losses can mount pretty quickly. The second truth is that it is always better to gamble with other people's money. That is if you can get someone else to invest the money up front you are far better off in the long run. Sure you will have to give them a share of the profits but you won't go bankrupt if it fails. It is far better to make a smaller profit 20 times in a row then a big profit once followed by a bankruptcy. In summary raising money from other people is a far better route to follow when embarking on a risky business venture.
The interesting thing here is the Kickstarter model changes this situation and makes it far more advantageous for the business. Historically if I got a $10,000 investment for a percentage of my product I would then be on the hook to provide a percentage of the profits going forward. If the product turned into a hit that percentage would grow without bound. But with Kickstarter I can completely determine what I will owe to the investor and there is zero upside for them if the product should end up being fantastically successful. Even better if I structure it right many of the Kickstarter funders are actually paying me more then the particular reward tier is worth so I make money even if I never sell more of the product. In summary Kickstarter is an amazing way for a business to raise funds and most businesses would choose to use it if the option existed for them. We certainly have and will almost certainly go that route again in the future.
So why does this matter to Critical Role and the wider world of fandom? Well taking summary one and two together you see that a lot of business types just realized that there exists a fantastic funding source for fairly large scale projects particularly those that appeal to a loyal niche audience. Sure there have been major Kickstarters before but the combination of Critical Roles popularity and the eye popping sum they are about to raise will surely get attention from various interested parties. I would bet a significant amount of money that a major motion picture or video game franchise will try to follow the path Critical Role is currently blazing in the very near future. The end result will be more high quality content being created for niche audiences so this has to be viewed as a major win for our hobby and the wider entertainment ecosystem.