prison architect long.jpgAt a time when Kickstarter is the way for developers to bypass publishers and pull in investments directly from fans, one indie studio has decided to cut out the middleman -- to great effect.

UK-based Introversion, best known for Uplink, Defcon, and Darwinia, recently launched a crowd-funding effort on its own website. It looks incredibly similar to Kickstarter, with the obvious bonus that there's no other company taking a chunk of the intake.

It appears that the more direct Kickstarter/Minecraft approach is working wonders for Prison Architect too -- as is notable from the sales figures image below, the game has made over $270,000 in two weeks, with nearly 8,000 sales total.

"Kickstarter is for getting projects off the ground, and we were already two years into Prison Architect's development so it just didn't sit well for us," explains Introversion co-founder Mark Morris.

"By doing it ourselves, we don't have to time limit the alpha, and we hope that we'll get more and more gamers interested as we progress and start releasing the updates."

alpha sales.jpgClick to enlarge
Morris also notes that his studio simply had no idea what target to aim for, making a Kickstarter campaign even more difficult -- says the Introversion man, "By controlling the process ourselves, we can shape our development to the success of the alpha.

"We don't have to pay the Kickstarter fees which is nice, but I guess Kickstarter may have added value if they had listed us as a featured project," he adds. "We also had to take the time to set up our own technology to implement the tiering. We used a service called Digital Delivery App, which I can really recommend, but it did take effort on our part."

One of the most interesting parts of the current sales figures is that the $50 tier (in which backers can put their own name and persona into the final product as a prisoner) is the second best-selling tier, after the base $30 tier. Is it simply the idea of injecting your own name into the game that is causing people to grab this tier in spades?

"I think they're actually buying something much more than that," reasons Morris. "They're paying to help Introversion finish the game and assist in molding the direction the game takes and the features and gameplay that we create."

"There's a huge amount of generosity out there and I think the people who go for the 'Name in the Game' tier are proud of what they've done and want to be able to point to their prisoner and say -- I helped make that!"

Off the back of this success, and with Kickstarter successes happening regularly, does Morris think there's any space for publishers anymore?

"I think publishers add value for triple-A titles, but that's it," he tells us. "At the small and medium level, there is absolutely no benefit from working with a publisher."

He adds, "I firmly believe that developers are best place to form the relationship with Steam and control the marketing and PR for a game launch. Publishers are completely redundant in the indie world."

[Mike Rose wrote this article, which originally appeared on Gamasutra.]