This seems to be exactly the publisher's point of view. If you consider marketing, development costs, console licensing fees, ... paying everyone involved in the project and to make sure that there's still profit left over for everyone involved, then 20.000 people buying your game is not that much.
However, for me this kickstarter project is kind of the opposite of pirating, where the developer gets the money before the development process has even started and they don't need to worry if they will break even, since the original goal has already been reached anyway.
Plus, as already mentioned several times, they cut out the middle-man with this approach, so that this could definitely open doors for new & interesting projects.
Even though 20.000 is not much for a publisher of a AAA title, I am pretty sure that the final amount will turn heads in the gaming industry and might spawn some new developer <-> customer relationships similar to this kickstarter funding.
Maybe even Kickstarter is the dual(1) of pirating?
1. The publisher in this case has a track record, so there is less risk involved.
2. $15 for an adventure game sounds "well priced"
3. There is a bit of risk reversal on the pledgers since the game might turn out to be awful. This is compared to buying a game after it has been reviewed.
4. However, the risk is only $15
5. There is much nostalgia, and even if $15 is wasted, it would have been a nice way to thank Tim for the good times in the past.
6. Presumably the game might cost a little bit more when it is released.
7. What happens if the publishers blow out their budget? It is a sizeable team.
8. If the game does blow up in their faces, there will be video evidence of it for all the backers to enjoy.
I didn't have time to expand on the ideas.
On top of that this is an old school adventure game being made by Tim Shafer and Ron Gilbert - the two people who INVENTED the genre. It's a perfect storm of success.
I just remembered how i was sitting in my room in front of my Amiga 500 and 12 floppy disks to play Monkey Island 2 - good times !
The only surprise with this is that you wonder why he didn't do it already.
Schafer is the kind of guy who wins awards and accolades, but doesn't move as many millions as, say, "Call of Duty 45: Modern Ware 38: Future Warfare." His stuff is wildly inventive, but it's quirky and plays to a (relatively) niche audience.
But I'd argue that Schafer and Kickstarter are a great pair, precisely because of that dynamic. He's got his fanbase. While that fanbase is smaller than the Big Studio Franchise customer base, it's much more devoted. And if he can work directly with his loyal fanbase, ideally even growing it in the process, then he can do well financially and operate with greater creative freedom.
Not precisely since it was followed by Escape from Monkey Island, but yeah Grim basically shuttered LucasArts adventure games, which in turn shuttered the adventure games genre until its revival starting ~2007 (Zack & Wiki, Broken Sword, Sam&Max Save the World, Strong Bad, Tales of Monkey Island, Machinarium, ...)
Total cumulative worldwide sales are estimated
between 100,000 and 500,000 units.  The game is commonly considered a commercial
failure,  even though LucasArts has stated that "Grim Fandango met domestic expectations and
exceeded them worldwide".
Publishers are ever-increasingly risk-averse - particularly when modern console games cost as much as they do to produce (eg. >$50MM). Movie licenses and sequels tend to do well, so that's where bulk of the money goes.
More innovative/creative games, (and Double Fine's are definitely in this category), are often critical successes, but perform poorly in financial terms. (We could argue as to whether this is due to people simply not wanting those kind of games, or whether it's due to publishers not committing to really pushing them).
I'm really glad to see Tim trying something like this, and really, really hope it works out. I'd love to see another viable mechanism for indie game development.
People like to chalk this up to the publishers being stupid or conservative, and there may be some elements of that. But I doubt a publisher would leave money on the table if it was as sure of a bet as the internet community makes it out to be.
No different than the movie business. Publisher's want $100M hits, not $10M hits.
Can we get a Kickstarter project going for an open-engine, updated graphics, Grim Fandango?
I think that's a case where it shouldn't be too much of a risk.
It's a pretty big risk too. But for a digital project like this with a limited number of physical rewards that risk is pretty small.
For a project that's about physical production there are serious risks that smart folks should be wary of. It's one thing to produce a limited run of products (say, a few hundred) it's another thing to have to produce tens of thousands in order to satisfy pre-orders. For example, you might have a small team manufacturing stuff and you might be able to stretch out your production run from a minimum of a few days or weeks up to a year or so and that'll buy you a factor of 10 in production output, but if you get 100x or 1,000x pre-orders you may have to go to a dramatically different production system and hire staff, which could be enormously risky.
Updated graphics: http://forums.residualvm.org/viewtopic.php?t=100
Imagine if the world didn't have ice cream or steak? How much money would you pay to live in a world with those things?
There is no doubt in my mind that Double Fine will obliterate the record.
I think chances are good then since they've quite surpassed their initial goal!
"Additional money means it can appear on more platforms, be translated into more languages, have more music and voice..."
So if money keeps rolling in like it has, chances are good they'll have the cash to make the game multi platform.
Nikodemus Siivola used it to fund SBCL threading improvements: http://www.indiegogo.com/SBCL-Threading-Improvements-1
limited-edition action figures
dinner with the devs
cool gold-colored cd/dvd/usbkey/etc with the software
your likeness as a minor character
limited-edition plush toys