Gamer Hate

Belligerently lacking in remorse.

Monday, June 2, 2008

We Trust You but You’re Doing It Wrong!
The Publisher’s Gambit

It’s a sad and sorry fact that the vast majority of game companies don’t control their own cash flow. In order to make a game they need money, and the people with money are the publishers. The publisher is who these game companies attempt to pitch their games to in order to convince them to give them money so they can fully make and sell the game. The publisher is the one the game companies sell themselves to when they’ve run out of funds. The publisher is the first to reap the rewards of a game’s sales. The publisher is God to the game developer…

But this isn’t the benevolent all knowing all seeing God that the Christ-pushers would have us believe in. No, this is a spiteful backstabbing evil God that wants only to reap and rape the benefits of a game developer’s hard work. You will find the majority of them unwilling to try something new and bold, and you will find they are quick to point you towards making a game that has already been made. Gears of War just came out? Make a Gears of War killer. People like Call of Duty 4, make a 1st person war simulation. World of Warcraft is popular, make a MMORPG.

That’s right, if you see a trend in video games and silently curse to yourself, “Why the fuck are they making another one of THOSE?!” then you now know who to blame. The publisher controls the money and the publisher wants a sure bet. If 1st person military shooters are popular, you can bet your ass that they’re going to push anyone pitching a game to them in that direction (even if they’ve already got 3 in development). They’re also more likely to fund a 1st person military shooter so most game companies will be pitching that to them anyways. In fact, the only way you’re likely to see a game that isn’t just like everything else on the market, is if they’ve either funded their own “creative” game development team, or someone with a lot of money decides to fund one themselves.

The sad truth is, a publisher is a group of people. A group of people with a lot of money and weighty decisions to make about how that money is best put to use. Since this group of people has to agree on what they’re going to bet their money on, do you think they’re going to try something off the wall that none of them can agree on, or would they put it on something that is similar to an already successful game or franchise? Sadly, the answer is obvious.

But let’s say you happen to get your amazing game pitch through and the publisher has decided to fund it. No matter what the publisher says to you about letting you do the game to your own specifications, there will come a point in time (usually around a critical milestone or towards the end of the development cycle) where they will bring in a certifiable imbecile who will crap all over your game and try to make it more like something that’s successful and already on the market. Yes, even when they say they trust you, they really do not. The only company in the entire history of the game industry where I’ve seen publishers give their honest and full fledged trust to a game developer was Blizzard Entertainment. So you can see that the bar is… pretty high.

What you can expect once development is in full swing, is a constant uphill battle as the publisher tries to push you towards the mainstream and what’s known to be successful and you try to make something unique and new that people have never seen before. What you will end up with at the end of the day, is something that attempts to be like something successful already on the market, but fails because it was not initially designed with that in mind. All thanks to the wonderful publisher who will now never trust you with another dollar again because you’ve fucked over a “sure thing.”

It’s a sad and sorry state of affairs, but there is some hope in the independent market. You see, they don’t have nit-picky publishers like the larger game companies do. They are pretty much their own boss as far as I can tell, and they call all the shots at the end of the day. There’s a certain beauty to that, but also a danger. When you make a game with just one creative vision, the cohesiveness is bound to be amazing, but whether or not that reaches out to the larger populace is a crap-shoot. In fact, it’s quite likely to only appeal to a very small minority. Without commercial success the end result is a failure and no future development on those independent games. Japan seems to be going through this phase right now, and their current solution is to give their franchises to American game developers in the hopes that they will make their games more mainstream.

More on that later…

posted by CommanderHate at 2:12 am  


  1. And that’s why Blizzard is leading in their genre, and that’s why other companies are just following their tail.

    Comment by Kohyunu — June 7, 2008 @ 4:01 am

  2. let’s hope this is another studio or company out there like blizzard but for the other types of games.

    i guess its true that once something becomes too mainstream is also becomes that much crappier, i.e games in a sense were “better” then now and the trend of doing something that “sells” is very evident ( DMC, Halo, Street figther, etc)

    Comment by dan szilagyi — June 26, 2008 @ 3:47 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Powered by WordPress