Kotaku Editorial:We Need Better Video Game Publishers

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Old 04 April 2013   #1
Kotaku Editorial:We Need Better Video Game Publishers

Quote:
"
Over the past eight or so years, we’ve all seen a worrying increase in the number of Western game development studios going bankrupt. We’re told this is due to the economic climate and that modern games cost more to make. Much of that is misdirection and plain old-fashioned bullshit.

I should know. I’ve been in the games industry for over a decade. While I’ve spent the bulk of that time working in development, as a designer, I also had a decent spell in publishing too.

In short, I’ve been on both sides of the fence.

In the previous console generation, the size of development teams was far smaller. Because of that, budgets were, too. One major platform, the PlayStation 2, dominated the market with an immense install base. All of that meant you had great profit margins.

By “you,” I mean the large game publishers.

The orgy of cash publishers enjoyed in the PS2 era made the majority of the management in games publishing complacent. A lot of people at the publishing companies made it into positions they wouldn’t normally have achieved. They were carried there by those large profits. Basically, they failed upwards.

These days, the market is much more fractured in terms of platforms. Games cost even more to make. And something has had to give."

http://kotaku.com/we-need-better-vi...shers-472880781
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Old 04 April 2013   #2
I think the importance of publishers will become less and less over time. More and more developers will be able to release games without the help of a publisher, and I think a lot of developers just need to have control over their own games and success, the idea being that they could fund the games themselves and then only use a publisher for distribution. Currently, publishers have as much control as they do because they fund so much of the game, if they don't fund the game then they don't have as much input on the game.
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Old 04 April 2013   #3
Originally Posted by darthviper107: I think the importance of publishers will become less and less over time. More and more developers will be able to release games without the help of a publisher, and I think a lot of developers just need to have control over their own games and success, the idea being that they could fund the games themselves and then only use a publisher for distribution. Currently, publishers have as much control as they do because they fund so much of the game, if they don't fund the game then they don't have as much input on the game.


I don't know, games are getting more and more expensive to make. Not to mention marketing.

Sure distribution won't be a big deal as things go digital, but that's just one use of publishers.
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Old 04 April 2013   #4
Originally Posted by Michael5188: I don't know, games are getting more and more expensive to make. Not to mention marketing.

Sure distribution won't be a big deal as things go digital, but that's just one use of publishers.


Games are more expensive if you have to feed two mouths and one mouth is really hungry.

I think most developers/publishers over reach themselves. I've heard that most of the budgets for big games can go on voice actors and cutscenes and other extraneous stuff which doesnt really make the game any better.

I dont know why developers dont start working towards, and put a small amount of time into making their work more efficient. Figuring out how to increase their workflow, whats slowing them down, how to reuse assets better. I guess I know, they dont have the time.

Maybe this collapse in developers could be manufactured by the publishers. They want to buy up the indies or the remainder of studios for cheaper.
 
Old 04 April 2013   #5
Yes, costs would not be so bad if they didn't have to make so many changes to a game, it's a waste when you have people making assets that don't get used because someone changed their mind.

--developers do that too though, Bioshock Infinite while a really fantastic game took a really long time to make, there was a massive amount of stuff that was designed and not used for the game and a lot of stuff that ended up very different in the final game.
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Old 04 April 2013   #6
This is one reason I like the way things work in the Japanese industry. (at least in manga and anime, I am not up on the latest games) The top down approach is entirely flipped. This means that all stages of the pipeline are there to serve the artist. (although this is changing from what I hear) In Japan, an artist wants to create something. This is not to say editors and publishers never make changes to an artists vision, but they are still there to support the artist. Stores sell what they are given.

There is only one line we need to consider in that article as the root of the problem. "We know that big budget games currently need to sell millions to just make their money back."

In the US, often, stores with limited shelf space say THIS is what is selling, so we need more of THIS! And so the distributors/publishers say, clearly we have to make more of THIS if we want to be on those store shelves in grab the eyes of customers. So they hire a development studio, or team of artists, or go to one that is already working on something and say, you have to make THIS, because that is the only thing we can publish and sell. This thing you already have going isn't too bad, but we can make few changes, which becomes a lot of changes, to turn it into THIS! The consumer has no say in the matter because they keep buying THIS, and then complain about it endlessly on forums like these.
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Old 04 April 2013   #7
Originally Posted by teruchan: This is one reason I like the way things work in the Japanese industry. (at least in manga and anime, I am not up on the latest games) The top down approach is entirely flipped. This means that all stages of the pipeline are there to serve the artist. (although this is changing from what I hear) In Japan, an artist wants to create something. This is not to say editors and publishers never make changes to an artists vision, but they are still there to support the artist. Stores sell what they are given.


I have observed this also in the Philippines. But I think it's more like agents, publishers, and merchants keep an "open door" policy and if you are an artist, inventor, visionary, you kinda sit through them like you're speed-dating.

Because of this, honestly, we don't see as many, "hard-prepped" projects or IP... and because a lot of artists or inventors aren't that good at selling themselves or their ideas, sometimes things fall out before they get started. Another downside is that many agents, publishers, or investors in the Philippines (can't speak for rest of Asia), don't always understand fully what they are looking at upstream, and then things foul up downstream (even if costs are lower).

Then if it all fails, everybody just buries it.

It is important to note though that in either model, once success is attained at the scale that was stated in the original post, ANYONE can start making mistakes and over-investing in this area or that.... Success and profits piling up make it extremely difficult to really spot problems or errors. You need a really really defensive viewpoint to stay on the narrow path and really drill down what is driving success.

The problem is sometimes you are seeking more success and that usually requires doing NEW things that weren't part of the original formula. And that's when anybody can trip up.

Even artist driven properties that became wildly successful like TSR's Dungeons and Dragons really lost the plot even with retaining the original artists and leadership. They squandered their stratospheric earnings on things like D&D lunchboxes, D&D inflatable boats....
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Old 04 April 2013   #8
The topic says publisher. That is interesting.

But it sees that the market are moving slowly to 'platform publisher' model. For example ipad and android. You have app store and google store. So there is developer, platform publisher, users.

This is moving to the main OS via Windows Store. With some console are start to open, and being soft to developer (eg: Nintendo), and the availability of compatible engine such as Unity (which can be used to develop Wii U games), I wonder if these publishing model will start coming to consoles.

I know what Microsoft did with XBOX and XNA does not stop the AAA games publishing model, but when budget becomes too big and making profit becomes too hard (and therefore, closed down like THR), I wonder if we return to 'gameplay is king' model.
 
Old 04 April 2013   #9
The Kotaku article also mentions a dangerous association Publishers make between Games and Films.

This is not just a design issue.... since 2002 I have observed that many developers were being made to chase a "Blockbuster Film" hit or bust budget model.

I always felt this was a dangerous direction because you cannot nearly sell a film as many ways as you could a game back in 2002 and pretty much so still cannot do that today.
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Old 04 April 2013   #10
The process has to be perilous otherwise it is no longer interesting. There is always a boom and lag except with a technical revelation like talkies which silent movies never recovered This kind of thing will be the next morph for games and film which will be true 3d. When games achieve this (and it is being worked on) there will be another boom I reckon.

Are publishers doing a bad job? I dunno, I only ever returned one game made by a German studio. As Germans are great artists and considering the cost of putting something on the shelf there was no excuse. That was only one time though. I think consumers cannot constantly support a non essential product formula for ever, especially if it remains largely unchanged. Decline facilitates innovation.

It is the way of things grasshoppy.
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Old 04 April 2013   #11
Are you drinking and posting again, Kanga?
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Old 04 April 2013   #12
Originally Posted by ThE_JacO: Are you drinking and posting again, Kanga?

I don't drink, I guzzle
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Old 04 April 2013   #13
Originally Posted by ThE_JacO: Are you drinking and posting again, Kanga?


Actually he does have a point. No single formula can last forever... and while formulae run they can lull people into complacency.

The problem that many people are in the wrong jobs is also a problem that dates back to the Industrial Revolution.

The Kotaku article kind of implies that many fans of games have more knowledge about the product than the highest executive relied upon to guide the product. That's true in many other industries as well.

Perhaps some basic prudence and guidelines in how to run your business would help. But again, as in the example of TSR, and before them SGI, and before them ATARI, success is really its own minefield.

The problem cited in the Kotaku article pins it on Publishers, but I think the root causes of it can be anywhere upstream or downstream in a production.
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Old 04 April 2013   #14
There is definitely something in the air with the gaming industry and change is on its way. I don't know if it is simply down to publishers though but, after reading the article, it seems to clarify somethings I've noticed with AAA games.

Big budgets don't make for good or great games, we all know that. While big budgets can help developers hire very talented people for the job, its only worth it if you give the big pot of gold to the right people and let them do their job. Then, they should butt they're noses out!

Since the article drew parallels to film, all you have to do is look at what happens when a moronic producer, who knows nothing about film making, interferes in the film making process just because its their money. I respect that worry of fronting up ones own money on a project like a film but, the second they start messing about with the people who have done it before and done it well, then they are the ones who are causing the risk.

If publishers are to blame like the article outlined, then they are the same as the hair dressers-turned movie producers of the film industry.

I don't know if it is a contributing factor, but the article didn't mention tablet and mobile gaming. I used to be an avid gamer growing up but now, since I work in the gaming industry myself, I don't really have the time to do console gaming like I once did. I do, however, play games on my iPad quite a bit and I think there are more and more people warming to casual gaming.

The other thing I've noticed, be it in my daily work (and the research I do), or be it from threads on this forum, is that the indie market is growing and people are getting really excited about indie games. While games are costing more to make out there in the big studio pond, on the other side of the coin, they are not. Smaller teams are able to execute big ideas quicker I think and indie game makers are willing to try to make something a little out of the box (more risky) because it would cost less to make.

My final thought is that there will be a few more developers who suffer a similar fate in the coming years, but there will be more developers who decide to publish their own games and find funding else where. Kickstarter comes to mind, but there are other ways too.
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Old 04 April 2013   #15
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