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Are Game Publishers a Necessary Evil, Or Just Necessary? 173

Posted by Soulskill
from the everybody-loves-ea-right dept.
An editorial at GameSetWatch examines whether game publishers really deserve all the flak they get from gamers and developers alike. While some questionable decisions can certainly be laid at their feet, they're also responsible for making a lot of good game projects happen. Quoting: "The trouble comes when the money and the creativity appear to be at odds. ... Developers and publishers often have a curious relationship. The best analogy I can think of is that of parent and child. The publisher or parent thinks it knows best, because it's been there before (shipped more games), and because 'it's my money, so you'll live by my rules.' The developer — or child — is rebellious, and thinks it has all the answers. In many ways, it does know more than the parent, and is closer to what's innovative, but maybe hasn't figured out how to hone that energy yet."
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Are Game Publishers a Necessary Evil, Or Just Necessary?

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  • Terrible analogy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by abionnnn (758579) on Friday October 23, 2009 @05:15AM (#29843997)
    In a way, you may or may not need a publisher depending on what you're developing. A lot of the generic titles that the "industry" keeps pumping out require a publisher for marketing such a mediocre game. But then you get the unconventional games whose development is actually hampered by having a publisher breathe down your neck and make games easier for the general public.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Canazza (1428553)

      this is why Steam is such a panacea for indie gaming. It's essentially a publisher you can go to once you've finished your game and go 'lookie what I did, sell this for me please', and a similar thing for XLBA. The only problem is that they don't pony up any cash for you mid-development.

    • Re:Terrible analogy (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ivucica (1001089) on Friday October 23, 2009 @06:12AM (#29844237) Homepage
      By not having a publisher, you don't have a way to reach the audience. In short -- without publisher, you can usually shove your unconventional game up your you-know-what, since it won't have audience and won't sell. Without a publisher, the distributors (online and offline) tend to send you away. Guess how I know what a difference a publisher makes.
      • by poetmatt (793785)

        If you are relying on a publisher to get the name out, either a:your game sucks, or b: your game sucks.

        Plenty of people can get their name out without, a good game will get coverage anyway by worth of mouth.

        • by ivucica (1001089)
          Having no success with word of mouth doesn't mean the game sucks, it's just that it isn't superb. You are overestimating the viral effect which doesn't score in most cases. Go and record your cat doing weird stuff, upload on YouTube. Will it go viral?

          This is especially true in casual game market, when you have hundreds of online distribution sites, and some of those advertise as having a new game every day.

          How can you, in your sane mind, recommend counting on word of mouth for the game that your compan
          • by poetmatt (793785)

            It's not a matter of viral. It's a matter of paying someone to do legwork that can reasonably be done yourself. Make a website, link to it in a million ways/places without it being obtrusive. What do you know, people start getting interest!

        • by Talgrath (1061686)

          Bullshit. What was the last game you played that you really enjoyed that didn't have a publisher? What was the last game you played that was well known (by the public at large) that didn't have a publisher? Making a great game is good, but it doesn't pay the bills unless you can sell it to somebody.

        • Plenty of people can get their name out without, a good game will get coverage anyway by worth of mouth.

          After a while. Eventually. Most people don't want to wait 5 years and don't have the money to self-promote, though. Look how many open source programs are great and not popular.

        • Really? It'll sell itself, will it? And yes, that is what you're claiming. Shall we starting a talley of how many great products have failed because of this idiotic mentality?

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Did badanalogyguy write the article? Comparing developers with children and publishers with parents is a worse analogy than anything I've ever seen badanalogy guy ever post. It's not that the publishers "know best"; they don't, but parents in fact DO know best and are looking out for their kids' best interests, even at the cost of giving up their own best interests. Publishers aren't looking out for developers' best interests, they're looking out for the stockholders' best interests. When it comes to game d

      • by Talgrath (1061686) on Friday October 23, 2009 @09:53AM (#29846131)

        The Original DOOM and Wolfenstein had only a handful of guys making them. Seeing as how software development tools are far less primitive than they were twenty years ago when these games came out, I don't understand how they can spend millions developing today's games. Except for the graphics I don't see any difference in today's games, except that they just aren't as fun.

        If you don't like today's games, then why did you just write about a page on it? While I will admit that badly run publishers can kill great games by under budgeting or pushing the game out the door too soon, well-run publishers produce a lot of great games that people find to be fun. If you're not having fun anymore then I'm terribly sorry to hear that, but video games today have a larger audience than ever; do you honestly think people are buying these games out of charity to the companies? They're buying them because they are having fun with them; this isn't just due to the developers but also due to the publishers.

        In a way the publisher being a parent is a fairly decent analogy, just not quite right; the publisher wants you to do well so that they can benefit. I'd say it's more equivalent to the relationship between a manager and another employee; good managers want you to do well so they can benefit as well to make them look good and get the work done. Much like a manager, a publisher that doesn't put any restraint on a developer and just lets them do whatever they please they put out crap like Too Human, if they put too much restraint on a developer they get an underfunded wreck of a game. Some developers already have the proper focus to create something great others don't just like human beings; good managers are there to help their employees just like good publishers. When publishers just let developers create in a "free" environment we've generally gotten shitty games; Too Human, that X-Box game series that died after the first game came out (can't remember the name of it off the top of my head), Daikatana and others are examples of what happens when developers don't have proper focus and are basically just given money.

        As to what all the money goes to in development, an awful lot of it goes to paying employees; anyone who hasn't been sleeping under a rock for the past two decades or so knows that most development teams now encompass teams of dozens of highly talented people. The increase of personnel has largely been due to the fact that computer programming has grown even more complex (note that computer software has seen a similar increase) and that most games today have more content in them. More people creating means you need more office space and generally have more overhead etc etc. Finally, marketing has also become more necessary (though the costs have mostly stayed the same compared to inflation) and those fancy new tools for development cost money to make too.

        If you really don't like publishers just put your money where your mouth is (and maybe you already have, given that you claim you don't play new games because they aren't as fun) and don't buy any games put out by a publisher. Or if (as you may have just realized) most games you can play today have a publisher, then don't buy from Activision, EA, Ubisoft, Sega, Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft as those are the biggest publishers in America right now. But those of you reading this aren't going to do that, are you? You'll bitch about publishers whenever they nix a game you think you may have liked or drop a series you like, but ultimately you'll still go out and buy the best games out there. For all the supposed evil of publishers, they're funding, shipping and advertising most (if not all of) your favorite games and game series; bitch whine and moan as much as you like but in capitalism your vote is your money and an awful lot of people are voting "yes" for publishers.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          I'd say it's more equivalent to the relationship between a manager and another employee

          Which is what the relationship actually is. So's the relationship between an actor and a movie studio or a relationship between a musician and a record label.

          anyone who hasn't been sleeping under a rock for the past two decades or so knows that most development teams now encompass teams of dozens of highly talented people

          That was my point. Back "in the day" it was maybe a dozen or less highly talented people. With today's

    • It is a lot easier to think about this whole concept if you think about the publisher as simply an investor. Investors are going to do everything they can to make sure they make their money back and publishers are the same way. If that means forcing developers to alter games to give them more mass market appeal, so be it. Does this suck? Yeah, sure, but it's nothing that you and I wouldn't do if it was our money on the line. There is a reason a shareholder gets a vote in the company whose stock he owns. The

  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Friday October 23, 2009 @05:16AM (#29844001) Homepage Journal
    Useful but not necessary. Their alignment would appear to be chaotic/neutral. Rolling aggainst DEX for an FP...
    • by arth1 (260657)

      Since you mentioned trademarks of Dungeons & Dragons(tm)(r)(c)(sm).
      Judging by the releases over the last few years, as well as the reaction of the actual developers, Wizards of the Coast in bed with "New Atari" isn't any better as games publishers than others.
      Personally, I think they'd sell tickets to Gary Gygax' grave if they thought it could make them money.

  • Publishers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Canazza (1428553) on Friday October 23, 2009 @05:17AM (#29844005)

    Films, books, music and games all have publishers that push for them to complete for deadlines, yet I've never heard of an artist (painter, sculpter, whatever) pushed for a deadline due to their sponsors money issues, Certainly for public displays marking an event, but they're generally given generous amounts of time in the first place prior to starting.

    Maybe someone will burst my bubble and reveal that all artists are pushed by publishers, it's just that we never hear about it, but if not, what is so different about a painting or sculpture as a labour of love than a game or film as the same?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ivucica (1001089)
      Games, films etc. are made to make money, not to just satisfy artistic desires. Sculptures and paintings can only sell because of some perceived originality or artistic value; they don't have continued entertainment value (and by continued I mean longer than 10min). Sponsor thanks the artist, publisher invests into the creator.
      • by g4b (956118)

        so the cool diablo 3 background is not a piece of art?

        drawings, paintings, sculptures are more present in your daily life, than you think. even if they are painted for promotion, they do have to be painted or be drawn - and get paid for.

        also, painting with a digital stick to draw a digital image compared to an oilpainting is only different, because digital sticks are still new.

        you are right about your differentiation between investor and sponsor, however it is not true, that paintings, sculptures are not ma

        • by ivucica (1001089)

          so the cool diablo 3 background is not a piece of art? [snip] they do have to be painted or be drawn - and get paid for.

          Diablo 3 background is promo art, created commercially with specific interest in promoting commercial sales. Thus, the artist creating the Diablo 3 background is on payroll or a fee, has a deadline, and the image wouldn't be ordered if Blizzard would have problems paying.

          you are right about your differentiation between investor and sponsor, however it is not true, that paintings, sculptur

    • Re:Publishers (Score:5, Informative)

      by Benjo (644811) on Friday October 23, 2009 @06:37AM (#29844357)
      My sister in law is a sculpter, believe me she knows all about deadlines. Most of her work is commissioned by either wealthy people or companies like hotels. It takes a while to make a large sculpture but they definitely want it on time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by alen (225700)

      are you naive? Do you really think the Catholic Church went to Michaelangelo and said here is a bunch of money, take all the time you need and just send a message when you're done? and if you never finish it then just keep the money?

      No, they said we need a sculpture for so and so church to be done by this deadline for some event where it will be prensented.

      I work in a part of NYC with a bunch of art galleries. there are bills to pay to keep the business going and that means you always have to have a supply

      • by Canazza (1428553)

        No, I don't, but the catholic church didn't force Michaelangelo to stop before it was finished because they wanted to make money as soon as possible

    • Re:Publishers (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Targon (17348) on Friday October 23, 2009 @07:45AM (#29844829)

      A big issue is the costs involved with game development, and the advertising side of it. You also have to expect that when it comes to books, there ARE pressures placed on authors to release the next book in a series. Do you REALLY think that the seventh Harry Potter book didn't have the publisher asking for updates and pushing for it to be done so they could print and sell it?

      Now, in the development of computer games, you really have two types of development models.

      The first is when you have an independent developer with its own money that can get the job done from start to finish. In that case, the publishers only need to do some very basic work when it comes to the product development, like putting in the normal copyright stuff, publisher logos, etc. In these cases, the publisher only has to do advertising for the product to generate enough hype to properly sell the product. It should be noted that this CAN cost a lot of money. TV advertising is VERY VERY VERY expensive, and advertising in movie theaters and such also can be expensive. The production costs for the advertisements for TV ads as well can not be discounted. So, how many millions of dollars can they REALLY spend to hype a game before the advertising costs exceed expected revenue?

      Then you have the case where a publisher has to INVEST in the development of a title. This becomes more essential as the development cost of an all original game with engine takes four to five years, and all the programming, sound, and other development work, plus voice actors(every game has voice acting in it now for the most part), licenses for the software used for in-game cut scenes, etc. How many millions of dollars does it really take to make a game these days? How many start-ups can afford the risk of spending $10 million or more for a game that may not sell more than 10000 copies in a worst-case scenario? With this situation, the publisher DOES have to invest a bit to help the developer get the title out, in the same way that book publishers will give an advance on royalties to an author to help the author make it a full-time investment(rather than writing while working a regular day-job to pay the bills).

      The big thing is when a publisher really tries to hype a given book or product vs. these books that come out that are very good, but that no one has heard of. You will notice that you don't see books advertised very often, considering how many books are published each year. That shows the level of investment from the publisher. And, books have what, 1-4 people who do the writing, vs. how many people are needed for game development.

      So, a better comparison would be the film industry, where you have hundreds, if not thousands of people who contribute to getting a movie out the door. The thing is, film is a mature industry, so it is easier to see up front and early when a movie will be well done, or if it will be horrible. You hear from the film industry about movies that get started in production, but then die as well(if you look into it). You hear about budgets and costs in movie development. And you hear about the studios running into money issues when they release too many bad or mediocre moves in a year, and they lose money in a given year. The difference is that movie studios DO have systems in place for how things are done, and people with experience that can be called in to help fix problems with projects that are having problems.

      Now, do you see how generally independent game developers have it a lot harder? Who do you go to when you run into problems and don't have the expertise in-house to deal with them? Even companies like EA, which have a lot of expertise don't seem to have management understand how to make use of the talent they have available to them to help the smaller developers gain the experience and expertise needed to stand on their own.

      And of course, game technology is still advancing at an insane rate. Due to how much better(faster, better quality graphi

  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Friday October 23, 2009 @05:20AM (#29844017)

    The analogy is completely wrong and misused.

    For starters, where's the car?

    • Re:Father and Child? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by vxvxvxvx (745287) on Friday October 23, 2009 @05:37AM (#29844097)

      More like a car design engineer who creates a seriously hot car designed to carry a family of 4. Then due to the $300k price tag and low-price brand is forced to cut corners to get to $30k, removing most of what made the car awesome in the first place.

      If the car designer disagrees and still wants to build that $300k family car, he should quit and start up a new auto company to do just that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Dachannien (617929)

      I dunno - it seems pretty apt to me. It does facilitate the whole "eating your own babies" concept, after all....

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      For starters, where's the car?

      In the garage, it won't start. Are you going to replace the starter?

    • For starters, where's the car?

      The car is the game reviewers. And it was hit and run, I'm afraid, which is why you don't see it anymore.

  • Third option (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fr05t (69968) on Friday October 23, 2009 @05:23AM (#29844029)

    Just Evil.

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      So IDs 69968 and 78285 posted the same response with just a minute of difference?

      Hmmm, suspicious.

      I want to say "alien conspiration" but it's most probably a glitch in the AI that posts all Slashdot's replies.

      And now that we're at it, "Dear SlAIshdot, please stop with the frist posts already."

      • by Tridus (79566)

        "Just evil" is the first thing I thought as soon as I saw the headline too. So its easy to see how it could be posted twice so fast. :)

        Activision is the shining example right now of everything wrong with publishers. "Evil" definitely applies to them. "Necessary"? Not so much. Most of what a publisher does is try to take stranglehold control over things they didn't actually create, to profit from somebody elses work, and to run franchises into the ground in the name of short term gain.

        In this day and age, we

        • by Thanshin (1188877)

          "Just evil" is the first thing I thought as soon as I saw the headline too. So its easy to see how it could be posted twice so fast. :)

          First 69968 and 78285 and now 79566.

          Clearly there a mind control experiment was done on new slashdotters around the time of IDs 78k.

      • by stjobe (78285) on Friday October 23, 2009 @07:03AM (#29844511) Homepage

        You have hindered our work for the last time, uid 1188877. You will not be allowed to do so again. When you hear the knock on your door, do not make a scene, resistance is useless.

        Thank you,
        /theAlienConspiracy of 69968 and 78285

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by ginbot462 (626023)

          I'm interested in your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

          Though, as a 6-digit ID, I would probably be assigned "Probe Assistant" or some other lowly task. Maybe I can work my way up to "Bowel Dissector".

      • by Fr05t (69968)

        Nah it's just that anyone with an ID under 100k is wise in the ways of drive by karma whoring ;)

        I was hoping for +funny, but I'll take insightful.

    • I guess I am showing my bias... but why WOULDN'T the developers know more than the publishers?

      I'm sure that they have *some* knowledgeable persons, but aren't they like most overblown corporate organizations that are top heavy with MBA managers that know paperwork more than they know the actual product?

      • why WOULDN'T the developers know more than the publishers?

        For one thing, the companies that control access to the platform (e.g. Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, Valve) prefer to deal with larger, more established companies, and that usually means publishers.

    • by Xest (935314)

      Yes, I was wondering myself why this option in answer to the question posted in the title was missing.

      A better analogy is that publishers are like RIAA members, and developers are like artists.

      I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to decide from that analogy what level of relevance publishers have in this day and age.

      • A better analogy is that publishers are like RIAA members, and developers are like artists.

        You don't need an RIAA member to get the approval of Philips to put your album on CD; a band can just start selling copies through CDBaby if it comes to that. But you do need a publisher to get the approval of Nintendo or Sony to put your game on a disc or on the console's online store. And without the possibility of a console version, there aren't enough PCs in the TV room to make a viable market for some genres.

    • by RKThoadan (89437)

      Most publishers are evil, but there are a few exceptions. Stardock is probably the most notable, but Valve is pretty good with Steam. Oddly enough, they run the 2 largest digital distribution platforms. Blizzard used to be in the generally good category, but I doubt they will stay in that category since they sold out.

      On a side note, if you want unparralleled input on the development of a new game pre-order Elemental from Stardock and jump in on the beta. It's a multi-phase beta and they are just barely

      • Valve usually get given a finished product and still take a hefty cut, how is that not evil? Sure publishers deserve large cuts if the invest in the game, but to take as much as valve do for just distributing the game and giving it a few adverts (at 0 cost to steam) seams unfair.

    • That's the funny thing about options. "Just Evil" sounds like an option (as does "Neither" for that matter), but for most people, it really isn't.

  • Just evil.

  • by lapsed (1610061) on Friday October 23, 2009 @05:25AM (#29844043)
    Book publishers edit, ship, manage the printing of, and distribute books. They also balance the riskiness of publishing each individual book across their portfolio of books. In the same way, movie studios are good at financing and distribution, but a big part of what they do is invest in multiple pictures, so that even if one movie bombs there are always others.
    Something -- regardless of what it's called -- has to be able to hold a portfolio of games. To make informed investments, that entity is probably going to have to understand the industry. That knowledge is likely to be valuable and applicable high-level marketing and strategy decisions, and *rightly or wrongly* the investment will only be made if that knowledge can be applied, or if the investor has some power of the developers.
    Workers in other very capital-intensive creative industries -- film and television, for example -- tend to be stratified into two economic classes. People in the upper classes eventually get money and are then able to call the shots. There's no reason why the same thing can't happen in gaming. But money will, for the most part, determine who has the power.
    • This, to me, is where our watered down version of capitalism fails. Now, I'm a capitalist, but I'm not one of these fanatics who call socialism evil. Socialism works if done correctly and capitalism works if done correctly. To admit the biggest failings of both systems, socialist economies tend to be too focused on a limited number of industries which might make it more difficult to withstand tough economic times, while capitalist economies tend to spread too thin among all manner of industry, perhaps cr
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Something I forgot to mention: I recently heard a quote that made me think.

        A banker can rob a farmer and no one pays attention. But if the farmer tries to rob a banker, dozens of police are immediately on the scene.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jroysdon (201893)

        Have to nit-pick a few things: Prince of Persia was published by Br0derbund (ref 1 [wikipedia.org]) and The Secret of Monkey Island by LucasArts (ref 2 [wikipedia.org]), hardly any different than the current crop of game publishers such as EA, etc. Sierra Online was another of the great publishers of their day (before they were bought and turned into what we despise, but that's what happens when the original owners sell out), but then they started from the ground up as developers - and I think that's the key to "getting it."

        Developers re

      • by bartyboy (99076)

        Socialism works if done correctly and capitalism works if done correctly.

        Socialism does not scale very well. At the core, it attempts to set up a mechanism to control supply and demand (of jobs, goods, money, resources, etc). This can be done in a small, tight-knit community where every member has the same goals and ambitions. But expand the community to a country, and you'll find people on every end of the demand and supply curves - some want to work 90 hours a week and drive a Land Rover, others are co

  • Like anything else (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phanboy_iv (1006659) on Friday October 23, 2009 @05:37AM (#29844093)
    ...sometimes a good thing and sometimes a bad thing. Publishers can obtain and manage capital, and if they deal fairly and wisely with the devs they fund it's a good thing.

    If, on the other hand, we have something like Activision/Kotick, well, that's pretty indefensible.

    A publishing house that has degenerated to the point where it cares exclusively for ensuring its own well-being is an evil one. There has to be a symbiotic relationship, not a lethal parasitic one.
    • A company should care exclusively for it's well being. It just isn't doing a very good job if it fails to recognize the creative aspect of the developers.

      • Exactly. It's not doing a good job if it fails to realize that developers are a major part of it's well-being.
  • Kinda depends (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday October 23, 2009 @05:47AM (#29844131)

    Publishers can do good and bad, and have done both. Likewise developers can do well one their own, or poorly. Overall I'd say publishers are useful.

    One of the biggest things they do is provide resources to get games developed that otherwise might not be able to be made. If you are a small games studio, you probably don't have the money to work on a large scale title for a couple years with no money coming in, and additionally buy other things you may need (like if you need to hire an outside composer, because you don't have one). Well, a publisher can provide that. You sell them your idea, they pony up the money for you to make it a reality.

    Another useful thing they do is setting deadlines. If they are stupid about it sure it can be a problem, but when it gets down to it this needs to be done. You can't work on a game forever. Technology changes, you have to get it out in a reasonable timeline. While developers might get all wrapped up in their project and just want it to go on forever, publishers can be more objective and set goals. A game that isn't everything you want, but it fun and actually on the market is much better than a "perfect" game that never exists.

    Also even if a game studio totally develops a game in house, self funded and everything, they may choose to sell it to a publisher. Reason is that when a game is released there is still stuff to be done. It has to be marketed, it has to be distributed, etc. A game studio doesn't always have the staff/resources for that, so they hand it off to someone else.

    An example of a situation where a publisher was really needed was Duke Nukem Forever. While it technically had a publisher (Take Two), they weren't in the typical arrangement of funding it. As such 3D Realms could basically do what they pleased, they were footing the bill. What happened was a decade of unfocused running around and now a canceled game because they ran out of money.

    Now an example where a game was fine without a publisher would be Galactic Civilizations 2. Stardock decided that since they'd been screwed over by a publisher on GC1, they'd just self publish. The game came out in a reasonable amount of time, with a low budget, and sold well on account of being a rocking title.

    Overall, publishers are probalby useful. In part just because it creates something of a division between the creative and business sides of a game. You'll notice that even large integrated game houses often function in the developer/publisher setting. EA owns a lot of game companies, and if they wanted to they could simply make it all "EA". They would be the developers, publishers, and so on. However they don't seem to do that. They have separate internal game studios, with their own headquarters and so on that develop the game, and the EA publishes it. Even their EA label stuff is that way. EA Sports is a subsidiary in Vancouver (with it's own CEO and so on), whereas EA itself is in Redwood.

    My guess is they do it that way because it works better. The development subsidiaries are just "developers" and just worry about making the game. EA itself then worries about funding, marketing, and so on.

    • by tepples (727027)

      Stardock decided that since they'd been screwed over by a publisher on GC1, they'd just self publish.

      That worked because Stardock develops in a PC-centric genre. But because there isn't a gaming PC in most living rooms yet, developers of games in genres more suited to the living room than the computer desk (e.g. anything multiplayer that isn't an FPS, RTS, or online RPG) need an established publisher to represent the developer to the console makers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Backward Z (52442)

      I worked briefly as in-house game development staff in an entry level position at EA Redwood Shores. I, for one, using the example of EA, am of the opinion that the publisher would be willing to amputate a game's legs if it meant shipping on time.

      And that's not good for the developer.

      The studio I worked in, formerly just called "EARS - EA Redwood Shores" has been renamed "Visceral Games," but don't let that fool you into thinking it's anything like an independent studio. It is very EA there. It is seeped

  • 1. Create a bad analogy
    2. Get lost in your own analogy because it's so bad
    3. Make sure you submit story title as a question
    4. YESNOMAYBE

    PS: Publishers suck. Haven't you noticed how hard it's getting to find PC games, even in game stores like Gamestop? THEY have decided to shift everything to consoles, because consoles "can't be pirated". They are middlemen that often add little value to software, and yet expect EVERYONE (devs AND consumers) to dance to their tune.

    It's the 21st century. If Steam/Gamersgate/w

  • I have an Internet connection. I can rent bandwidth and rent or buy space on a web server. I can broadcast news of my game via social networking, message boards and other free medium. If I can work out how to write games, managing a web server isn't going to be brain surgery.What the fuck do I need a publisher for? I'm not unique.

    Publishers fuck off.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by timmarhy (659436)
      uhuh. dude you have no fucking idea. sure for a website taking a few 100 meg a day from a few visitors. it gets a hell of a lot more complex when your content is pumping gigs an hour. not only that who is going to fund your team of developers?
      • by syousef (465911)

        I guess you've never heard of high bandwidth web hosting? Or teams of developers that build complex software that are either sponsored, do it for profit but independently, or do it as a hobby. By that logic most open source wouldn't ever exist.

        In fact last I heard most publishing houses treated their developers like shit - expecting them to work 80-100 hour weeks year round.

        • by nomadic (141991)
          Or teams of developers that build complex software that are either sponsored, do it for profit but independently, or do it as a hobby. By that logic most open source wouldn't ever exist.

          The problem with your argument is that the best games tend to be proprietary; open source game development has been mostly mediocre for the past decade, with the occasional gem.
          • by syousef (465911)

            The problem with your argument is that the best games tend to be proprietary; open source game development has been mostly mediocre for the past decade, with the occasional gem.

            Funny, that's how I'd describe most commercial titles too. They just vastly outnumber the open source efforts. Perhaps its time for all of this to change. The only reason we've had so much commercial work is that it's so competitive that most developers fall over each other trying to do longer hours and outdo everyone else for compar

    • by 91degrees (207121) on Friday October 23, 2009 @06:33AM (#29844337) Journal
      Yeah. The only other things a publisher can do is get shelf space in high street stores, advertising space in computer magazines, mentions in the mainstream press, show at E3 and fund development for a year, as well as hire professional web designers who know about promotion and page layout to sort out the website.
      • by syousef (465911)

        Who the fuck needs shelf space in high street stores? Music downloads now exceed physical sales, and music is more main stream. Advertising in computer mags isn't what makes a game sell. Certainly mention in mainstream press doesn't make a hit. If you're a hot developer with good titles you'll also be able to show at E3, and overpaid web designers who speicalise in page layout are highly over-rated. As for funding development for a year, I guess complex software never gets written by hobbyists, or by sponso

        • Music downloads now exceed physical sales

          A single at typical encoding settings is 4 MB; even over dial-up, a single takes only 15 minutes to download. Your video game is probably at least 10 times that if not 100. And to distribute a game in a genre not well suited to PCs, you have to gain the approval of a console maker that prefers to work with big publishers instead of small self-publishing developers. Music doesn't have such a gatekeeper.

          I guess complex software never gets written by hobbyists

          Nintendo flatly refuses to work with hobbyists [warioworld.com].

          or by sponsored professionals

          Video games are more than complex software. They are also c

          • by syousef (465911)

            A single at typical encoding settings is 4 MB; even over dial-up, a single takes only 15 minutes to download. Your video game is probably at least 10 times that if not 100. And to distribute a game in a genre not well suited to PCs, you have to gain the approval of a console maker that prefers to work with big publishers instead of small self-publishing developers. Music doesn't have such a gatekeeper.

            Yes, and most people still stuck on dialup are at many kinds of disadvantage. You're completely overlooking

    • I have an Internet connection. I can rent bandwidth and rent or buy space on a web server. I can broadcast news of my game via social networking, message boards and other free medium. If I can work out how to write games, managing a web server isn't going to be brain surgery.What the fuck do I need a publisher for?

      A publisher represents you to the console makers, which hold the digital signing keys to the console bootloaders. If you decide to make a multiplayer game PC-exclusive, you have to make it good enough that people will spend either $1,800 for three additional PCs and monitors for players two through four, or $450 for a gaming PC to connect to the TV.

  • NEITHER! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@@@slashdot...org> on Friday October 23, 2009 @06:21AM (#29844271)

    I am a game designer, and I don't see any point at all to game "publishers". Everybody can rent a server for a couple of dollars, and offer his game there. People can pay with paypal. It's also really easy to offer other payment options (e.g. with web shops). Then you can pay a marketing company to do advertisements for you. Put videos on YouTube, make a nice game site, maybe some local real-world ads. And a ton of viral marketing.

    What more do you need nowadays?

    Sure, you can always also put it in web shops, like Amazon, eBay, Steam, etc. But only as a second thought, because it has a big price attached to it most of the time, and you have to check its profitability first.
    That's why I never ever go to actual game "publishers". With them, you are very unlikely to be profitable at all. Because they take giant profit margins of the actual retail price. And on top of that complete insult, they also want and assume all kinds of rights, and may actually damage your business. (e.g. Don't be surprised it they loudly think about suing you for still selling the game yourself on other channels!!)

    So I call the title of TFA "game publisher FUD". Plain and simple.
    If you so much as think about contacting a game publisher, you already have done your first error. Don't make the second one.

    • by ivucica (1001089)
      Not everyone has: a) money to rent and maintain the server, b) access to PayPal withdrawal options (I'm from Croatia) _OR_ money to pay web shops for maintaining your content, c) money to pay marketing company, d) money to pay local real-world ads.

      Not to mention producing viral advertising isn't trivial. You need publishers to take off the burden of marketing from you, so you can concentrate on what you do best: development. Or do you want to hire several people just to sell the game, while that one comb
      • by russotto (537200)

        You need publishers to take off the burden of marketing from you, so you can concentrate on what you do best: development.

        That's a good theory, and not just for games. But in practice, it's always the developers who get shafted in that arrangement. The marketing, sales, and business people get the control and the big bucks, and the developers are treated like interchangeable widget-makers. And in case you think that's a valid distribution of reward given the risks, note that if the product flops, the de

        • by ivucica (1001089)
          Of course the developers gets much less than they deserve. But if you have to choose between getting nothing at all, and getting much less than you deserve, what do you choose?

          Besides, my experience with publishers says they invest a great deal of money and effort into you. We've had the services of the publisher's QA team, we got voice-overs recorded. They covered things that we'd have trouble covering. Three-to-four betatesters almost-full-time covering a game developed by four-to-five people? They caug
    • by cirby (2599)

      There is now room for both the small, single-person game shop (as long as that person is a programmer, game designer, artist, editor, and publicist) and the major, high-dollar, high-end company (yes, it costs money to create really big games). That small-game person becomes... the publisher. On a smaller scale, but the same thing a "game publisher" does.

      If you're good, you can create a one-author game, put it online, and let people download it for some amount of money. If you want to make money with it,

    • It seems like you are doing a lot of work that is not designing games.
      So Lets say it took you 6 months to make the game.
      So with PayPal how much do you get dinged for every sale. How much is the marketing company going to charge you? How much time are you planning to put in making YouTube, developing a nice game site, all the viral marketing. Sometimes Marketing fails, so that is even more risk on your end.

      For the most part you may get better margins however you may end up better with a publisher, in terms

    • by tepples (727027)

      Everybody can rent a server for a couple of dollars, and offer his game there.

      A video game console's shop app would never think to look on your server.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Old school publishers will probably all either go out of business, or radically change their business methods. Book publishers will probably be the last to go; on-demand printing will be their downfall. RIAA-style music labels will probably be the first, because they think they're selling music. Book publishers know they don't sell novels, they sell books, even if their marketing depts sell novels.

      The trouble with publishers is they're listening to their own marketers, who don't sell the steak, they sell th

    • So, how many games have you produced with publishers, and how many without, and what was the difference in profits? Did you self-publish only later works, perhaps when you were a bit more confident/competent/respected and known? Were all your projects small (i.e. 1-3 person team)? Did you ever have to organise a team of developers? Did you ever pay them for their time up front? Did you do many large-scope games; i.e. ones that you could charge 20-30 dollars or more for?

      It seems to me that for small projects

    • It all depends on the genre of game really.

      Big 3D games (particularly HD ones) are much like blockbuster moves. They take huge teams of people to make (most of which aren't coders BTW) and those people have to be paid.

      This means you to develop such a game requires a backer with two things
      1: the money to advance the development costs
      2: the marketing clout to get sufficient customers to recover those development costs.

  • by jonwil (467024) on Friday October 23, 2009 @07:22AM (#29844631)

    The problem is the large publishers like EA and Activision and Atari (many of which also have in-house development shops) and the fact that said large publishers wont publish anything thats in any way new or different.

    What the games industry needs is publishers that are similar to what Fox Searchlight and similar studios are to the movie industry (i.e. someone willing to do smaller indy games).

    And we need publishers (and retailers) that realize that not all games need graphics that push a GeForce 9800GT to its limits, audio that is best heard on a 8.2 channel speaker setup and 5-year development times.

    • by canajin56 (660655)
      Atari is pure evil. Well first, they're a really shitty publisher who bought a new name to try and make people forget how shitty they are. Didn't work because they kept on being shitty. Also, they somehow acquired the Starcontrol trademark at some point in their buying trademarks spree. (The copyright is still in the hands of the original developers). Now, if you have a trademark but don't use it, you lose it. So they hammered out a 5 second job Flash game called Starcontrol, just to cockblock the ori
  • In many ways, it does know more than the parent, and is closer to what's innovative, but maybe hasn't figured out how to hone that energy yet

    Without commenting on the validity of the analogy, I for one found that as I get older I increasingly realize my parents were usually right.

    • Without commenting on the validity of the analogy, I for one found that as I get older I increasingly realize my parents were usually right.

      I on the other hand, often find that my parents were very often wrong. They meant well, and their advise was in my best interest, but in many cases, while it would have been the correct advise for them while they were growing up, it simply did not apply my experiences twenty years later because conditions had changed. One case being getting a job. My father was a comp

      • They were often wrong, but far less often (and usually in less diastrous ways) than I was wrong. YMMV, but I can think of far more situations where I wish I had listened to them then where I wish I hadn't.
  • game Publishers are typical corporations. They only think about one thing, money. They don't think about customer satisfaction, quality, enjoyability of the game, or even giving customers what they want. Instead they tell customers what they want.

    Many customers want classic games like Bard's Tale and Master of Magic to be remade for modern systems. But when they tried to make a console version of Bard's Tale it was nothing like the C64/Amiga/Atari ST/Mac/Apple //GS etc version and became stupid and they tri

    • by Talgrath (1061686)

      Yes yes, corporations are all evil and all they're out to do is make money. So, you do you'd do your job for free, right? No? Well if you bought stock in a company and they lost it all because they let their "arists" just do their thing you'd be fine with it, right? No? Any company anywhere, from the smallest mom and pop shop to the largest corporation only cares about customer satisfaction because it makes them more money, any company that and any shop owner that tells you otherwise is lying to you.

      • Actually if all a corporation does is focus on money, they will be bankrupt really soon. Look at the economy and the banks and companies being bailed out. They are being bailed out because they were stupid.

        Companies that have a better quality product, better customer satisfaction, etc tend to earn better profits than a company just based on money and profits that makes crap quality and poor customer satisfaction. Business Management 101 there, Participatory Management, Servant Leadership, Organizational Beh

  • We have a wide spectrum. Avant-garde. Commercial. Some artists get large grants from the government or private foundations. Some don't. It's like movie production. Or theater production. Or sculpture. Some things can only be done with the large amount of investment that commercial dollars can provide. Some can be done in the artists free time with little up front investment. Getting the commercial dollars involves having more hands in the mix to make sure the end product is commercially viable.

    These complai

  • Seems like we have a lot of industries are split into creators, publishers, and distributors. Publishers are a middle-man, and they sometimes help, but sometimes get in the way. The biggest problems arise when the publisher is completely unnecessary, so they try to block creators and distributors from meeting. This is the RIAA situation today: Anyone can put their music onto iTunes if they want to, and RIAA companies are becoming marginalized. So they respond by trying to strangle the industry.

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