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Elite Creator David Braben: Games Like Elite 'Too Risky' For Publishers 109

Pecisk writes "While PC game development veterans are using Kickstarter more and more for their projects (see the already successful Star Citizen Kickstarter project, which already went home with $2 million, or Elite: Dangerous, a sequel of classic space sim series, which has yet to reach its set target), questions arise: why are devs trying this rather risky way of financing, anyway? For a long time there's also been discussion on Slashdot and elsewhere of game publishers like EA have a preference for unlimited sequels (e.g. the EA Sports series). David Braben, one of creators of first classic 3D space sim, Elite, and its sequels, and also the popular Raspberry PI board/computer, has commentary on that: 'Publishers had and still have now, established processes and a key part of that is the forecast ROI or return on investment. For that to work there has to have been a sufficiently similar game in the near past to base the forecast upon Anything else will be "too risky."'"
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Elite Creator David Braben: Games Like Elite 'Too Risky' For Publishers

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  • Re:No Risk (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 01, 2012 @12:39AM (#42152165)
    tell that to the bankers who got to roll the dice.. and when they won they kept the money... when they lost they charged it to the tax payer.
  • Re:No Risk (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iluvcapra ( 782887 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @12:47AM (#42152207)

    A 3% return on 20 million units is preferable to a 100% return on 20,000 :)

    I work in the film industry and the story is about the same; this is why we seem to keep making marginally-good $200 million films, instead of twenty $10 million films, 16 of which bomb because they don't find their audience. If you want to do something really edgy an original, you can do it, just don't go to Paramount (or EA in this case) and expect them to front you the money, and you're much more likely getting your money back if you premiere on Netflix.

    I'm not sure this is an Earth-shattering tragedy, it has a lot to do with the way large corporations make decisions, and organize themselves around their distribution chains.

  • by StarTuxia ( 2767965 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @01:37AM (#42152423)
    I backed both, and interestingly Chris Roberts has also backed Elite and has said he is looking forward to playing in the Alpha and likewise David Braben has said he is looking forward to playing Star Citizen, with such great camaraderie between groups within the same genre I do hope people find it inspiring . Elite cannot use the Crysis 2 engine due to what they intend to do with ED, which is to push what Frontier did much further along. Frontier had the entire Milky Way procedurally seeded onto a single 720K floppy disk, and that wasn't all, you could seamlessly land and take off from them, so with E:D he intends to push this further. We're hoping for a video soon of this, but he has heavily implied this will be the case with E:D when he talks of atmosphere (and shows the clouds) and then of what he could do with the surface. This is the latest video on how the Galaxy (The Milky Way, all 200 billion stars) will evolve over time (not the way I thought he meant, rather it seems to do with space stations, resources etc, fascinating stuff mind you): [] For SC I got the Orion 300i and the M-50, hope to see you on both though, they are both quite distinctly different and the genre as a whole needs both of them to really make 2014 special and may I say it? Drive innovation.
  • by bfandreas ( 603438 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @01:45AM (#42152461)
    Ummm. We PC types bought flightsticks, HOTAS systems, steering wheels and other input peripherals when console games were just Mortal Sonic Mario Kombat with all analogue thumb twisting blocky controllers.
    I really don't understand why some of the current PC gamer generation don't like controllers. For some games they are great. I can see them working in a space sim. Just don't forget to also have mouse support for menus and such. No Skyrim inventory shenanigans plx :(
    Also port it to Android/Ouya. No publisher needed there. And you can easily get it on Steam/GOG without publisher backing.

    Braben raises money by his name alone and Elite is still fresh in memory. Publishers wouldn't add anything in his case anyway. So why did he even bother? It's not the only way to get funding. Hell, he should even be able to get venture capital. Kids playing Elite grew up to be all sorts of things. Accountants, mass murderers, heads of state, blue-collar workers and ...heaven forbid... venture capitalists.

    Publishers used to be needed for funding and access to the sales&distribution channel. Sales&distribution has become trivial if you don't need to get boxed games to WallMart. A lot of games are digital distribution only and are doing fine.
    And funding comes your way when you pitch it to the right people.

    The classical publisher is going the way of the dodo.
  • by Areyoukiddingme ( 1289470 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @02:31AM (#42152597)

    The summary is wrong in its implication. Kickstarter is about the most risk-free fund raising you can do. It's a formal way to solicit donations. Non-refundable, no-promises, walk-away-and-keep-it-all money. Legally a Kickstarter project that funds has no obligation to do anything at all. Some percentage of them (so far small, and small amounts of funds) don't.

    Venture capital, on the other hand, will insist you field a AAA-class team, will insist on majority ownership, and will insist on installing a suit as an executive, and will want signatures in blood for your first born if the project fails (or as much of whatever as they can recover, which very likely includes exclusive intellectual property crap like trademarks and any copyrights that have attached). So if you fail, you lose everything and can't even try again. If you succeed, you pay your investor the majority of the profit.

    If your Kickstarter fails, you owe nothing to anybody and retain 100% ownership so you can try again later (though probably not with another Kickstarter). If your Kickstarter succeeds, you retain 100% ownership, deliver on your Kickstarter promises (which is usually a vehicle to get you even more money, if you're doing it right), and keep 100% of the profit.

    The classical venture capitalist could easily go the same way of the dodo as the classical publisher, at least for projects below the level of capitalization that crowd-funding can generate. And that ceiling is already higher than anybody expected. Whether or not it continues is anybody's guess, though the number of successful deliveries is high enough that the odds are good. Venture capital, meanwhile, is also mercurial and unreliable long term. It goes through fads of its own on a regular basis.

... though his invention worked superbly -- his theory was a crock of sewage from beginning to end. -- Vernor Vinge, "The Peace War"