This post is archived and thus no longer updated.

What’s wrong with game publishers?

what is wrong with game publishers

No month goes by without yet another long dormant franchise getting kickstarted to life. We had Shadowrun Returns, Wasteland 2, Elite Dangerous and Dreamfall Chapters. We also had games from developers that produced great games in the past and now kickstarted something similar. Names like Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Adventure, Peter Molyneux’s Godus or Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar come to mind. Currently  we also have a Planescape sequel (Torment: Tides of Numenera) and a Battle Isle sequel (Battle Worlds Kronos).

Those are games that get a lot of funding. And with a lot I mean most of them get multi-million dollar funding. That is just the initial funding. You also have to add actual game sales once release and pre-orders to that number. If you look at the pledge levels, there are quite a number of enthusiasts that go for hundreds of dollar or even for 10’0000 dollar pledges.

Let’s take a quick look at how much funding some of those games got:
Shadowrun Returns – wanted: USD 400k, got: USD 1.8 million
Wasteland 2 – wanted: USD 900k, got: USD 2.9 million
Elite: Dangerous – wanted: GBP 1.25 million, got: GBP 1.57 million
Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey – wanted: USD 850k, got: USD 1.5 million
Double Fine Adventure – wanted: USD 400k, got: USD 3.3

You can see a pattern in the game titles: Those are mostly games from the 90s played by people like me. People that are now in their 30s, have a decent job and really love to relive the “old spirit” of gaming. Settled grown ups with enough income to spend to bring back old times.

What is wrong with gaming publishers that they do not see how they waste opportunities? Opportunities with a demographic group that is willing to spend a reasonable amount of money for a eventually HD version of a 90s game. To achieve this publishers do not have to reinvent the wheel. Publishers do not need to implement an overly expensive new 3D engine. They just take out old fanchises and polish them until the shine on modern i5 or i7 PC’s. And if they by any chance can make the game more fluent and more complex that would be great. They should also provide some nostalgia in form of a making-of booklet, printed maps or printed manuals.

But what do publishers currently do? EA and Ubisoft – to name the biggest two – are going to give us even more pay-to-win free-to-play generic who-cares-about-the-character game titles. They invest more money in DRM protection and monetising strategies than in decent story telling or quality control. Publishers only innovate in terms of additional income sources: Multiple “normal” DLCs, day one DLC, depending on where you buy the game DLC, Season Pass for multiple but of cause not all DLC’s, ingame micro transactions for useless stuff and ingame micro transactions to win the game. Real innovations come mainly from smaller game developers or indie games.

If you compare it to those games that have been very successful on kickstarter. Those are DRM-free games with either great story telling or game mechanics that make you play for weeks.

Publishers either willingly ignore their prospect customers or really have lost contact with their once paying customers.

PS: 2K’s reboot of X-Com was a sign of hope but it seems a lonely one in a sea full of free-to-play always-on generic game titles.

[alert type=”info”]To be honest I don’t think all kickstarted games will succeed. Some will fail epicly and money will be lost. If you recently pre-ordered a game like Alien Colonial Marines, Sim City or God of War Ascension you are probably used to know what epic fail means in terms of wasted money.[/alert]

(186 Posts)

20 years of coding and working as software engineer but I am still eager to learn more. I am very passionate when it comes to open source, Linux and Java. But I made my peace with Windows long ago to fully enjoy my PC gaming hobby. I have a soft spot for 90s electronic music and Babylon 5. In the evenings you will find me roaming the endless space in Warframe (IGN k05h).