Sure, our headline might sound like a bitter joke scoffed by gamers or studio execs, but in Develop executive editor Owain Bennallack’s latest opinion piece it’s an all too true state of fact for the games market: on the whole, publisher acquisitions have a habit of killing off a studio’s creativity.
The indictment of development deals – at a time when the level of industry consolidation is high – might upset some. In recent years a number of key long-running UK independents have joined bigger organisations, including the likes of Creative Assembly, Bizarre Creations and Evolution.
Says Bennallack: "Most independent developers that have failed over the years had rubbish production processes, were creatively limited, or were financially over-stretched, either through recklessness or necessity, and so vulnerable to shocks such as a canning or the loss of key staff members. But that’s not what’s typically killed successful developers. Rather, publishers have. If you want to stop a great developer making great games, a good way has been to buy it."
But that’s not to say that acquisition is entirely wrong, he adds: "Some studios thrive under a publishers’ wing. A great example would be Neversoft, which has shone within Activision since 1999. Is it a coincidence that Neversoft spent years in the wilderness before being acquired, and had yet to really taste the success that came with the Tony Hawk series?"
Nevertheless, concludes Bennallack, "more studios are born free and should remain that way".