Debbie Bestwick explains the next evolution for the UK firm

Why Team17 is no longer ‘a publisher’

Last time, I wrote about the new world of indie development and self-publishing and how the move into it disrupted our internal development. Now I’d like to focus on how being responsible for our partner’s games has made us look again at how we operate.

Publisher. Horrible word isn’t it?

For many of us, it brings back memories of milestones being rejected for spurious reasons; IP being grabbed or stolen; projects being cancelled “for convenience”; people who’ve never played games demanding wholesale changes; schedules being mutilated because “we need to hit the quarter”; the list goes on.

The bad news is that’s just development. Once what’s left of ‘your’ game is finished, you find projects that you were promised were going to be “fully supported” suddenly being relegated to catalogue fillers; lifecycle management being “we’ll throw a bunch of copies out and slash the price if you don’t meet our sales expectations”. Oh, and those changes that were forced on you? They’ve dragged your Metacritic rating down, but now that’s your fault and the publisher doesn’t want to work with you again.

Publishers? Pah! Who needs ‘em?

But the sad truth is most games creators do need someone to help out. Whether it’s with marketing and PR, localisation and QA, real lifecycle management, building communities or anything that gets in the way of actually making the game. They just don’t need ‘a publisher’ and all the old ways of thinking and the other baggage it brings.

When we first started working with our partners on The Escapists, LA Cops and Beyond Eyes – three games a traditional “publisher” would never touch – we deliberately called what we were doing an Indie Support Program. It didn’t seem like the old view of publishing. As we’ve released our first few games and signed more, we’ve taken a long, hard look at what we want to achieve and how we want to go about it, resulting in this manifesto:

  • We’re here to help, to advise where requested, and to enable our partners’ great ideas to come to life.
  • It’s not about us, it’s about the people we work with and their games.
  • It’s your idea. IP is the most precious thing our partners have – and it’s theirs, always.
  • We fully believe in every partner, and give 100 per cent in helping realise their potential.
  • We do what we do best – marketing, QA, lifecycle management, and so on – and let our partners get on with making games.
  • If our partner needs help, we offer it: dev resources, tech support, office space, anything.
  • We show our partners where every penny we spend on their game is going, and give them sign-off/veto rights if they don’t agree.
  • We help our partners become self-sustaining. The starving artist is a lovely romantic ideal, but not a nice reality.

Throughout the history of music, there have been those that help bring new forms of creative expression to audiences – even if that means going outside the “way things are done”. Labels such as Sun and Motown have shaped the face of their industry – which is exactly what we want to do.

So, as of today, Team17 isn’t a publisher but a label. We hope it’s the start of a revolution. And if it results in a few publishers’ heads on spikes? Well, they were warned…

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