The core principals of independent game development has deteriorated over two decades of big business, suggests Gas Powered Games’ Chris Taylor.
Taylor lamented that the hyper-competitive videogame market has left independent studios indebted to publishers’ marketing and investment clout, and in turn, has given publishers a vital upper-hand in agreeing business terms.
“We kind of fell into a rut these past 10 to 15 years, in that even though we were independent, we were so dependent on these publishers that we were basically outsourcing studios,” said Taylor, as quoted by Gamasutra.
“That’s not being independent," he added.
Speaking with Taylor during a trade event panel, Epic president Mike Capps sympathised, and outlined the irresistible value publishers offer in generating sales.
“It’s getting harder and harder to be independent, especially at our size,” he said, adding that Microsoft’s been a strong partner because “somebody’s got to put up a billboard in Hong Kong, and it’s not going to be me.”
Epic Games has benefited tremendously in tying its Gears IP with Microsoft, with the Xbox 360 manufacturer hyping both original and sequel as key components in the Xbox 360 catalogue. Despite the divisive claims from analyst Michael Pachter, Gears would not be the powerhouse it is today if it wasn’t for Microsoft’s quest to fill the Halo 3 gap with a console-defining title.
But as Taylor suggests, this may be a triumph for Epic, but is hardly a success story for independence.
"It’s been really unfortunate for a lot of independent developers who are basically beholden to the traditional publisher model," he added, though didn’t cite his co-panellist’s company.