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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Comments

Gabby Dizon

That's a pretty bleak picture.

The question is, how do you re-tool the game development studio so that you do not lose leverage while negotiating your IP with the publishers for several months? You would have to have a team under 10 people, unless you've had a previous hit and are financially independent.

Yes, the publishers are slime. But the independent studios also need to adapt.

Tadhg

It's bleak. But so far nothing new, tbh.
What does the latter half say?

kik

I've mentioned this point in the other thread, but I may as well repeat it: How is the general position that the publisher takes, any different from the position gamers take towards new games?

How many average gamers would risk their money on an unproven developer's new IP, with no demo or reviews, and no guarentee of after release support?

On what basis would they want to pick up that game compared to say, San andreas? Some 'innovative' idea that they see as a gimmick? Some promise like that the dev understands games, and will do away with the cliches of the industry?? I don't know, what?

Sure, gamers may not be slime, but they do seem rather greasy...

Gabby Dizon

Kik,

Gamers bought Halo. They bought the original Half-Life. And they bought Grand Theft Auto 3.

Heck, they bought the original Sims even though EA thought it was a bomb...

kik

Halo, GTA 3 and the Sims were all made by well established developers and had great reviews and buzz. What's the equivalent of great reviews and buzz for Publishers?? (hint: hollywood).

Valve may of been an unknown, but Half-life had one hell of a demo with 'day one'.

Factory

kik:
That's a silly argument, developers and franchises do not start successful, someone has to buy their stuff in the first place for them to become successful.

I would also add that ppl buying a game because it is made by developer X is a better deal for the developer than ppl buying games because it is franchise Y. The developers then do not have to deal with the limitations of the IP.

Tadhg

While I do agree with you, kik, that gamers of the current generation are quite conservative, I don't agree with where your logic is taking you. Games are much like any other medium, in that sales follow wherever exposure and good marketing lead. It is simply the case that many customers out there don't buy any one of a thousand games that appear because they simply never hear about them, either through print, TV or on the grape vine. Thus, when they come to the store itself, they only see a few boxes of said original game and don't know it from Adam.

kik

Let me clarify my questions: What's wrong with a publisher needing proof that a developer's concept is good, and that they are capable of creating it?

Publishers are businesses, not charities.

someone

The problem with gaming is that it's a business.

The problem with business people is that they don't play games.

More gamers need to start making games, and game makers need to listen to their customers better.

Steve Williams

Publishers want rights over the IP because they do not want to risk losing it if the IP becomes valuable. Sony did not have the rights over Spyro and one day the developers walked away from the PS2, leaving Sony with no more cute dragon platformer.

gren

Well, it's obvious why publishers (or anyone really) wants to own IP. But a quick correction: The original developer of Spyro, Insomniac Games, never walked away from the PS2. In fact, Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal is coming out exclusively for the PS2 in a matter of days. AND, the latest Spyro game (developed by someone else) IS on the PS2, just not exclusively.

Anon

Gamers bought Halo on the strength of bungie's reputation from past games (myth and marathon). Gamers bought Half-Life of the strength of the leaked Day One demo (nobody cared about it before then for the most part).

Erwie

I don't think even 90% of the Halo players knows Myth and Marathon, they just bought Halo through good reviews and good marketing, as it being by far the best launchtitle for a console with incredible specs for it's time.

Tadhg

"Let me clarify my questions: What's wrong with a publisher needing proof that a developer's concept is good, and that they are capable of creating it?"

What's wrong with it is that it elminates anyone who can't afford it, and leaves only a tiny pool from where ideas can spring.

Scott Miller

I'll just add that it's in the industry's best interest to have strong, indie studios who can call their own shots. It adds diversity to the creative pool, and it spreads the wealth better, because we have more IP owners, rather than it all being owned by the publishers.

Is it better to have Pixar as an indie, or owned by Disney? The former, of course (and luckily, Pixar is self-owned). OTOH, look what Disney recently did to another creative powerhouse, one they bought some 14 years ago: They just fired the creative heads of Miramax. This will result in that studio being more fully controlled by a Disney lackey, and we can pretty much kiss good-bye to Miramax as one of the industry's bright spots.

Again, we need more indies doing their own thing without being told what to do by a limited group of publishers.

Cristopher Boyer

I won't say that it's a bright picture painted in that article. But I can't say a publisher ought to pay for a team - especially an untested one - to develop their own IP AND hang onto it AND create a game demo that might not even bang out into a full game. That's like hiring an architect to build a house who's never done it before, and paying them in advance, and they might still get to keep the house for themselves when they're done.

Sadly, indie developers need to be able to fund their demos/proofs of concept, but publishers need to cut them better deals when they've done this. The concept of "cutthroat business" shouldn't be to cut the throats of the guys who provide your publishing house with content.

Badman

One thing I must point out: The Grand Theft Auto IP is different from that of Tomb Raider in a fundamental way - it describes a _play style_ without associating any particular character or setting with it. In this way it is similar to the Final Fantasy IP. Every Final Fantasy game is set in a completely different world with completely different characters and a completely different (thought always thematically familiar) plot. And the GTA games are the same way. If you are fortunate enough to create an IP like this (a distinctive playing style rather than a particular set of boobs) you can create far more games associated with the IP before players get sick of it. Players certainly aren't sick of GTA's play style yet (and San Andreas executes that play style brilliantly), and are just now starting to tire of the Final Fantasy series after TWELVE games across multiple platforms. And if the FF guys can find a way to revitalize their play style, they can still gain the tremendous marketing benefit of being able to put the worlds "Final Fantasy" on their games.

PaG

Publishers (and big developers who can afford it) should invest in actual research, not just in development. They should hire a few designers along with minimal teams to come up with cool ideas for games and prototype them. It would be cheap and it would bring much needed creativity to the industry.

This is similar to what companies like Microsoft, IBM, 3M and Xerox do to come up with new products. Of course most of what comes out of R&D is crap, but a single success from it pays for all of the research. This model has proven itself for many other industries in which creativity matters -- why can't we use the same method?

"That's like hiring an architect to build a house who's never done it before, and paying them in advance, and they might still get to keep the house for themselves when they're done."

I'd say it's more like hiring an architect fresh out of school, paying them in advance and letting them keep the plans they come up with to build other houses. Nothing that exceptionnal really -- of course I'd expect to pay less such an architect than a more experienced one, but I would have no problems with it for a simpler project like a house or something.

What your example tells me is that publishers should accept to fund smaller projects by new (and promising) teams if they don't ask for too much (ie. keep production costs lean). The publisher lets them keep their IP so they have additional motivation to make it kick ass -- as long as the publisher treats them reasonably well, they're more likely to stick the people who helped them start anyway...

AdamW

@badman: actually, the GTA games (from 3 onwards, anyway, 3 didn't follow 1 and 2) take place consecutively in the same world and feature a continuing storyline.


I wouldn't say players are getting tired of Final Fantasy - X and X-2 sold bucketloads, and XII is one of the most highly anticipated games around, according to most game sites. I also wouldn't say the FF series is about a single playstyle; or only if you define playstyle as broadly as 'party-based RPG which involves levelling-up in some way', and Final Fantasy hardly has a lock on that. They've used many completely different battle and levelling systems throughout the life of FF games. The basis of the series - and the reason why Scott things calling all the games FF is dumb - is even more broad and tenuous than a playstyle. It's hard to describe, but it's best to imagine yourself getting hired as director of Final Fantasy XIII; all you know is you have to make a big, party-based RPG with a non-real-time battle system. It's got to have moogles in it. And it had better be _really, really good_, or you'll be in some serious trouble. :)

Robert Howarth

One of the major problems that series have is that they seem to die off after around part 3. Perhaps they run out of ideas, or just get burnt out making the same games, but it's rare to see a brand have the staying power to make compelling sequels year after year.

And as far as Duke Nukem goes, the biggest problem that IP is facing is that most gamers under the age of 30 have no idea who he is.

RodeoClown

Someone said "game makers need to listen to their customers better".
I think the problem with this kind of attitude is that gamers have no idea what makes a good game. Really. They know what they like from games they play (but can't always put their finger on exactly what it is that makes it good), and assume that particular elements (sniper rifles, sandbox play, levelling-up, emergence and so on) just need to be put together to make a game great. The problem is that just throwing elements together doesn't make a good game, or even necessarily a fun game, it just makes a game with a lot of bullet points for the back of the box.

I think this partially explains why gamers (not all of them, but the vast majority) think great graphics is what makes the game; they see a fantastic looking screenshot and can say 'that looks great!', but how do they convey that a game plays brilliantly?. They can put their finger on graphical technique and say that it is cool, but how do you explain WHY the game 'N' is so fun?
It's really simple graphical and play style makes it 'look' like it will be terrible. But it isn't.

I think that good IP gives a gamer something to point at and use it to explain why they like something. The original Tomb Raider didn't sell well because it had a 'hot chick' in it, it was because it played well AND had a 'hot chick' in it.

Anon

PaG, is the kind of research you're suggesting done in other entertainment industries? Do book publishers hire staff dedicated to researching "book ideas"? Do movie studios hire staff to research movie ideas? What about record labels?

Tadhg

Book publishers, moviemakers and music publishers don't have to do it because they have such a vast amount of potential ideas coming at them from the general public and arenas like the indie movie, indie music and small press scenes that they can pick and choose. This is what keeps these media alive and fresh for the most part, though of course they wax and wane like anything else.

The games industry, on the other hand, does not have that luxury because it sets its bar too damn high, expecting everyone who approaches a publisher to have a full-fledged demo ready to go, costing hundreds of thousands and a lot of time to do. It's idiotic because it reduces the number of potential ideas that they could be publishing down to very few, while at the same time encouraging those developers that do have the money to play it very safe. So the cycle continues and the industry moves slowly out of touch.

I don't necessarily think that research is the way forward though, because that research is still coming from those developers that play it safe. Even the much-vaunted indie developers are for the most part working on sequels or very 'safe' games at the moment (which directly questions Scott's assertion about how necessary those developers really are).

What really is needed to drive the industry forward is a means of lowering the bar, either through expecting a lot less from a developer in the initial stages, or getting away from the notion that the source of ideas must be a developer instead of, say, a writer.

PaG

True that: writing a novel, a screenplay or a few songs is incredibly cheap compared to writing a good-looking demo for a 3D game.

As for research, the whole intention is to ask them to do things that are not safe. There's really no point in asking people to research proven concepts, they're already well understood. If, on the other hand, you ask them to come up with original game ideas that don't fit the current mold, then you get something worthwhile.

As for lowering the price of presenting a new idea, how do you do it? The problem is that you can't really tell the quality of a game idea from a game design. I guess the easiest the solution would be for publishers to trust developers more ("You've done great work in the past, now do something new and cool"), but I don't see that happening soon...

Actually I think the overall solution would be to find a way to make commercially viable games very cheaply. Games that don't have to sell huge amounts of copies to be profitable. That platform could then become a proving ground for potential developers, since failure would be cheap. Anybody has an idea about how we could do that?

JP

"The problem is that you can't really tell the quality of a game idea from a game design."

Depends on what form the game design takes. This is where I see the value of prototypes and proof-of-concept demos: a working implementation, in code, of any game mechanics that are unproven / unconventional, some sample content like prototype levels, and a small batch of nice-looking, finished (i.e. NOT placeholder) art content that expresses what the visual style of the finished piece will be like - even a single screen full can convey that.

That way, a dev can tell a publisher, "Look, parts of our design are unproven, but those have been prototyped here for you to see. We know what our game will look, feel and play like. The hard part is over, creativity-wise."

Now you might THINK that this is what developers already do when "pitching" a game to publishers... but it's not. Pre-contract pub demos are almost always tests of one thing: the developer's ability to create nice art content (and, peripherally, the ability to create code that doesn't crash for the length of the demo). The problem with this is that said art content usually takes much longer - and ends up being a much bigger drain on developer resources - than that prototype I described would take, but it means none of the difficult problems that are likely to come up later have been solved. Many times, the publisher doesn't even look at the demo itself, they look at pre-recorded footage (as if they would sully themselves by picking up a controller and trying it out), screenshots, cinematics and written design materials. These are nice to show off but none of them represent the actual game.

Developers only have to show that they can ape real development practices to get a contract and are essentially selling a lie. This is why we get so many finished games that are really just going through the motions... competently done content, and gameplay that either covers one millimeter of creative territory or a broken, failed experiment.

Small, focused prototypes that address real problems are the better alternative. What's better, they take less time and resources to create, so suddenly the barriers to entry are lower as well - you don't need an EA-sized content farm to make one.

Willy

I don't see gamers themselves lowering their expectations, and with technology constantly increasing, the developmental costs and gamer expectations will continue to spiral upward.

Unless we all revert to retro...

kik

PaG: "I'd say it's more like hiring an architect fresh out of school, paying them in advance and letting them keep the plans they come up with to build other houses. Nothing that exceptionnal really"

Maybe if the client was the kid's uncle. There is no way that somebody would pay an unknown to create a design in advance, and in the end get what is effectively the licensing rights for a design.

I'm all for strong indie devs, and I'm sure pubs could be much more fair and honest in how they deal with devs. But if a pub is also financing a devs game, then it is the pubs that are shouldering most of the risk, and it's only fair for them to get most of the reward. Having the dev create a demo not only highlights the concept of the game, it tells the pub that the dev believes enough in the concept that they are actually willing to risk some of their money on it as well, and aren't just bs-ing around.

JP: "the publisher doesn't even look at the demo itself, they look at pre-recorded footage ... screenshots, cinematics and written design materials."

I'd personnaly prefer your type of demo, but I think that all we can reasonably expect from a pub is for them to reflect the buying habits of their customers. You'd have a much stronger case if gamers on the whole didn't use the exact same methods to judge games.

PaG

"it is the pubs that are shouldering most of the risk"

I often hear that, but I don't understand how that's true. Let's say the publisher finances a project and must then cancel because it's getting anywhere. The publisher lost, say, 3% of its money while the developers lost 100% of it, and all the employees are probably looking for a new job. It doesn't seem to me that the publisher is taking much risk -- total failure won't hurt them that much -- but the developer is taking a huge one: failure can mean the death of the studio.

If Bill Gates bets 100$ on a horse race, I'd say he's taking less risk than a poor man betting 50$ on the same race. Likewise, a large publisher betting a small fraction of its resources on a project takes much less risk than a small developer spending all of its resources on the same project.

You're talking as if running a game development company involves no risk while investing in game development is very risky. That's just not true, both activities involve risk and proportionally it's the developer who stands to lose most.

AdamW

PaG - I agree, but sadly, BillG would still win twice as much as the poor guy if the horse came in. In practice, risk and reward calculations tends to be done the same way; they're based on the total amount each party puts in, the more you put in, the more you have at 'risk', the bigger your reward. BillG may be risking a smaller percentage of his overall capital but he's still risking twice as much money as the poor guy. It'd be quite hard to wean the world's financial systems off their attachment to this model...

Justin

Great article, thanks for posting it as I don't get Develop now I'm working in Canada.

The generation of new IP is something that intrigues me, since it seems that there is so little of it, despite the population of the world being huge.

It seems to require special individuals being in the right place at the right time, who have the confidence to go ahead and make what they want to make.

It's like there are only so many new stories and new songs, new game designs and ideas that can be born in any period of time.

I've worked at EA and seen them work hard at trying to make new IP, and they succeed only rarely (SSX and DefJam for example, yet they tried and canned many other ideas).

Tadhg

"As for lowering the price of presenting a new idea, how do you do it? The problem is that you can't really tell the quality of a game idea from a game design."

This is a typical retort that I hear, but it simply isn't relevant.

Firstly, a script (as a corrollary example) is not something from which you can tell that you have a brilliant film straight away. That is a common misconception. Hollywood is littered with scripts that started out as genius but somehow became poor films nonetheless. It is true that you cannot make a great film without a great script, but the latter is no guarantee of the former. This is because a script is ultimately the intent of the project, but actually producing the project is a whole other thing.

If the way that the games industry operated were translated to film, then in order for a film or television show to be greenlit, the producer of said film would have to produce a 15-minute fully post-produced reel that showed exactly what the film is. It is only at that point where you can tell what the film is really going to be like after all, so surely that's what any sensible studio should do?

Of course not? Why? Because it's boneheadedly expensive and guarantees that you'll only end up drawing on a tiny minority of ideas from the people that can afford to produce that reel.

The second reason that it is irrelevant is that it misses the whole point of a studio's business, which is to make sell and profit from Intellectual Property. Games publishers are in exactly the same business. They sell and make a lot of money from Intellectual Property, and so their focus is having a product that seems good. Hopefully it happens to be good as well, but that is in fact less of an issue than the appearance of being good.

And that's why your point is irrelevant. They don't need to know if it'll be a good game or not. They just need to know whether they think it'll sell a million units or not. And that is where a good writer comes in. Like it or not, this is how the industry of tomorrow is likely to be thinking, and it will be through the removal of the demo from the pitching process that small studios manage to resurface again. It will become a lot more like the way the advertising industry works, in otherwords.


"Actually I think the overall solution would be to find a way to make commercially viable games very cheaply. Games that don't have to sell huge amounts of copies to be profitable. That platform could then become a proving ground for potential developers, since failure would be cheap. Anybody has an idea about how we could do that?"

No, it would be uneconomical and basically very dumb.
The problem is that the greater majority of games sales are in fact with only a tiny minority of games, and that the vast majority of games do not sell anywhere near enough copies because they remain as nothing but un-known shovelware and nothing more.

And there is also a cut-off point. The hardware manufacturers who are the real power in this industry don't want software that appears so shabby to appear on their system because they (quite rightly) feel that such software can tarnish the image of the brand as a whole. They know, in otherwords, that most mainstream consumers don't distinguish publisher brands, but rather distinguish hardware and software franchises only. So they think that all the PS2 games are actually Sony games, and so it reflects badly on Sony if "My Cheapass Game 3" is sitting on the shelves for months at a time, wallowing its way toward the bargain bin.

If it were easy to make games cheaper, everyone would be doing it. The issue of spiralling costs has put literally hundreds of developers out of business already, and one or two small publishers too. It's a big business now, and applying small business techniques to big business is a recipe for disaster.

AdamW

"If the way that the games industry operated were translated to film, then in order for a film or television show to be greenlit, the producer of said film would have to produce a 15-minute fully post-produced reel that showed exactly what the film is."

In the world of TV, they do (in fact, it's a half-hour fully post-produced reel). It's called a pilot, and many shows are dumped after poorly-received pilots.

brian

AdamW, TV is different as the costs of the show depend upon how many episodes are produced. Meaning it has high variable costs to pay for the actors/set/director/etc. The initial fixed cost for the pilot is insignificant to a show that runs for several seasons. In other words, TV has reoccuring costs whereas film like most video games are standalone projects. That is the difference.

Tadhg

AdamW,

And who pays for the pilot?
The studios, not the production company who came with the idea. The production company usually just produces a treatment on paper, a few snazzy graphics, a logo and that sort of thing, and brings that to the studio, who then decide whether to fund a pilot or not.

In the future, demos will still exist, vertical slices will still exist, but the key difference is that they won't be paid for by the developers. Developers will produce documentation, mock-up graphics, maybe a small 30-second video reel to set the scene and that kind of thing, and then take that to one of the large publishers, who then decide whether to fund a demo.

PaG

When I talked about making cheaper games, I didn't mean making the same games we're making now only with worse graphics and production value. That obviously wouldn't work. I was thinking more in the way of creating cool 2D games for example and sell them for cheaper than "full" games. Titles that are more experimental because failure is much cheaper.

I think there could be a market for cool, short, cheap games on the PC for example -- say downloading 2 hours long games online for 5$. Heck, cellphones games could be that very opportunity if they weren't so stuck up with licenses.

Scott Miller

Interesting related article.

"...of the top 25 console and handheld titles sold to-date in the U.S. in 2004, only three aren't sequels or licensed IP..."

And, another related article.

AdamW

Tadhg - fair point, the funding is different. Was just pointing out a flaw in the initial comparison.

Dan Schwartz

As a gammer I think Rodeoclown had a point in that I don't know why some games are so "fun",
as fun is an abstract.

In the case of all the sequels think about when you read a book that you
personaly love don't you want to find out what happens after the book ends, even when there is a complete ending.

I wonder why do you( game makers) make games at all?

Since I can't compose my thoughts very well to others in any medium other then talking face to face. Let alone sit down and learn whatever it takes to make games.
I am at your collective mercy for reciveing entertainment

Tadhg

From the first article that Scott posted:

----starts----
But while many game designers are vocal about the lack of creativity in the industry, gamers are not. In fact, they seem to enjoy seeing titles that are familiar to them, either because they saw the movie or because they played a previous iteration of the game.

At Nottingham, England-based Free Radical Design, director David Doak describes his disappointment with the way his company's most recent game, "Second Sight," is being received. The game, a third-person action title that was released a month ago for PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube, is original IP, which, he says, may be the problem.

"It's been acclaimed for the storytelling," he says. "But because it's original, it failed to get the kind of scores by reviewers that we were looking for. And it didn't have a long marketing campaign before its release. I think it suffered from that in terms of sales. If 'Second Sight' had been tied to a movie -- even just a moderately successful movie -- I think it would have done phenomenally well. Gamers tend to buy what they know and what's safe."
---end---

I find this interesting, because it's a kind of argument that I've heard developers advance several times: That their original IP doesn't get the support and reviews that it deserves because it's original, and thgat's why original IP doesn't work.

Rubbish.
What's missing from this sort of reasoning is an acknowledgement that maybe the IP just ins't very good to begin with. As it happens, Second Sight's IP is not particularly interesting. It comes across as very cliche'd more than anything else, and it is not much of a surprise that the publishers and reviewers don't think too much of it. It has an interesting game mechanic, but the basic point is that the actual milieu that it creates, and fantasy that it offers, is just not very interesting.

I think a lot of developers have fallen prone to thinking that The System is what's working against them all time, when what has actually happened (IMO) is that as the industry has broadened, so too the challenges of design in terms of messages and IP have also increased, and this is something that the industry is, on the whole, unwilling and unable to address.

Publishers would *love* it if they had new interesting IP coming at them that they could exploit. They would love it because it is better for their business in the long term to have that sort of thing on side. Movies and sequels offer diminished returns, a fact that they know full well.

However they simply aren't seeing any new IP that appears to be worth a damn coming out of the development industry bar the very odd exception. Developers, inclined to think more in terms of technology and cliche, appear to be spectacularly ill-suited to thinking of attractive new ideas, or getting those attractive new ideas to the publisher's ears.

Or at least, that is how it appears.

PaG

I don't think publishers are really eager to get new IP. If they really wanted it after all, all they'd have to do is ask developers for new IP. It's not like they don't ask specific things in proposals already. If a publisher said it wants submissions for a new, original IP then I'm sure a whole lot of developers would line up to submit their ideas. Unless you tell me you work at a publisher and know first-hand that it's what they're looking for, of course (in which case, where can I send my studio's own original IP proposal? ;)

OTOH I do agree that blaming The System and the pesky players for failure of new IP is an easy way out. If it's the System or the players, then it's nobody's fault if the game failed and you don't need too much painful soul searching...

I think the problem is both on the developer and on the publisher's side. The publisher is affraid of risks so underfunds (or doesn't fund at all) original projects, while the developer just doesn't know what makes succesful IP (I'd bet the vast majority of designers hasn't read a marketing book in their life). Publishers are affraid of new IP, developer don't know how to make it -- no surprise there's a lack of originality!

Tadhg

"I don't think publishers are really eager to get new IP. If they really wanted it after all, all they'd have to do is ask developers for new IP."

Of course they are.
Look, any publisher knows that they can't wholly base their business on material owned by someone else. What happens if their movie licensor decides to use someone else next time around, or their developer-owned sequel gets sold to someone else?

See: Acclaim.

The publisher business, like any media publisher business, is the business of creating and exploiting intellectual property in the hope of dispensing entertainment and reaping profits.

The problem with the current industry is one of faith. Most of the publishers simply don't have any faith in developers to produce good IP because developers are all geeky outfits that think games where pigs and aliens duke it out over a marmalade landscape are million-selling ideas.

These guys aren't stupid, and all they see coming from the development industry are deeply nerdy ideas which they know don't sell in huge numbers. So instead, they do what any business in their situation does: Take the less risky option and plumb for some sort of recognition factor to see them through, such as a franchise character, a sequel, a tie-in with a more powerful medium, or a celebrity figure attached to the project.

Their problem is that they keep seeing game development proposals from studios populated by hardcore gamers who want to make hardcore games for other hardcore gamers (but who claim their ideas are "mainstream"), and yet they know that the majority of their consumers are not in fact gamers.

Remember, most games fail at the box office, and unlike the old days where that didn't matter so much (dev costs being lower, one successful game could carry a lot of others), that has a huge impat on the survivability of a publisher. That means the standard of IP that they're looking for has to be a lot better, frankly. It needs to be appropriately pitchedm, understood, imaginative and basically the sort of thing that Jack and Jill in the street would want to play.

And this is something that, to date, developers often do very badly and that is why they fail, not because of their technology or gameplay or any of that. It is because they are fundamentally out of touch with the majority of the games audience today and most of the successful publishers know this. The death of the game developer is very much a case in point of traditionalism and cultural inflexibility acting in the face of changed market conditions.

Scott Miller

-- What's missing from this sort of reasoning is an acknowledgement that maybe the IP just ins't very good to begin with.

I agree 100%.

From what I've seen of Second Sight (I've not played the game, but read about and seen a review on X Play), it lacks a memorable hook, or a strong buzz generator. That, and the fact that it appears to have average execution (average 80% on GameRankings.com), is not the proper way to kick off a new IP.

As far as I am aware, this game had very little pre-release buzz going for it. That's often a symptom of poor positioning.

Robert Howarth

How many publishers will take the risk on funding a new game w/o owning the IP rights in case it's actually a huge hit?

Tadhg

"How many publishers will take the risk on funding a new game w/o owning the IP rights in case it's actually a huge hit?"

Very few, and only because it is very much in their interest for other reasons.
Microsoft did it recently with Fable, for example, because it is very much in their interest to have a huge industry figure like Peter Molyneux seen essentially bigging up their system. In Microsoft's case, they are a manufacturer and so they have more at stake than a publisher.

Justin

From the look of the site the game looks pretty good...

http://www.codemasters.co.uk/secondsight/

In terms of looking at the ability your character has it looks like the gameplay could be great.

Unfortunately there is no character, story or any kind of IP that jumps out at you from the video there.

Free Radical is absolutely right that it would have sold well as a movie license. But then if the game is only average then it's more a case of it needing a movie license to sell.

If the game had been awesome to play then I dare say it would have created more buzz at the magazines who played it, and it would have gotten bigger marketing budgets.

Perhaps their focus should not be 'we need a license to sell more' but, how do we make our games better, and how do we give them immediate impact for retail buyers and reviewers.

Is this all a symptom of how we have become a mass market with a few excellent games competing for the money? IP is only worth any money if it is instantly globally recognisable.

Tadhg

"Perhaps their focus should not be 'we need a license to sell more' but, how do we make our games better, and how do we give them immediate impact for retail buyers and reviewers."

By hiring people who know how to do these things and not doing what most developers do, which is string a series of clich├ęs together, add a hefty amount of spin about how mainstream it is, and then blame the market when these things fail.

Branding specialists, for example. Product designers. Artists from outside the field. Writers. People who are used to creating and selling things on the basis of their imagination rather than their technology.

"Is this all a symptom of how we have become a mass market with a few excellent games competing for the money? IP is only worth any money if it is instantly globally recognisable. "

That's not true. There is a lot of great IP out there that is perfectly happy within a niche. Science fiction novels, for example, or strange Japanese games only found in Japan. Games Workshop's output. Not every IP has to be a global killer. It just has to be imaginative in a way that connects with an audience, and likely to make them want to imagine something and step into its world.

There is a real lack of outlet at the moment for smaller-budget independent games which would indeed have an audience (I'm thinking of PS1-level production values here) but who simply have no awareness or means of access. It is one of the great challenges facing the creative people in the industry to try and break through this barrier and carve a separate distribution means for itself. Publishers won't do it for them because they have no motivation to do so.

Consoles are effectively a closed avenue. They are the multiplex cinemas of the games world, which means that a developer working within that framework has to play by those rules. The PC is a possible avenue, but is wrapped up in a heavy load of technical issues (for one thing) and a heavily fragmented series of markets (fps players, strat-sim players etc) rather than one overall market.

Everybody says the internet is the possible saviour, but it won't be until an independent means is organised. One way that I often think would work is for an independent publishing portal to be created that doesn't do what the likes of real.com does (essentially shovels out thousands of puzzle games etc in a big A-to-Z format with little promotion. Mobile phone games are the same). Rather it selectively picks and promotes specific games, games made with a bit of money, and works the PR and press side of things to get these games noticed.

Some sort of a Miramax for gaming basically.

ploosh

Bundles are all the rage. Just to throw it out there: Any thought about bundling your IP with different outlets? Pitch, prototype, package. Get your screen script, your game script, your soundtrack, and your product placement all in one bundle. Maybe if the different Indie markets banded together some doors would open for a full package. ?

DaveT

...It's Pooh, with an 'h'...Winnie the Pooh....

rose

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king!

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