Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Irony (Or: Same Industry, Different Worlds)

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 25, 2012

I feel a little morbid about this juxtaposition, but these happened on the same day:

A major “mainstream” development house with a huge budget fails spectacularly, potentially dragging taxpayers (and, by reputation, the games industry) down with it. In spite of a recently launched game that’s reportedly exceeded publisher expectations and sold over a million units.

Tiny little indie studios with minimal budgets launch a big event celebrating their independence and market flexibility. And, from all I can see and hear – meeting with great success.

I feel really bad for the 38 Studios employees that just got gut-punched and are now looking for jobs. That’s a LOT of developers.  I don’t know the details, but it sounds to me like Big Huge Games was reasonably successful with Kingdoms of Amalur, but 38 Studios was somehow depending on that to subsidize their development of their MMO.  The MMO sank the company. I’m hearing lots of conflicting statements about sales and expectations, but I don’t see how any company can reasonably base a business around the necessity of a new game – a new property – requiring 3 million sales to break even. Maybe I’m just too far out from the big AAA business side of things anymore, but to me that’s just inviting disaster. And disaster strikes often enough without sending it a formal invitation.

Then we’ve got the indies. The Because We May sale now has about 550 titles (with some duplicates) and counting, which really makes it an unheard-of huge sale. And from most reports I’m hearing (and the very nice, substantial bump in Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon sales, both here and on Desura), it’s turning into a very nice success story for most parties involved. Probably not home-run, retire-to-our-own-private-island success, but more like Yay-We-Made-Rent-Two-Weeks-Early success. Base hits. Nice, sustainable business success that doesn’t require a blockbuster hit to avoid shuttering the company.

I know this isn’t the way the entertainment industry works. I’d love to see the above as an analogy for the entire games biz, but that’s too much wishful thinking. It has always been (and always will be) hit-driven.  The #2 game doesn’t sell half as much as the #1 game, and the #3 game is hardly in the same league #1, but it still towers over all of the other contenders, and so forth. It’s how it works.  But while the titans all slug it out – and often die messily, there’s still somehow room for these little guys to do their thing. And I think that space is growing, as the battlefield at the top becomes ever more extreme.

Quite frankly, while I appreciate pretty graphics as much as the next gamer, I find my entertainment desire isn’t served a thousand times better by a game that cost a thousand times as much to make.

Filed Under: Biz, Indie Evangelism, Mainstream Games - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

  • Felix Pleșoianu said,

    Haven’t there been news of SW:ToR also not meeting expectations… exactly as everyone predicted?

    The sad thing is, if SW:ToR fails people will just attempt something even larger…

  • Anon said,

    There are actually different opinions out there how many copied Kingdom of Amalur should have sold.

    Personally, I’d say that 3 million was totally out of the question right from the beginning but that’s only me and not somebody who lies to his employees and investors.

    Or to the press like the governor, but he is a politician so that’s normal.

    As for the imps that got burned: I’m not sorry but I know how you feel. I once got sacked under similarily brutal circumstances, too.

    I bet some of those people will think twice to work for a guy again that rather gives the company’s last money to the bank instead of the employees.
    But not only that: The managment apparently informed them at the very last stage of events – when their health insurance practically ran out.

    But hey, that’s life in a capitalist country, isn’t it?

    You can always become an indie!