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Smaller game publishers dying?


rustyjaw
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I saw this article earlier this week, and it paints a not-so-pretty picture of what is in store for the gaming industry. That the few big companies will either kill-off or swallow the smaller publishers.

 

The smaller publishers have struggled to gain market share, and with the exception of Interplay's "Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance 2," which was a top-10 title in January, they have struggled to make an impact on the sales charts.

 

"It's a vicious cycle," said Dan "Shoe" Hsu, editor-in-chief of leading games magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly. Small publishers, he said, have difficultly attracting attention for their games, which hurts sales, which leaves them with less money to promote their titles.

 

I know this isn't news to most people here, but it's another reminder that changes are probably coming sooner rather than later.

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I don't think losing any of the three publishers mentioned in the article would be a big deal. They have all earned their respective situations through either mediocre products or bad managment. What bothers me is that the same trend is spreading to small developers and working to kill off innovation. I think it will really come to a head with the next round of systems. It's costing more and more to take full advantage of hardware and niche games with small target audiences will be hit the hardest.

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I don't think losing any of the three publishers mentioned in the article would be a big deal... What bothers me is that the same trend is spreading to small developers and working to kill off innovation.

 

The problem is that the fewer publishers there are, the fewer deals are available for small developers. BAM's financial woes have already sunk a handful of indie developers in the UK (allegedly...). If a big publisher implodes, there's a damn good chance it'll pull in a few developers who were working on games for that publisher because the financial situation for the average developer is very, very tight - one missed milestone payment, one deal gone wrong is usually all it takes these days :-/

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This is part of the reason I love Savage: Battle for Newerth so much. Beside the fact that the game is so much fun to play I'm doing my part to support the little guy.

 

But I've always done that with my shopping anyway, where practical. I'd rather shop at a mom & pop anyday versus a Wal-Mart or other large chain.

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This is just part of the industry cycle, it's happened for as long as I can remember for the last 20 years. Little companies have great ideas, games, then the industry tightens up a bit and they get sucked up by larger entities or die. Then games stagnate a bit at big companies, some new small companies spring up and make innovative, great, new games. They get sucked up by big companies and so on...

 

After all, who had heard of Valve, Blizzard, Bungie, Rockstar, or even Sony (video games) 15 years ago? They didn't exist, but Origin, Atari, Commodore, and Apple were major players in video game world. Buy many of their games lately (the "new" Atari doesn't count, it's not the same company?)

 

I'm willing to bet that the hottest companies in 2015 aren't even formed yet, although the people are probably around making games for other companies. In gaming, companies are a dime a dozen but if you watch you'll see the same names again and again under different logos (and they make the games so...)

 

The video game industry is VERY healthy right now, it's not going away anytime soon.

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dog,

 

I would change it by saying that it IS harder to be a garage start up type company these days as opposed to years ago. Not that you don't have the big fish and the little innovative fish, but today the big fish are 5 billion dollar companies and the "little fish" are 20 million dollar companies. Not quite the same as Richard Garriot designing Ultima I in his garage (literally!) and changed the flow of mainstream gaming forever. So for say you and I to make a game and distribute it there would just be no way through the classic gaming channels.

 

But, there is also an equalizing force these days. The internet. Although online gaming is all the rage, it is still in it's infancy and who knows what it could hold for gaming? I mean, is there a better grass roots gaming example than Counterstrike? Two guys making a little fun mod that eventually became the most played online game ever, who could have seen that coming? And I would argue it was the biggest influence on FPS gaming today (aside from DOOM.) And who knows what 2 guys in a basement in Australia (or Atlanta or Paris) are dreaming up today that will THE golden benchmark of tomorrow?

 

So maybe it is still the same game, but a new playfield and rulebook. I don't know, but I still believe gaming is far from being dead or stagnant. Looking at how many "small" gaming companies are out there today is an outdated model for assessing the health and longetivety of the gaming scene. Just doens't work like that anymore...

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