Take it Slow - An Editorial

by 2/06/2017
Hey everyone! Eric again... looks like I might start handling these more often. Maybe. Likely. Kinda. I don't know. Ask Jay. I just usually write the pretty stories. He seems to think I can write more editorial pieces as well. So, here we go. If you don't like it, not my fault. Blame the “Boss Man” and not me. I want to talk about the developer to publisher relationship in gaming today. Or at least, what was the relation and what seems to be changing about it recently. At least from my point of view. Again, Jay's idea. I didn't choose this... REMEMBER THAT.

Anyway, think of a game you were super hyped for in the past and then it was just a huge let down because it seemed incomplete. Or rushed. Or like, there was meant to just be-- more. We've all experienced it. Heck, you even hear about it now happening with Nintendo's Switch. Some think Nintendo is rushing a console out too fast. Not just a game. You see it a lot in online games as well. The Elder Scrolls Online being one of recent memory that I personally experienced upon launch. Not just a lack of elder game content (no pun intended) but also bugs and glitches so massive and game-breaking, there is no way they could have been missed by internal quality assurance. From banked items disappearing and being deleted to quests that could not be completed that were required to progress at the old veteran level system they used... the game was rushed out, clearly.

Alright, I chose my game. You got yours? Good. Savor that pain. The disappointment. It wasn't fun was it? Now think of why your choice was released in such a state. Was it the developers not caring about their product? Doubt it. Shovelware isn't normally hyped or overly advertised. Do you think it was lack of skill of the devs? Another thing I would doubt as well, poorly made games don't get the attention that would make people salivate over them. Done guessing? Hell, were you even guessing? Most of us know the reason. Publishers pushed for the developers to push the game out early, just to pad their financial quarter; make the holiday season; capitalize on a lull in the market, or any number of reasons. But the point still stands, it was rushed out far too early. And now
you are paying for it. Which, is the point really... to a publisher, games are only about the money. It's the developers that love their work. That put care into their work. All publishers do is fund the project. Seeing it as an investment, and believe me when I say they want a high return on their investment.

Who wouldn't though, right? Money makes the world go round and we all have our means to make money. This isn't wholly wrong on their part. And there are publishers that care for their devs. But they're few and far between. There are milestones and deadlines to meet when you're a developer for the publisher. Which is, again, fair. But it's the norm to have
very pushy publishers now. Even trying to drive the creative process themselves, which is usually what gives us these incomplete games.

But fear not! There has been developers that have won their freedom. Bought out their rights to be the sole controllers of their intellectual property. One of which of these companies has been Blizzard Entertainment. Yes, the makers of World of Warcraft. And it shows in their recent expansion: Legion. Before this expansion, Blizzard was under a directive to “make one expansion a year” from their publisher-- Activision. A directive that was never met. And instead, players were given content never truly spaced out properly, sometimes even too fast. But it was always the same thing at the end of an expansion: waiting near a year and eventually longer than a year from the last content patch of the previous expansion until the launch of the next one. Yet with Legion, one of their main points were them stating “We're no longer pursuing a goal of one expansion a year” and I swear there was more cheering for that than any other announcements that BlizzCon. And this was all because they were able to buy back the majority of their company back from Activision, their publishers.

Another successful trend we all have likely noticed is crowd-funding. I'm certain most of those reading can list more than a couple games that have released through Kickstarter alone. Some of these games have revitalized entire genres. All with developers not having publishers rushing their products out just to make a quick buck. Most developers that have used crowd-funding know that a late game that is complete is better than pandering to a community and rushing a game out because people complain. And while I've been seeing crowd-funding slow with game development, I have seen a raise in quality of titles being funded. I feel the huge surge of games first being crowd-funded were a large influx of many independent developers all trying to “get a piece of the pie” as it were. Which is fair. Indie devs are the “Starving Artists” of the industry. People need to eat! And I like pie!

My point is this: I'm seeing less and less publisher meddling with games and their developers. Something that should have never been started to begin with in my opinion. That all said, I feel fair goals to be made during development should be met, of course. Money needs to be made. But investing money should not allow publishers to lord that money over developers' heads. Fair goals. Milestones that are achievable. And stop pushing to get a game out earlier than it should. If publishers do not stop these habits, we'll continue to see developers look to alternate means of funding. I'm certain more than just the two examples I gave are possible. It's a brave new world out there.

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