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That new plastic smell? You love it don't you? I know I do. How about the feeling of opening up that game wrapped in that new plastic... you like that, too? I know I do. How do you feel about getting to the end of the game and getting stuck in the floor and not being able to finish the game and having to restart? You probably hate it... I know I do. Well, everything you love about the game up until you get to the broken parts are because of the developers. All the broken parts? You can blame them on the publisher.
Brian Fargo, the head honcho of inXile Entertainment and the lead on the upcoming Wasteland 2, the indie project that was successfully Kickstarted last year, had some cold hard facts to share about the developer-publisher relationship.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun, taking a moment away from their SJW moonlighting, decided to impart some time on a very thorough interview with inXile's Brian Fargo, in which Fargo spared no expense to tell it exactly how it is in the AAA business and how hard it can be on developers making big-budget, wannabe-Hollywood blockbuster games.
First up, he dispelled the myth that developers are just known for making buggy products because they just naturally suck at the job (an unfortunate rumor that spread like wildfire about Obsidian Entertainment), saying...
“....ultimately… It’s like when Obsidian took a hit on their Metacritic and didn’t get their bonus. Mostly they got dinged because it was a buggy product. Obsidian, their reputation was taking a hit for shipping buggy products. They don’t control QA. The publisher controls it. The publisher always controls QA. They decide when it’s done. There’s no bug we can’t fix. There’s no bug they can’t fix. Somebody made a conscious decision – because there was a list. I guarantee you the QA department had a list of bugs. They said, “We don’t care. We gotta ship it anyway.” Why does the developer lose their bonus and get their reputation killed for that?
For those of you probably asking the very, very obvious question "WTF is up with devs not releasing patches then for the game?" They do. In fact, day-one patching has become a bit of a ritual these days for most bigger budget titles.
However, there is something to keep in mind: A lot of patches require (or used to require) payments to Microsoft and Sony after an initial free-patching requisition. Tim Schafer, Phil Fish and a few other devs skirted around the issue of payments to patch games (mostly due to NDAs, something that Nintendo briefly discussed during a recent developer conference).
So basically, a lot of games are patched in intervals or not patched at all to avoid any additional costs on the publisher's end. Besides, the only people who care about a broken game are the people who made it and the people who play it... not the ones who profit from it.
But if you think the above quote was rocket-busting, check out what Fargo further added...
“So yeah, you can imagine – even if it’s a different scenario – how it can be frustrating to be a developer doing work when you’re the one that’s taking it every which way. You’re usually not making money, either. I would run the numbers on games and say, “Look. You guys are up $20 million in profit. It’s my idea. I came to you. I did 100 percent of the work. And guess what? I don’t mind if you make more money than me. That doesn’t bother me, because you took the financial risk. However, when you’re up $20 million after paying your marketing and everything, don’t you think we deserve $1 million?” Nope. So yes, it’s frustrating.”
Those tossing publishers. It just makes you want to smack your fist into your palm and say “Darn you all, darn your souls to Baal!”
Go on, do it. You know you need to vent a little after reading that last line. You know it and I know it, so let's not let formalities stand in the way of proper venting. No worries, I'll wait... ...
Just kidding, I can't wait, but you can still vent while reading on.
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