Red 5 Says Big Publishers Aren't Meaningful To Developers Anymore

In a slightly controversial interview, Red 5 Studios (known for the upcoming FireFall MMO) founder and CEO Mark Kern spoke out about why a lot of bigger publishers stood behind the PIPA and SOPA bill and why a lot of developers opposed it. He also mentions that publishers just aren't meaningful to game development anymore.

In an interview with, Kern basically states the obvious, saying...

"I'll go ahead and say something controversial: I don't think publishers are meaningful any more for the developer. There's so many other ways to get out there, and you're going to have to find different ways to compete, but they can be just as valid."... "[For] studios like Riot, they're free-to-play, they're online, they publish themselves. They're doing fantastically well, and they can do it with a game that costs a lot less than what the studios have to pay."

Kern's statement is 100% true. A game like Q.U.B.E. cost $90,000 to develop and publish by Toxic Games, a group of college students. And according to Indie Fund, within only four days they made back their entire development costs and managed to profit from the project. Let me repeat that, Q.U.B.E., a game that looks as good as your average console title, only cost $90,000 to develop.

We live in a marketing age where publishers are constantly badgering gamers about high price tags for games because they "cost too much to make", which is not true at all. Heck, Mixamo just annoucned a $25 motion-capture solution for developers, Unity has a very affordable price rate for the Unity Engine, and even Epic Games has slashed prices for commercial games using the Unreal Development Kit. There's even a cheap, in-house solution for motion-capturing using two Xbox Kinect devices.

Mark Kern, however, believes that the "rising cost in development" argument is directly attached to the old-school method of video game distribution. Major publishers want to keep a stranglehold on the way gamers purchase and interact with their games, which is why he believes many of the big dogs in the world of video game publishing never came forward to publicly denounce the SOPA and PIPA bills like Bungie, Runic or his own studio Red 5...

"It's all about restricting and condensing the distribution channels to just a few official ones... What you're seeing is a reaction to try and preserve the old business model, and so you've got big companies lining up on one side and a lot of small studios lining up on the other. Small studios are tired of being reliant on publishers - for distribution, for finance, for everything else. It doesn't have to be that way any more."

And it really isn't that way anymore. We're seeing a lot of indie studios breakaway from the tired trends that's currently ruining the mainstream gaming place. Many titles are retreads of games already on the market but big publishers feed on that and the hammered-in mentality that "risks are too costly" when in fact, that's not the case at all. A game like Limbo completely broke trends but wasn't directly financed by a big game studio. Dungeon Defenders was a sleeper hit in 2011 but you won't find any games like that under EA's or Activision's label.

Innovation and creativity does not equate to bloated project budgets as many big publishers try to lead the gaming community to believe and it's part of the argument Kern makes against big publishers who have become greed machines more than anything else.

I'm glad Red 5's CEO is being transparent about this because heading into the next generation of console gaming many gamers will be goaded by big publishers into believeing that anything that isn't rehashed or re-released at a $70 price point will bankrupt the system, which is not true at all. There are a ton of creative, unique and original gamesbeing made on small budgets and hopefully, with the advent of digital distribution and free-to-play models on consoles and computers, hopefully they can find the audience they need.

You can read more about the interview with Red 5 by heading on over to

Will Usher

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend.