By day: bringing newspapers into the 21st Century.
By night: indie game designer for Insurgency.
Thanks for clarifying that this is in fact news.
Yeah, I’m not suggesting the AAA publisher model will evaporate next year. Indies were not a threat a decade ago, so they could build and thrive on the model they use to this day. Ten years from now will be an entirely different business landscape that will be shaped by what appears to be insignificant (by traditional standard) indies of today.
Innovation is not moving into the future looking through the rear view mirror. It’s not about gaining the $1b return on a $50m investment in a 200-person studio. It’s about getting a $10m return on a >$1m game made by a 15-person studio delivering a new experience that is simply better than rehashing old experiences that simply gain profit.
The publisher elites are losing their market share, as the rise of indies are taking over a broader middle ground. Irrational seems to be moving towards the middle ground, while we see indies like DayZ or Rust moving upwards. The audience may not seem to be most profitable from the middle, but that changes over time.
EDIT: Oops, meant to reply to Fatbot.
The tragic implications of laying off (what sounds like) over 100 staff is awful, as many are quick to point out.
However, what it seems like – and nobody else seems to recognize this – is that Levine is disrupting his own studio before it falls victim to disruption from competitors. I don’t mean competitors being other AAA games. I mean indies.
The industry is going through The Innovator’s Dilemma, but big profits overshadow the threat. The business model and development cycles are flawed, as many have observed. Could Irrational’s move mean that Levine also realizes this situation and boldly taking action to adapt to the changing environment? Is he now taking an indie approach?
I work with an indie team of around 12 people. We made an FPS that is critically regarded (both by press and especially fans) as superior to what EA and Activision are releasing. Yet we don’t get the same level of attention, merely because we’re not making enough money to garner that attention. But we make enough from grassroots marketing to keep making the game. The measure of ‘success’ being enough sales to make up for and profit over the investment costs in development and marketing. The more you put in, the more you need in return.
The reality now is you can make quality games for far less cost and time than traditional methods. Invest less, and you potentially gain larger returns. Look at the Top 30 selling games on Steam and count how many are discounted from the traditional AAA pricing. Look at how many indies have a regular price even lower than the discounted AAA price and remain Top Sellers.
Innovate or die.
Slow news day?
It’s true that some people won’t like the final product. The Early Access stage will attract players who are early adopters, and many have their own idea of what they want the game to be. As it evolves, they provide their feedback and ideas hoping the developers shape it accordingly. But then it doesn’t end up exactly how they saw it – since the developers have their own vision and direction for the game.
That depends if you’re looking at DayZ versus a team that gains modest sales over a longer term. Look at Broken Age, they pulled in a record amount from Kickstarter, yet barely cracked the Steam Top Sellers list upon release. Most of their audience came prior to release. That’s an interesting dynamic to look at, especially for DayZ and Rust that are pulling in huge numbers immediately, but what will their long term results look like?
For Insurgency, we had modest growth over the nine months of being in Early Access, but with the launch out of Early Access last month, we stood at #3 in Top Sellers (below the aforementioned) for well over a week after launch and continue to grow sales over time as word-of-mouth spreads over the quality of the game. If a game doesn’t have the audience immediately, then it will take sheer merit and persistent hard work to grow over time.