Selling Out: f(t) = $ * x

I’m a firm believer that if your fifteen minutes of fame arrive, you have every right to take advantage of each individual second, even if you lose a little dignity in the process (or abandon it completely). Indeed, in most of our cases, we would be foolish not to.

But that doesn’t make it any more palatable when I see a game studio sell out to the man.

Let’s face it: these days, I’m not sure we’re even legally allowed to hear music that hasn’t been pre-processed and well-packaged by a half a dozen suits running the band through eleven different focus groups. Bands don’t seem to even have the option on whether to sell out anymore, it’s just part of the business. You become popular after the big money let’s you, not beforehand.

In some ways, it looks like video games are headed down the same road. Even though it’s easier than ever for an indie studio to distribute their games, the AAA titles essentially require backing from a big time distributor. With that financial backing comes a certain degree of creative control for the distributor, most visibly in the form of release date deadlines, but definitely in other ways as well.

Gaming is as big of a business as it ever has been, and that’s good for gamers. The more money floating around means that more talented people will drift into game design for their piece of the pie, which should mean that better games will be developed. And for what it’s worth, this barbarian is a big fan of capitalism, and therefore a supporter of giant, evil corporations, especially Shinra. It’s just unfortunate that oftentimes the bottom-line focus of the corporate executives and the best interests of the shareholders tend to stifle the needs of the actual developers.

In the end, if you’re an independent game studio approached with an offer from a big distributor, you have to realize a few things. You will sacrifice some (read: most) control over your project. The game you want to make will not be the game the distributor releases. And the games you want to make in the future may never be the games you’re allowed to work on.

But if the money is good enough, and guaranteed enough, then it’s probably worth it to sell out for a while so you can fund your own projects in the future. Right? Right.


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