You WANT Game Publishers To Be Evil

The world is filled with necessary evils, and the game industry is no exception. Sometimes, publishers take the role of the crafty little devils that allow your favorite games to survive the burning financial landscape that is the marketplace.

It takes an awful lot of money to release a title on consoles, where the development cost of a triple-A title can range between 5-10 million dollars. And that’s a low estimate. With such exorbitant price tags, only major publishers have the ability to produce a constant stream of new triple-A video games.

This is because creating a game inherently has a lot of risk. 38 Studios, makers of Kingdoms of Amalur, went bankrupt despite creating a well-selling game because they squandered a lot of their efforts and pay creating the foundation for an MMO they lacked the funding and time to finish. This example of success in the land of defeat showcases the ruthless nature of the video game market. Without precise knowledge of what games to make, how to make them well, and how to sell them, even the most talented game makers with the best intentions will find themselves lost, destitute, and completely broke.

Kickstarter offers a sanctuary for a few smaller game developers, but the games that get funded on Kickstarter tend to be of a lesser-known ilk. Big-name titles like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed are still the sort of games most people would associate with the industry. These are the games that parents buy for their kids on Christmas, the games that will continue to define genres and sell consoles. And these blockbuster games can only be made with the sort of money that can only come from large, heavily funded publishers.

Game publishers fill a need that they created. Companies like Activision are the Mr. Torgues of the gaming world. They push for bigger, badder, explosiver titles years after year. Even the C.E.O of Activision, Bobby Kotick, grumbled to the New York Times about the increasing costs of producing a game year after year. He feels it’s important to increase the production value of each successive Call of Duty game because people always expect the publisher to top itself in every area: graphics, story, the guns the game uses, and so on. People expect this constant improvement from the series, and only Activision can create a better Call of Duty game each and every year.

Let me throw another metaphor out there: In the new Devil May Cry Game, there’s a drink called Virility. This beloved energy drink substitute comes from the excretion of a 1,000-year-old Succubus. People love this drink, and only the Succubus can give it to them. This is pretty much what game publishers do to the public, just with video games instead of energy drinks. Each franchise created (and there are franchises every-damn-where) is a different version of Virility that only one specific game publisher (or demon) can create.


Publishers can be greedy devils, and this won’t change until the game market becomes less risky. A single massive failure can bankrupt a company. Game publishers create a specific need—because without a lot of people wanting the same thing, big franchise titles will never get made—and then they fill it. If they were to suddenly disappear, they’d just leave a large, gaping hole where your favorite game franchises used to be.

Game publishers might be the devils of the industry, but the game market is a land where angels fear to tread. So you take what you can get, even if it comes with a heaping side dish of evil.



Justin Cloyd
Freelance Writer
Date: April 11, 2013


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