Survival of the Fittest: Is There a Future for Game Publishers?
Game publishers have always been a cornerstone in the game industry. They have been the ones who make ways from many developers to create popular titles that end up on gaming consoles. But, the way games are developed and funded are changing with the advent of new monetary resources, such as crowd funding. Games are distributed to consumers in ways that vary greatly from several years ago. It is no big secret that there are new ways for game developers to get money to create the games that they are interested in making. Costs of developing games are finally hitting the point where the tools are inexpensive enough for even hobbyists to afford tools to make high quality games.
The question then arises, is there a future for game publishers? If so, what is their role in the future of interactive games and software?
Game publishers have been around through most of the history of videogames. They helped manage budgets, find developers, handle marketing, and deal with the manufacturing of physical goods. Some game publishers have ballooned in size to be able to have their own development studios while still being able to publish games for other developers. Most developers could not afford the costs involved with releasing a game through retail without help that publishers provided.
Times have changed, and the way gamers consume their content is changing as well. With the advent of cloud gaming and digital releases, gamers no longer have to walk into a store to purchase a physical copy of a game. Games are no longer tied to console and PC only because of the advances in mobile and web browser technologies. As we begin moving to a digital future, one has to wonder how game publishers will be able to adapt to these changes.
Another struggle that game publishers are faced with is the rising costs for them to produce and create games in spite of the lowering cost of development tools. There is a shift in costs where game publishers are spending tons of money on the creation of games; but developers can now make high quality games at mere pennies to the dollar. Developers can now also afford licenses to release their content through many of the digital marketplaces for hundreds of dollars a year at most. Also, there are new ways of finding funds to create games and other projects through places such as Kickstarter. The game publisher model of game creation is starting to wane, and many developers are realizing that they are able to cut out the middle man to maximize their own profits.
With the odds against them, it seems that game publishers will disappear — but that may not be the case. Game publishers still have a place in today’s market within the console and high end PC market. Many have a stable of developers in which they can rely on creating content for them while handling the production side of development. Publishing companies are also a great place for newer development studios to get the funding they may need to create a project that they could not get through crowd sourcing because of a lack of recognition. They are also the go-to place when it comes to the creation of mainstream high budget titles.
How Can Publishers Adapt to the Changing of Tides in Game Development?
First, they are going to have to come to grips that they are a means to an end, and taking away control from developers can actually hurt them. The majority of people working in game development are creative and want to have control over their brain projects. Publishers need to be more hands off to not turn off developers, which may include leaving a developer with the rights to their projects.
Secondly, publishers need to focus on the emerging technologies and find a way to adapt. Games are no longer held to being sold at retail and publishers need to accept that the old model of selling games is slowly going away. Embracing the changes in technology is important because television is going through similar changes with online streaming. Fighting against change is showing its effects with cable companies and their slow drain of subscribers because of new ways of introducing alternative means for consumer entertainment.
Publishers also need to not be afraid to spend a little if they are able to make what they spent back. From marketing to research and development, publishers need to be willing to spend to make themselves a viable option for any game developer. Games need to be marketed and small developer houses do not have the funds for this, which requires that publishers not be afraid to spend on a development studio or marketing for a game.
There is a chance the future holds nothing but a sunset for game publishers that may disappear altogether eventually. But if they can buckle down and adapt to the changing climate of game development and funding, there may just be a sunrise waiting for them instead. The game industry is changing into a developers market and more influence is with developers than with publishers. That does not mean there will not be a place for game publishers, but they need to adapt to the coming changes in technology and development methods. Publishers need to get rid of their need to have complete control and focus on finding studios who want to work with them and bring something interesting to the table. Personally, I think that publishers have a chance of survival; but they must be willing to embrace change and find a ways to be a beneficial partnership for developers.