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Lorne Lanning on Micro-Publishing

Oddworld: Spending $30m on games, not Ferraris and private jets on GamesIndustry International features a conversation with Lorne Lanning of Oddworld Inhabitants, who shows a defiant independence when he says his answer was "F-ck you very much" to Electronic Arts at the prospect of being acquired (an offer EA says they cannot recall making). He goes on to describe how EA pulled marketing dollars from Stranger's Wrath and offered to buy them because of the money they lost on the project. "That's not a sustainable model, that's a hostile acquisition," he explains. "That's why we had to strive to get independent. Rather than get into bed with someone we knew was a horrible bed partner we said 'let's stay virgins for longer'." Here's how he describes his outlook on being a micro-publisher since he returned to gaming:

"On the micro-publisher level it's very simple. We fund our own products," he says. "We weren't able to do that in the boxed product days, we're only able to do that in the digital distribution landscape.

"Rather than having to have 1.5 million units in the opening week or suffer death, now if we have 50,000 sales and we're still in business. People are still employed and we're able to keep making content. When we released box product we would get 20 per cent of the revenue. After that 20 per cent paid back the entire development budget, if it was still selling at $60 we would start seeing $7 a unit. Because of the bricks and mortar, the plastic, the manufacturing, the gas involved in taking games to the store, the store itself and all those extra costs - not one of those costs makes a better game for the player."

"If you're the gamer, where do you want the money of the game you're buying to go?" he asks. "I want it going to help make more games. But the majority of that money is not going to games in the boxed product market.

He continues: "Now we're on a digitally distributed landscape, instead of a $60 price point we can offer a $9.99 price point. At $9.99 we get $7 per unit. At this price you're getting a game for one sixth of the price and we're still getting money to make more games. The player is truly funding our games. We have a few hundred thousand people we can depend on as fans of Oddworld who will buy our games. If we can get that number up to 3-5 million and with the increase of what that brings to the developer, then we can start funding our own $20 - $30 million triple-A games. That's our goal."

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22. Re: Lorne Lanning on Micro-Publishing Oct 3, 2012, 08:50 nin
 
I'm surprised you need this explained to you.

I'm not.

 
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21. Re: Lorne Lanning on Micro-Publishing Oct 3, 2012, 08:26 finga
 
Verno wrote on Oct 2, 2012, 14:15:
What does that have to do with agreeing to do console titles exclusively?
A lot. In the early-mid 2000s, publishing games independently on PC and making them profitable was very, very hard. I'm surprised you need this explained to you.
 
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20. Re: Lorne Lanning on Micro-Publishing Oct 2, 2012, 17:41 Creston
 
Ruffiana wrote on Oct 2, 2012, 02:41:
ASeven wrote on Oct 1, 2012, 20:53:
This only shows that publishers are walking towards redundancy. Devs are finally realizing they don't need a middle man and get a lot more profit if they ditch said middle man.

Indies, they are rising more and more.

There will always be a role for publishers as long as games are being sold on the shelves of GameStop, Walmart, Best-Buy, Target, etc.

If anything, this will change the relationship and role of publishers. They won't be fronting the money, so they won't be nearly as involved in the content of games. All the have to do is take a game that's done, publish it, distribute it, market it, and the developers will have a lot more power to dictate the terms of that arrangment to ensure they're not cutting into their own revenue stream for someone else's benefit.

So, basically what publishers were originally doing? Before they started demanding a say in what type of games got made and how they got made, and damn near ruined the game industry?

It'd be nice to see it happen...

Creston
 
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19. Re: More Big Picture Details Oct 2, 2012, 15:59 HorrorScope
 
Beamer wrote on Oct 2, 2012, 14:32:
I don't really understand why publishers want to buy studios. Why they start studios, sure. But I still maintain that they should be looking to breed talent.

Without any doubt. They must look at what they got and see failure even though at one time they bought them out thinking the world of them then. Then they fall for it all over again and again, "Look at what these guys can do!", buy them up, fail commences, go find another success to buy up and bury. You would think they would learn. And what they should learn is "Somehow we are buying succesful companies on their own, bringing them into our world (messed up) and then seeing their output lessen." So you would think they would get the memo that their management plan sucks and blows at the same time.

Or there is some purely Wall Street reason to do this that has noting to do with basics of running a successful company and acts of some type of get rich quick scheme.
 
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18. Re: Lorne Lanning on Micro-Publishing Oct 2, 2012, 14:32 Beamer
 
I don't really understand why publishers want to buy studios. Why they start studios, sure. But I still maintain that they should be looking to breed talent. The talent path should be something as follows:
1) Publishers own their own studios, like Black Box or Rockstar North or whatever. These are the studios they can tightly control, but there's less creativity at these studios. They're working more on the big, safe hits like the next Madden, the next Need for Speed or the next big shooter
2) Small independent studios. These guys do contract work sometimes, but are looking to become able to do their own. These are real areas of innovation, and publishers will finance them. Risky, possibly, but smaller games. They're not looking to make the next $100MM shooter, instead looking to make the next Deus Ex HR (which I believe as a cheaper shooter.) They likely give up their IP at first, and they're typically started by someone in the publisher owned studio that's looking to get out on his own and spread his creative wings. If the publisher ran the first studio well this employee would come out with a great relationship and be willing to let the publisher invest a bit in exchange for some rights to the work in the first few years
3) Large independents. These guys started as a small independent but, after some successes, are doing well enough that they can finance themselves well enough to keep their IP. Publishers still invest some money, in exchange for revenues, but not for IP and not for any control.


I get that a lot of studios crash and burn, but I don't get why publishers want to acquire them. Yes, in some cases it makes sense - Infinity Ward was obviously a steal, as was Bungie. But they're not only rare successes, they also had fairly unhappy endings.

 
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17. Re: Lorne Lanning on Micro-Publishing Oct 2, 2012, 14:15 Verno
 
finga wrote on Oct 2, 2012, 08:50:
Take a look at the years where those last two Xbox-exclusive Oddworld games were originally released: 2001 and 2005. Indie publishing on PC was nearly impossible during those years, after the shareware model faded away and before Steam really hit it big.

What does that have to do with agreeing to do console titles exclusively?

I'm not holding him to anything per se, just saying that he made his own bed.
 
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Playing: Shadow of Mordor, Peggle 2, TIE Fighter
Watching: Capturing the Friedmans, The Jungle, Person of Interest
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16. Re: Lorne Lanning on Micro-Publishing Oct 2, 2012, 08:50 finga
 
Verno wrote on Oct 2, 2012, 08:40:

I think this guy is full of shit, he had no problem taking money to make his games console exclusive. I hear a lot of anger in that statement but no remorse about screwing over his fans and customers.
Take a look at the years where those last two Xbox-exclusive Oddworld games were originally released: 2001 and 2005. Indie publishing on PC was nearly impossible during those years, after the shareware model faded away and before Steam really hit it big.

You can't hold this guy's efforts a decade ago to today's standards. Well, I suppose nothing's actually stopping you from doing it... except common sense.
 
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15. Re: Lorne Lanning on Micro-Publishing Oct 2, 2012, 08:40 Verno
 
jdreyer wrote on Oct 1, 2012, 20:26:
I don't particularly like the Oddworld games or world, but I love what this guy is saying. Here's the future of gaming right here. And that's also why $1m on kickstarter goes a lot further than you'd think.

I think this guy is full of shit, he had no problem taking money to make his games console exclusive. I hear a lot of anger in that statement but no remorse about screwing over his fans and customers.
 
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Playing: Shadow of Mordor, Peggle 2, TIE Fighter
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14. Re: More Big Picture Details Oct 2, 2012, 08:22 Dev
 
HorrorScope wrote on Oct 1, 2012, 21:45:
But they can spend money, balance a budget and smooze. Aka... what anyone with a HS edu can do.
That 2nd item takes more than a hs edu. See basically anyone in gov ever.
 
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13. Re: Lorne Lanning on Micro-Publishing Oct 2, 2012, 02:41 Ruffiana
 
ASeven wrote on Oct 1, 2012, 20:53:
This only shows that publishers are walking towards redundancy. Devs are finally realizing they don't need a middle man and get a lot more profit if they ditch said middle man.

Indies, they are rising more and more.

There will always be a role for publishers as long as games are being sold on the shelves of GameStop, Walmart, Best-Buy, Target, etc.

If anything, this will change the relationship and role of publishers. They won't be fronting the money, so they won't be nearly as involved in the content of games. All the have to do is take a game that's done, publish it, distribute it, market it, and the developers will have a lot more power to dictate the terms of that arrangment to ensure they're not cutting into their own revenue stream for someone else's benefit.
 
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12. Re: Lorne Lanning on Micro-Publishing Oct 2, 2012, 02:05 Fantaz
 
UttiniDaKilrJawa wrote on Oct 1, 2012, 23:25:
Creston wrote on Oct 1, 2012, 22:03:
Lorne Lanning? The guy who made Oddworld's Odyssey an Xbox exclusive because they offered him a big fat sack of cash money? That Lorne Lanning?

Now he's all "poo poo!" against big publishers? Okay, Lorne. Did you get hit by lightning or something?

Creston

maybe he just ...evolved.... on an intellectual level this time.
humans have been known to do that from time to time

And it has been well over a decade since that Penny Arcade comic...
 
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11. Re: Lorne Lanning on Micro-Publishing Oct 2, 2012, 00:16 Cutter
 
Creston wrote on Oct 1, 2012, 22:03:
Lorne Lanning? The guy who made Oddworld's Odyssey an Xbox exclusive because they offered him a big fat sack of cash money? That Lorne Lanning?

Now he's all "poo poo!" against big publishers? Okay, Lorne. Did you get hit by lightning or something?

Creston

It's one thing for someone to pay you a pile of money for something you still get to retain control of and another completely to give them control.
 
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10. Re: Lorne Lanning on Micro-Publishing Oct 1, 2012, 23:25 UttiniDaKilrJawa
 
Creston wrote on Oct 1, 2012, 22:03:
Lorne Lanning? The guy who made Oddworld's Odyssey an Xbox exclusive because they offered him a big fat sack of cash money? That Lorne Lanning?

Now he's all "poo poo!" against big publishers? Okay, Lorne. Did you get hit by lightning or something?

Creston

maybe he just ...evolved.... on an intellectual level this time.
humans have been known to do that from time to time
 
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9. Re: Lorne Lanning on Micro-Publishing Oct 1, 2012, 23:03 Sepharo
 
Creston wrote on Oct 1, 2012, 22:03:
Lorne Lanning? The guy who made Oddworld's Odyssey an Xbox exclusive because they offered him a big fat sack of cash money? That Lorne Lanning?

Now he's all "poo poo!" against big publishers? Okay, Lorne. Did you get hit by lightning or something?

This guy? http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2000/10/23/
 
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8. Re: Lorne Lanning on Micro-Publishing Oct 1, 2012, 22:03 Creston
 
Lorne Lanning? The guy who made Oddworld's Odyssey an Xbox exclusive because they offered him a big fat sack of cash money? That Lorne Lanning?

Now he's all "poo poo!" against big publishers? Okay, Lorne. Did you get hit by lightning or something?

Creston
 
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7. Re: More Big Picture Details Oct 1, 2012, 22:01 Lorcin
 
Love Abe but hated Strangers - isn't the goal of selling 3-5 million odd world games a tad ambitious?

 
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6. Re: More Big Picture Details Oct 1, 2012, 21:45 HorrorScope
 
ASeven wrote on Oct 1, 2012, 20:53:
Devs are finally realizing they don't need a middle man/quote]

Devs are finally realizing... they were being controlled by idiots who couldn't program a game if their lives were on the line. But they can spend money, balance a budget and smooze. Aka... what anyone with a HS edu can do.
 
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5. Re: Lorne Lanning on Micro-Publishing Oct 1, 2012, 20:53 Ozmodan
 
smart man  
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4. Re: Lorne Lanning on Micro-Publishing Oct 1, 2012, 20:53 ASeven
 
This only shows that publishers are walking towards redundancy. Devs are finally realizing they don't need a middle man and get a lot more profit if they ditch said middle man.

Indies, they are rising more and more.
 
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3. Re: Lorne Lanning on Micro-Publishing Oct 1, 2012, 20:43 nin
 
jdreyer wrote on Oct 1, 2012, 20:26:
I don't particularly like the Oddworld games or world, but I love what this guy is saying. Here's the future of gaming right here. And that's also why $1m on kickstarter goes a lot further than you'd think.

I don't particularly like Lorne Lanning, but I do like his thinking here...

I absolutely love the idea of players helping to fund the games they want to play. It's exciting, and we're seeing projects get off the ground we never would have seen otherwise.

 
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