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No Hope for Mid-budget/Indie Games?

Shock and Awe Tactics on GamesIndustry.biz is an interview with 2K's Christopher Kline conducted at the Paris GDC. A portion highlighted in this story reflects Kline's commenting he does not feel the current game market can support the middle-ground between high-budget games and lower-cost budget titles that is often the purview of independent developers:

"I think what we realised, which really started that transition back at Irrational, we were doing games that I'd say were mid-budget - maybe USD 3-4 million - that there was no real market left.

"You'd have to do something like what EA is doing and go into the casual market, or you've got to go for a really big blockbuster - just because of the economics, especially for the small independent developers, you're really squeezed out of the middle.

I think you can probably still get contracts for that kind of work, but there's not a lot of hope there for developers being able to survive - just not enough money to develop new IP and keep staff going.

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21. Ignore him Jul 8, 2008, 10:33 Luther
 
This is just big business propaganda FUD to stop smart developers who could otherwise do it themselves from giving it a go. To those that do, good luck to you.
The industry has a hard time finding good staff so they'd rather have you on their treadmill. These days you've got steam and the internet, publishers are becoming less relevant. A smart, self financed and frugal developer can certainly turn a profit.


This comment was edited on Jul 8, 12:04.
 
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20. Re: ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Jul 7, 2008, 23:13 Jerykk
 
Also, for all how great Irrational's games were, they sold pretty poorly. So maybe there's never been much of a market for "mid-level" budget games to begin with?

I wouldn't go that far. SS2 sold poorly but I think that can largely be attributed to poor marketing. Freedom Force sold well enough to warrant a sequel.

 
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19. Re: I remember... Jul 7, 2008, 23:07 Creston
 
It's not just about making profit, though. It's about making as much profit as you possibly can so you can buy some new Lamborghinis and maybe a few vacation spots around the world.

while doing as LITTLE ACTUAL CODING WORK AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE

Voila : Console shovelware.

Creston


 
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18. Re: I remember... Jul 7, 2008, 23:05 Creston
 
I'm still here making games people want,

Keep fighting the good fight, cliffski

Creston


 
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17. ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Jul 7, 2008, 23:02 Creston
 
Christopher Kline : "OMGS!1!! TEH PC IS DYINGZZZZ!"

Hey Christopher? If there is no market for "mid-level" budget games, then make low budget games? That doesn't seem to be that hard?

Also, for all how great Irrational's games were, they sold pretty poorly. So maybe there's never been much of a market for "mid-level" budget games to begin with?

Whoa...Logic?!

Creston


 
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16. Re: I remember... Jul 7, 2008, 20:08 Jerykk
 
Really, these idiots are more and more appearing to never head business 101.
(Sales) - (Cost of Development) = Profit
Smaller values of (Cost of Development) = Larger (Profit)

Those companies above are making money, even though they are not selling millions.

It's not just about making profit, though. It's about making as much profit as you possibly can so you can buy some new Lamborghinis and maybe a few vacation spots around the world.

 
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15. Re: I remember... Jul 7, 2008, 19:52 Enahs
 
but there's not a lot of hope there for developers being able to survive - just not enough money to develop new IP and keep staff going.

Stardock Games
Iron Clad Games
Frictional Games
...

You do not have to sale 3 million units to make a lot of money.

Really, these idiots are more and more appearing to never head business 101.
(Sales) - (Cost of Development) = Profit
Smaller values of (Cost of Development) = Larger (Profit)

Those companies above are making money, even though they are not selling millions.

Not everybody is going to think your game is god. Stop fucking trying to please everybody and making your games stupid as hell and horribly buggy by trying to make it appeal to everybody. Learn how to run businesses better and set out to make a game and make it. Realize that not everybody is going to buy your game. If you have to sell 2 million copies at $50+ retail to break even, you are doing something majorly fucking wrong.





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This comment was edited on Jul 7, 19:56.
 
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14. Re: I remember... Jul 7, 2008, 18:06 Pedle Zelnip
 
There's some truth to what he says, although people will always point out the indy game that made it big despite the fact.

The thing is though gamers expect a hell of a lot from their games nowadays. It's just not realistic to expect an indy to produce a CoD4 or a Bioshock calibre game (the engine alone would take up an insane amount of dev time, let alone all the art assets, sound, levels, etc).

And now where are these companies? Basically the consumer got bored of games all being the same. Kill, kill, kill, nothing moving forward, no substance.

I see 2 original games on top, but then a Mario sequel, a GTA sequel, a GT sequel, 2 more Pokemon sequels, a Mario platformer, a GTA sequel, 2 more traditional Mario platformers, another Pokemon sequel, Brain Age, and then so forth.

Out of the 20 games on that list, 18 out of the 20 were released within the 90s or 00s, and 14 of those were released in only the 00s. Who is bored, exactly?

I think you kinda proved his point, of the top selling games, the majority are sequels which rather than doing something different and original do the same thing but prettier. I think what you're trying to argue is that because so many of the best selling games have come in recent years that that implies that games are more exciting now. However, the fact that sales figures are higher just means that there are more people purchasing games now than say 15 years ago. It says absolutely nothing about the quality of the games in recent years.

This comment was edited on Jul 7, 18:10.
 
PZ
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13. Re: I remember... Jul 7, 2008, 18:05 Jerykk
 
What ever happened to Garage Games and some FPS game they were working on back years ago?

Legions is in open beta test. It's basically dumbed down Tribes.

 
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12. Re: I remember... Jul 7, 2008, 17:55 ColoradoHoudini
 
What ever happened to Garage Games and some FPS game they were working on back years ago? I don't remember much of the demo save for something about one of the weapons was a crossbow..and i dont think the characters were human.. i want to say i was something like a Tauren (WoW example)..
Maybe that second part is wrong, so dont hang on that bit..
but they made an FPS demo.. but i dont think anything came of it.. did it?

 
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11. No subject Jul 7, 2008, 17:52 Tim James
 
He puts up an interesting thought. We all know about indie games, but what about mid-budget stuff?

Does Stardock really spend about that much on development? If they fall in the category, then they are doing an exceptional job, and would love to see more houses like them putting stuff out.

 
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10. Re: I remember... Jul 7, 2008, 17:18 Daeval
 
Actually, I think he's referring to the late 70's, early 80's developers that worked with the pre-NES systems. He says so, but you cut that part off when you quoted him. Most of those companies are long since defunct, or have had their names bought out three or four times.

I think what he's suggesting is that that cycle, of effectively purging the industry of its giants when they become too comfortable to innovate, could repeat itself.

I'm not sure I agree, those big guys are pretty well entrenched and their mainstream marketing has mediocre games selling like hotcakes, but it's a pleasant dream for us jaded.

 
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9. Re: I remember... Jul 7, 2008, 16:21  cliffski 
 
In that case you are the exact age and demographic who tends to buy my games. I'm one of these invisible indie games companies doing games with sub 1-million dollar budgets (by a long stretch!) that does not make casual games, and yet somehow sell enough copies to make a reasonable living and keep doing it.
I've been doing it over 10 years now, and have had almost everyone over the years say publicly that indie game devs and bedroom coders don't exist and aren't viable. I'm still here making games people want, despite stuff like this that gets repeated almost as often as the 'people want ads in games' bullshit.
No big devs want to acknowledge that indie gaming is viable. they panic that their decent coders and designers might leave...
 
http://www.positech.co.uk
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8. Re: I remember... Jul 7, 2008, 15:50 sponge
 
And now where are these companies? Basically the consumer got bored of games all being the same. Kill, kill, kill, nothing moving forward, no substance.

Are you serious? On what logical grounds can you even begin to claim this, besides your own personal experience of being bored.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_video_games#Top_20_console_games_of_all_time

I see 2 original games on top, but then a Mario sequel, a GTA sequel, a GT sequel, 2 more Pokemon sequels, a Mario platformer, a GTA sequel, 2 more traditional Mario platformers, another Pokemon sequel, Brain Age, and then so forth.

Out of the 20 games on that list, 18 out of the 20 were released within the 90s or 00s, and 14 of those were released in only the 00s. Who is bored, exactly?

This comment was edited on Jul 7, 15:59.
 
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7. I remember... Jul 7, 2008, 15:28 Surf
 
Similar things were said about Atari, Intellivision and Coleco Vision. Not so much for indie devs, but that these big games just kept getting bigger and bigger, budgets got higher, the games became "safe" and repetitive.

And now where are these companies? Basically the consumer got bored of games all being the same. Kill, kill, kill, nothing moving forward, no substance.

I for one play very few games, then again I am in my 30's. I see the repetitve cycle and feel that games haven't evolved much in the past 15 years with the exception of graphics and sound.

Games, much like the movie industry, is extremely stagnant. Its just a matter of time before something else comes along and takes everyone's attention.

 
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6. Re: No subject Jul 7, 2008, 15:26 Jerykk
 
What a load of crap. If your budget is only 3-4 million, you don't need to sell 10 million units to make a profit. There's plenty of room for mid-budget games. Problem is that everyone wants a Ferrari and a yacht.

 
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5. Re: No subject Jul 7, 2008, 15:16 Ray Marden
 
Yeah, everything he talks about is with regards to economics. I'm not saying there are not challenges for small companies, but that's consistent for any business.

Meanwhile, these idiots spout the economic, abusive mantras of the machines like EA.

I mean, according to what he says, it's better to have the worst game ever made and have a gigantic marketing blitz than the make an extremely good game with a small budget.

Idiot. IDIOT.

Focus on quality. Focus on gameplay. Focus on originality. Focus on the player interaction.

Gaming should be rife with innovation. It's the one medium that lets you read, hear, watch, and participate in the story. Yet what major changes or improvements have occured in the past few years? Why does it still have such a limited scope of variety?

Oh, right. Kline just told me. Budget size...
Iiiiiiiddddddiiiiiioooooootttttt.
Saddened by his embracing of such idiocy,
Ray

-----
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Everything is awesome!!!
http://shoutengine.com/GarnettonGames/
I love you, mom.
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4. Re: odd..... Jul 7, 2008, 15:07 ldonyo
 
I bought and am currently playing Eschalon. It is a nice throw-back to the simpler days of gaming, when you didn't need a pocket-sized mainframe to run games. Yes, it is Diablo-esque, but you get to create your own character from scratch and build him or her up from there. The graphics aren't cutting-edge, but they aren't bad and there are some pretty decent effects, both sound and visual.

As for what someone from 2K Games thinks about a market they've never tried to play in, I couldn't care less.
 
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3. No subject Jul 7, 2008, 14:48 xXBatmanXx
 
Make a good to great game - and the market and label won't matter.

Indie has produced some of the best shit out there. (or has roots of such)

You got a great body, but your record collection sucks....
BN 360 Scoreboard:
http://www.mygamercard.net/clboard.php?id=GW57kfq7
 
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In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. / Few men have virtue enough to withstand the highest bidder.
Playing: New dad
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2. Target Jul 7, 2008, 14:34 Satertek
 
The key is to target a specific market, Stardock has excelled in that mid-budget range.

 
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