Gaming Software Publishers Lack Leverage Against Console Makers

by: Bruce Everiss

Codemasters released Colin McRae Rally on the original Playstation in 1998. It was a major hit, breathing new life into the genre and benefiting Sony enormously with many millions of pounds in license fees and a great impetus to the value of the Playstation brand.

So how did Sony reward us for this? They went into direct competition, releasing their World Rally Championship game. They could have chosen any other genre to invest in, but they chose instead to tread on the toes of a major customer.

Here are a few things that are wrong with the current platform holder publishing model:

  • You can spend millions of pounds/dollars developing a game and they can refuse to publish it. You have no redress. I have seen this with a Codemasters title.
  • They stylistically restrict games. I remember when one platform holder told us that they would no longer support 2D games.
  • They limit the content of games, holding back the whole industry. You are not allowed to do in games things that are commonplace in books and films. This is seriously bad.
  • When they develop games themselves, they don’t have to pay a license fee, giving them a huge and unfair competitive advantage.
  • They have access to a manufacturer’s technical information and tools, once again giving them an advantage.
  • We should be in the transition to online distribution, which affords game publishers and developers huge advantages. PC gaming already is with services like Steam. Console gaming is sticking to the outdated plastic and cardboard model, holding back the whole industry in yet another way.

All the above harm the game industry, preventing it realising its potential. At the same time, the platform holders benefit the industry with the billions they spend developing and launching new consoles, which require the current publishing model if they are to be paid for. So there is a balance of good against the evil that they do.