Game biz veteran Mike Wilson is best known, perhaps, for his work co-founding and running independent-minded 'developer conglomerate' publisher Gathering Of Developers, or G.O.D., which was formed in 1998 from founding developers including Epic, Ritual, and 3D Realms, and was eventually acquired by Take-Two. But he's been in the business since the early '90s, helping id Software with distribution and working as Ion Storm CEO in 1997.
The latest project from Wilson and his cohorts Harry Miller and Rick Stults is, of course, new Austin, Texas-based publisher Gamecock - rising like a wingless phoenix to at least ankle-height, in order to help independent developers publish their games on PC and console. But it's hard not to be skeptical when a company crows of such good intentions. Could it be a case of 'here comes the new boss, same as the old boss', or is there something new here?
Gamasutra set out to discover just that -- is the company all it's cracked up to be? I spoke with Gamecock Grand Champeen Mike Wilson about funding, getting big, buying developers, the power of independence, and took a hard look at who the company's over the top antics really serve. I'll leave the impressions up to you.
So, can you go briefly through the origins of Gamecock?
Mike Wilson: It’s kind of a response to a need we saw in the industry for kind of a Miramax-type studio, so we greenlight all original games from all independent developers, and help produce, market, whatever. We do all the stuff a developer needs a publisher to do, but none of the stuff that they don’t need a publisher to do. We don’t impose our will upon the games, and we don’t own the IP, we let the artist keep their intellectual property.
So it’s just basically what we think is a little bit more forward-thinking model for the industry than what exists. We want to have relationships with great artists, and that’s what we consider these guys to be. They’re not software factories for us to buy and control. So, that’s the idea. It’s a fun side of the business to be in, it’s indie but it’s 'big indie', with proper distribution and marketing money and all that stuff.
And where did you come from, previously?
MW: My last company was called God Games, or Gathering of Developers, and it was a very similarly spirited effort…
But that shut down?
MW: Well, we sold it to Take-Two, which is not what we set out to do, but we never quite raised enough money for that one, and we got all our money from Take-Two, and that came with a lot of strings. Like we were basically stuck doing only PC games, we had to give all our console stuff to Rockstar, so it was never a great situation. But, you know, everyone made money, some of these guys made hits for us then, and they got rich, and own their property, so...
Where’s the money coming from now?
MW: Couple of billionaires.
MW: Yeah, we really…we spent almost two years trying to find the right kind of money this time, and enough money, without all the strings.
Is it angel investors, or…?
MW: Yeah, kind of. And typically, an angel is the best kind of investor, but usually they’re not nearly enough money for what we’re doing, so you have to go, like, mega-angel. But yeah, these are just... one of them owns some other media businesses and has been watching the games industry, and he believes as we do that the model will eventually be that the talent, the artists are the value, just like any other entertainment industry, and they believe in this whole relationship-based model we have going.
So how do you make money out of it? Not you personally, but Gamecock.
MW: We publish. And, you know, we pay the developers a royalty just like any publisher. We pay them a better royalty than most, and it scales up with success, so if these guys make a hit, they get paid, because there’s plenty of money to throw around. And we don’t have a thousand people, you know, to feed off of every hit and a hundred shitty games to pay for with every one decent one.