When you talk about the challenges of a bigger budget, which are inevitable, does that make it more and more difficult to be independent? Does that make the logic of being owned by the publisher or the publisher wanting to work with somebody internal so much more compelling each year? Does it point to a world where there's like Valve, and id, and everybody else has to be owned by a publisher?
FU: You're going to see this. There'll be days where there's a lot of independent developers and days when there's not a lot. And of course, our goal is to still be who we are.
I'll be honest. I could probably call up a publisher tomorrow and say, "I'm sick of this damn payroll crap." Like, "I don't want anything from my company, just take it over. I just want to sign an employment agreement." Believe me, weight off my shoulders. What I am doing later today is doing budgets and all that kind of stuff to figure stuff out.
But I think in some ways, I get to sign this five-year... Let's just pretend, you know, I can sign this thing. And there are ways that publishers can get out of that. But for me, they probably wouldn't get out of it, or there would be things about it. Other than security for me, security for my people... I mean, look at all the studios that publishers have shut down, EA laying off a thousand people.
And it's like EA has problems that have nothing to do with this studio.
FU: Right, but they're gone.
And then that studio has to bear the punishment, right?
FU: Yes, right. Exactly. So, I don't want to say we control our destiny, but we do a little bit more, because if we are executing and we're making our milestones, and we're getting the game done... I mean, there are other things that can cause problems. (laughs) I don't know the ratio.
Do we have a better chance of finishing that project versus an in-house studio? See, an in-house studio has all this overhead and all this kind of stuff. The accountants kind of look at it, "Well, this is a carrying cost for the next... forever. If we get rid of this, that's a great story." Independent developer, "Well, we're just paying them for another nine months."
Right, if you cancel, you're just saving however many million dollars...
FU: In the nine months. You're not saving forever, it's not something you can shut down, it's not all these liabilities and all this other kind of stuff.
There's no severance.
FU: There's no severance, right. I think that it's hard to say what's more secure. I've talked to a lot of people about it. Some people are much more secure as part of a publisher. I think that, of course, there are bad times with running a developer. And some people do say that they think running an independent developer is a business that can never make money, but I think it's how you manage that business.
Right. Well, I guess one thing people say is that it seems like it would be a really crazy time to start a AAA developer.
FU: Oh, yes.
Like if you're starting a developer, you'd be like, "I'll do iPhones and I'll do downloadable." You wouldn't start a AAA developer at this time probably.
FU: No, there would be a reason why you would do it in that if you had right now, and a publisher needs something, maybe it's something for Christmas next year, and it was a product that made sense, and you had technology and all that kind of stuff; I think it would be a good time to start a developer if you had an opportunity like that.
There's not been a lot games actually in production over the last 18 months. Not a lot of deals have been signed. There's been slow closures of studios, then lots of closures of studios.
I think there's going to be a fair amount of games for this Christmas, but then looking at Christmas of 2010, if no deals are being signed for 18 months, all these studios are being closed, what are we looking at for the stuff coming for Christmas 2010?
And so, it could be right now, that it might not be very bad, in that specific [circumstance]. And maybe that's the way to always look at any industry or the game industry. There are these spots where you could be successful even in this crisis.
People always say that in a recession, the bottom point is the best point to start a company, right?
FU: If you're successful. (laughs)