How long do you think the traditional publishing model is going to remain viable as it is now? Maybe it's just got to change, but they're really killing themselves a lot right now.
JS: I think the reason why is that there's a lot of different market opportunities, that's what we were talking about with being proactive and reactive. A lot of publishers are saying: Zynga is making an insane amount of money -- their valuation is five billion dollars or something. They're the second-richest company in games, and they came out three years ago or whatever.
They're not actually making that much.
JS: It's just valuation. But publishers -- there's just a lot of different... So I think that this is a very difficult time to be a publisher, because they're all trying to figure out what the next thing is, and nobody knows.
JT: But it's about what you provide. You can call yourself a publisher or whatever you want to call yourself, but at the end of the day what are you providing to the people that create games?
Publishers have always provided three key things: they've provided funds to develop, they've provided the marketing in the market, and sales and distribution for buying units.
Digital distribution takes away the distribution aspect. The marketing aspect is still kind of there, but it takes that a little bit away because you're closer to the consumer.
JS: Ah, I disagree with that. Most developers can't market for anything.
JT: If you go to Microsoft, you're reaching them through a portal, through XBLA. You're not buying TV advertising.
JS: Right, but most developers know nothing about it. I mean, we know something about it, but don't put us -- we're kind of a unique developer.
JT: But with the funding, that's not going to go away. As digital distribution becomes viable for bigger games, you're still going to need ten million dollars to build big games. Publishers will be there; it's just that they'll have to adapt to the market reality.
JS: And that's the bottom line; you have to adapt. If you don't adapt, you die -- in every industry ever. If things change and you're like, "No! I like the old ways," well then...
JT: We've just had the same model for a really long time.
JS: But I'm saying so did music. They changed their model, and now --
-- now the music industry totally is fucked.
JS: But they're making a lot of money.
They're not making a lot of money.
JS: They're making their money in shows, in concerts; that's where they've been focusing all their efforts. That's where they make the real money. In CDs, yes, they don't. That's to my point. Just because the retail model's broken with major triple-A mega games, and if they're not a hit then you've just wasted millions and millions and millions of dollars; okay, maybe you should reevaluate that and try something different.
I think some publishers are doing that. Like I said: concerts. I don't know if that means maybe developers can show up at people's houses. (Everyone laughs)
I feel like the money thing is going to be the only thing that they have left, because I feel like developers have started doing much better jobs of marketing themselves than publishers ever had managed, like the Humble Indie Bundle thing, and what The Behemoth does to get themselves out there.
JT: But then would you call them publishers? It's like the whole merging of publisher and developer; we no longer have such clearly defined goals that you need to have those labels. It's like, hey, could an indie developer start as a developer and end up as a publisher and then start helping other people? Yeah, you see that a lot: Indie Game Fund and everything. And publishers have money to hire talented people.
There's always going to be gates. I don't believe that consoles will ever go just open platform where everybody will be able to put their game out; so you'll still need to know important people. You'll still need to make connections with marketing. Just getting started, you're probably going to need a publisher.
JS: Humble Indie Bundle is great and wonderful, but the money they're generating compared to Call of Duty, where they spent whatever millions and millions of dollars on marketing... Whatever you say about innovative and not, you need both.
It depends on whether you're making Call of Duty or something with five dudes and suddenly you've got two million dollars to split among these people; then you're like, "We're just set."
JT: There'll be services, too, as things go online with persistent worlds and everything. Activision-Blizzard will be around, because they need their thousands and thousands of GMs for World of Warcraft. An independent developer could never do that. They'll need services. You'll probably get to a model where those services are offered sort of a la carte and you can pick and choose what you need.
Yeah, that was something that was interesting in the Minecraft postmortem, talking about how they're going to do their customer service stuff. They might have to outsource it because --
JS: -- there's no way; it's impossible.
JT: And why wouldn't you want to? If you're making games, you're not starting a call center.