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Video: Is publishing dead?
April 9, 2014 | By Staff

"Tencent is the largest video game company in the world...this is what the new publishing business in the 21st century looks like, and nobody in the West is paying attention."
- Mitch Lasky, Benchmark general partner, speaking at GDC 2014.

The business of game publishing is rapidly evolving, so it's worth watching venture capitalist and game industry veteran Mitch Lasky's GDC 2014 talk about the pros and cons of the competing next-generation publishing models: super-developers like Wargaming, social/chat networks like Facebook or Line, aggregators like Tencent, and more.

Lasky suggests that recent changes in the game industry have not eliminated the economic benefit of scale, that publishers can still offer something of value to developers, investors and everyone who purchases games.

We've taken the liberty of embedding the free video of "Is Publishing Dead?" above, but you can also watch it here on the GDC Vault.

About the GDC Vault

In addition to this presentation, the GDC Vault offers numerous other free videos, audio recordings, and slides from many of the recent Game Developers Conference events, and the service offers even more members-only content for GDC Vault subscribers.

Those who purchased All Access passes to recent events like GDC, GDC Europe, and GDC Next already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscription via a GDC Vault subscription page. Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company by contacting staff via the GDC Vault group subscription page. Finally, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault technical support.

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Michael Thornberg
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Tencent haven't bought Epic. They own a 40% stake in it though.

Alex Wawro
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You're right, I think Lasky may have misspoken. Tencent's 2012 end-of-year financial report claims they purchased a significant minority stake in Epic -- roughly 48.4 percent:

I can't do much about the video, but I've removed Lasky's quoted claim that "Tencent bought Epic" from the story.

Christian Nutt
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Not sure if it was wrong as much as just hyperbole intended for effect, really. Meaning, yes, it is literally untrue, but the company all did pounce on a stalwart of the Western game biz and nobody seems to be paying attention or caring about it too much!

Phil Maxey
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It all depends upon how you define the word "publisher". If you define it in the old way of a company that financially supports game development up to release, and then tries to claw the money back via sales, then yeah I think it's dead as most publishers these days seem very reluctant to do that. If however you define publisher as a company that helps promote your game then no it's not dead, or at least it's fair to say that publishers are now more PR companies than anything else.

Garry Grossmann
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The fact remains that they'll be no longer really "publishing" (emphasis on the difference between publishing and distribution). Developers usually want to publish the game themselves, some even go as far as distributing it through their own channels. We can no longer pretend that indie developers are all small groups of 3-8 people who make 2D platformer games. Big names are leaving their studios to make their own companies. Right now, there's only few such studios, but their numbers will grow, possibly exponentially as new busyness models will be discovered and demonstrated.

So as you say, all they will really need is a company that will do a great promo campaign. Not necessarily full-screen ads on Facebook (because for many gamers, what their favorite youtuber said about the game, seems to be getting more important than where they saw ads for the game) but rather stuff like trailers, ties to companies who can manufacture game-related merchandise (even with the rise of digital distribution, there is still demand for limited eiditions) etc.
Big questions are: How fast is it going to happen? Is this "transofrmation" of the market going to be complete? (as in: is this going to affect literally the whole market) How many publishers will seize to exist and how many will adapt? There's so many unforeseeable outcomes and possibilities.

Arthur Hulsman
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I love his little stutter haha