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Indies Need a Coop

by Greg Costikyan on 12/14/17 09:57:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 
Indie game developers might be best served by creating a cooperative.
 
Cooperatives are a radical part of the American past -- and present -- that are obscured by our capitalist reflexes. Sometimes the best form of business organization is not the venture funded, joint-stock corporation, but the cooperative.
 
If you are in indie developer, I want you to think about this: You want a publisher. You want someone you can trust to promote your product, take care of the marketing, deal with platform holders to guide you to certification on their platforms, and so on and so on.
 
But that's all a -service- business. Every other indie developer needs that crap. And why should you be signing away a huge chunk of your future revenue for it?
 
And what if you could obtain these services from a cooperative, whom you part-own and have some influence over, part-owned also by your fellow indies, an organization not beholden to monied interests, which you could trust?
 
Today, I did my shift at the Park Slope Food Coop (foodcoop.com). The motto of the Coop is "Good food at low prices for working members through cooperation since 1973."
 
The Coop is a supermarket. But it's a shopper-owned supermarket. It is not a non-profit, but it does not strive to make a profit; it strives to earn enough each year to pay for its professional staff, and minimize the cost of food to shopper-members. Currently, it charges 21% over wholesale price to all members. The 21% suffices to pay professional staff, real estate taxes on the building it owns, and other costs.
 
The Park Slope Food Coop is organized under the Rochedale rules of cooperation (which you may search for, should you be so inclined); this is a 19th century compact, originally established by anarcho-syndicalists, looking for a better form of business organization than exploitative capitalism. It works. Other Rochedale cooperatives I can mention: Land O'Lakes, a Midwestern dairy farm cooperative, and Cabot, a northeastern one. Ace Hardware and TruValue Hardware, both cooperatives of independently owned hardware stores. Best Western. IGA supermarkets.
 
In other words, major, well known business organizations in America are not owned by capitalists; they are owned by their own members
 
It works like this: The organization is governed under Robert's Rules of Order, but it is owned by its members, not by investors. The organization works to serve the interest of its members; in the case of something like Ace Hardware, that means providing a cross-country branding and rewards program, and allowing collective buying of merchandise at prices no single hardware store could command. In the case of the Park Slope Food Coop, it means: shoppers buying groceries at a much smaller markup over wholesale.
 
Indie game developers need to create a Rochedale cooperative, pooling their resources to promote themselves and deal with other business issues, in a cooperative way.
 
They need to create their -own- publishing system, rather than rely on the unreliable publishing systems of others.
 
Why not declare independence, not only in what you do, but in how you do business?
 
A handful of prominent indies could make it happen, and extend a hand to others.

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