Once in a while, I sometimes doubt my dour and despairing view of the game industry. Perhaps I'm just a depressive. Perhaps our cheerleaders are right, and perhaps everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds. Dollar gross rises year by year, the fastest growing entertainment medium in all creation, yada yada yada.
GameLab shut doors the other day. Zimmerman says it's not dead yet, but I'm reminded of the parrot sketch. They sold off office supplies and fixtures -- Karen went down and snagged their stock of card games (someone had already snagged the boardgames, darn it). Multiple IGF nominations, Eric is a major fixture in the field, their game Diner Dash made PlayFirst's fortune, but of course not GameLab's, since developers are required to sign away rights to IP in this best of all possible worlds.
Today, Dean Takahashi is reporting that 3D Realms is out of business. Confusingly, Apogee claims to be still in business, and still working on the next Duke Nuke'm game -- I thought Apogee was the name 3D Realms used before it became 3D Realms, but who knows what the actual status is. No wonder Scott Miller hasn't blogged in almost a year.
Meanwhile, Big Huge Games is still being shut down by THQ, and although there was a flurry of news about possible purchasers a while ago, nothing yet has been announced. THQ are, of course, blinkered idiots, and are presumably shutting down the studio on the grounds that it's "mostly PC" (Rise of Nations being RTS, and RTS not working worth a damn on console) and conventional wisdom being that PC sucks, console is now and forever shall be the one true faith. Never mind that they have a Ken Rolston-led RPG under development (Xbox title, I assume), which, you know, might sell a few copies. Oblivion and all. But "bankable talent" somehow isn't a concept that's caught on in our industry, despite its ongoing and unattractive Hollywood envy.
I have this idea in the back of my head -- a fool idea of course -- that one day, people with the power to do something about it might stumble across the notion of "a stable business ecosystem," and conclude that actually, to sustain industry growth and survival, you might conceivably, you know, want to let developers potentially make a buck from time to time, even if publishers and retailers have the power to strangle them. That rewarding development success breeds more development success, and gives heart to those who want to create good games.
Silly notion, of course. Developers have little to no bargaining power, since they depend on publishers for funding, access to market, and every critical success factor other than, you know, actual game quality. And surely that matters less than bankable IP. So why deal them in for a dollar more than absolutely necessary?