Larian: Consoles must adapt to survive
Swen Vincke says platform holders and publishers must adapt to suit the changing needs of developers
Swen Vincke, the founder of Larian Studios, believes that the platform holders need to relinquish control of the next generation of consoles to ensure their survival.
Speaking to Gamesindustry.biz in an interview published today, Vincke describes in detail Larian's decision to publish, market and distribute all of its future products.
The current generation of consoles makes it difficult for developers to release products with different business models and at a variety of price-points. In Vincke's view, this has to change.
"I think that if they don't, they're dead," he says. "Simply, they don't stand a chance of survival if they can't adapt as fast as the other platforms can."
"Imagine the moment where you have an iPad streaming to your TV and it's as powerful as a console. What's the USP of an actual console at that point? If you think of OnLive, and they solve all of their logistical problems, why do I need a console?"
"If I was a console manufacturer, and luckily I'm not, I would be asking myself a lot of questions of what I'm doing now, with the market still being so heavily controlled, and asking if that's really such a good idea."
Imagine the moment where you have an iPad streaming to your TV and it's as powerful as a console. What's the USP of an actual console at that point?
"If you put the console growth curve next to the growth curve of what's happening at Mac, for instance, I know which side of the battle I want to be."
Vincke sees this process as one of several major changes happening throughout the industry, including a shift in the balance of power between publishers and developers.
"There's a reason why Activision and EA have a monopoly on AAA development. As a matter of fact, I think they are actually making it a lot more expensive than it should be, because there's so much waste going on."
Larian - the creator of the Divinity RPG series - is attempting to address that "waste" by assembling an in-house publishing team that will give it full control of its future products, without sacrificing its presence in the vitally important physical retail market.
More importantly, it will give Larian access to a greater share of the revenue, which is greatly diminished with a publisher involved.
"There's an enormous difference between the revenue being made on a game if you do it direct, versus what you get as a developer on a royalty," Vincke continues.
"But if you can get access to the straight revenue that is being made per unit on a game that sells at £39 or £49, and you sell a million units, you have sufficient money to make a AAA game."
In the future, Vincke believes that, in the future, publishers will be structured in a similar way to EA's Partners scheme - a range of services from which developers can choose and tailor a deal.
"You need marketing, you need PR, and you need distribution, and the rightful model would be that you could employ these services. If I need PR, I go to a PR firm. If I need marketing, I go to a marketing firm," he says.
"The big shift, and it's actually already happening, is that instead of the revenue being kept in a bank called 'the publishers' the revenue is now going directly to the developer, who is going to employ all of these."
"So it's a radical power shift that's going on, and I think it's a very good thing for our industry."