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Lanning: Why do we need publishers for Xbox One?

Oddworld Inhabitants boss calls out Microsoft's restrictive publishing policies

Oddworld Inhabitants' Lorne Lanning has spoken out against Microsoft's policy of demanding publisher relationships for the Xbox One.

In an interview with Eurogamer, Lanning explained that while Oddworld Inhabitants has been given a license for its current game, Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty, Microsoft will not allow it on the console without a publisher deal.

"We don't have a publisher so we're not officially on the platform, even though we're compatible, even though we'll be ready to do it. Period," Lanning said.

"Why do we need a publisher when we self-finance our games, we build our own IP, we manage our own IP and we've turned nearly two million units online as indie publishers sold - not free downloads? Why? What's wrong with us?"

Lanning pointed to Sony's more open approach to self-publishing as a manifestation of the number of "seasoned, long-term game builders" involved in the creation of the PlayStation 4. Lanning stopped short of direct criticism of Microsoft, though he did reference "public companies' stock values" as evidence of which platform-holder had adopted the best strategy - since the start of E3, Sony's share price has climbed while Microsoft's has fallen.

"There are those who are looking at next quarter's profits, and maybe one of these big guys looks like that's all they're doing right now," Lanning continued.

"If they're looking at the world that way, you've got the obvious, enormous titles. They're going to be the big revenue generators. If the company's purely about profit, profit and profit, they're looking at those, and then they're looking at the little guys saying, 'oh, they only make this much.' They're not interested.

"There's one party that's making it very clear they're not interested."

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Latest comments (11)

Sam Brown Programmer, Cool Games Ltd.3 years ago
As far as I can see, the insistence on having a publisher is simply to provide some guarantee of success. Clearly a platform owner wants as many successful games as possible on their platform, and making publishers do the work of deciding which will make the most money is easier and cheaper than doing it themselves.

The use of publishers as content filters (I won't say "quality control filters" because that isn't always the criteria ;) ) is pretty common across all forms of media. When the internet rewrote the self-publishing rulebook the signal-to-noise ratio massively increased, but we seem to be coping alright as consumers. ^__^

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Sam Brown on 14th June 2013 1:14pm

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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.3 years ago
The only time a publisher should come into play with indies is if the game is being localized for a market that indie cannot provide support for. Releasing a game in Japan, for example, is tough for an indie as the translation work and support services simply may not exist within the indie company. A publisher can do that for them.

But for areas that they can support on their own...get out of their way and let them do their thing.
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Jakub Mikyska CEO, Grip Digital3 years ago
Nobody is saying that they should open the flood-gates, but keeping very competent and proven developers out of XBLA is bad for this industry and it will eventually become very bad for Microsoft as well (At least I hope, because we are also very competent and proven and out of XBLA) ;-)
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Show all comments (11)
Cant odd world apply to MSFT for publisher status? That would seem the most direct solution.
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Kevin Patterson musician 3 years ago
I simply cannot express how happy I am to see Lanning back in the game's business, and Oddworld alive again.
Munch was one of the launch games I bought, it was great, as was Stranger's Wrath.

I find it amazing that MS wouldnt be going out of their way to get Oddworld on Xbox One/ Xbox 360, as it has a history with the brand. A major mistake, they should be courting him, Xbox needs more games like what they make, quirky and original.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Kevin Patterson on 14th June 2013 6:23pm

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Robert Nzengou-Tayo Independent. 3 years ago
I'm not sure if it makes sense using the publisher as the measure of success. It's like saying the devs have less to do with how succesful their product will be. If anything, MS could use proven success as a measuring stick. If your game did well for PC, come aboard. If you guys have shipped a number of succesful games before, come aboard. Asking for a legal guardian isn't a useful way to go, at least. Not every game on the console is going to be a sure fire hit. I don't see what they lose by that.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 3 years ago
Even more bizarre: Microsoft seems to have forgotten Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath was an exclusive on the original Xbox, so y default, they should at LEAST give Lanning some respect (and given the game has been remade in HD and done well on other platforms, it's even more Odd that they're asking him to crawl through hoops like anyone else... but perhaps that's "fair" at the end of the day? Yuk.
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Oliver Jones Software Developer 3 years ago
The lack of self publishing support with the XBOX One is just out-right moronic on the part of Microsoft.

On the Apple AppStore, self publishing is all there is. In the past 5 years iOS developers have earned in excess of $10 billion through the Apple AppStore netting Apple a good 3 billion in the process. Meanwhile in the entire life of XBLA Microsoft has only managed to earn ~$1 billion for indy devs. Sony still don't make it as easy to get your stuff on their platform as Apple do but it is a start and I hope they make the process even more light-weight over time.

One thing that struck me about the Microsoft & Sony press conferences this year was how "Apple like" the Sony one was and yet how well they were speaking to the core gamer. So Sony are definitely off to a great start.

I think in the end gamers are going to have a choice of two great systems. I don't care about the used games angle or the online requirements of the new Xbox. I use Steam and App Stores so I'm used to that sort of stuff and it will ultimately be great if by going digital we can have a bigger spread of price points and deals like we have with Steam. GameStop/EB Games can go f**k themselves. Though I do feel for the independent game stores a bit.

Ultimately I'll be buying both systems because I love games and want access to them all no matter what platform they are on. It will be interesting to me to find out which system I use the most.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Oliver Jones on 15th June 2013 5:14pm

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Adam Campbell Producer, Hopster3 years ago
Looks like this game will neither launch on Xbox ONE nor the Xbox 360. Clear statement.
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 3 years ago
All forms of entertainment intellectual property have publishers. Film, music, books and games. This is no accident. Publishers serve three functions.
1) Curating. Deciding what will be published. Acting as a filter.
2) Finance.
3) Marketing, sales and distribution.

Of course some "indies" do all three of these themselves. If so they have become publishers.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.3 years ago
Aside from that being rather obvious, Bruce, it doesn't explain why a developer is required to have an external publisher. Especially if they are more than willing and capable of doing all 3 themselves.
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