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Working for publishers "like slave labor" - Fargo

Wasteland 2 dev says industry dynamic is shifting, life's too short to work on big-budget titles

Ever since inXile Entertainment raised $2.9 million to make Wasteland 2, the developer's CEO Brian Fargo has been a vocal advocate of crowdfunding. With the game on the verge of launching next month, Fargo told Gamasutra he not only has no interest in returning to the world of publisher-funded development, but he's even unconvinced of that model's future.

"Can you imagine, you're a publisher and you look at the Steam top 10 list periodically, it seems like half of it is filled with indie games that are unfinished," Fargo said. "That's gotta kind of rock you a little bit, when you think about what you're working on. Now I know they get their revenue primarily from consoles, but Sony is opening Early Access soon, and so the dynamic of the industry is changing fast and you wonder about how those big infrastructures will be supported."

Those big infrastructures are largely to blame for the situation, Fargo said. Publishers and developers used to have better relations when there was only a few hundred thousand dollars on the line with each title, but "people got crazy" when budgets on blockbuster products ballooned up to $100 million.

"Now it's a very intense atmosphere, and life's too short for that," Fargo said. "Now it's very hard to recoup; someone might give you $20 - $30 million to make your game, but good luck recouping that. It becomes like slave labor, and you don't even own the intellectual property so you're just grinding out until the next milestone. You don't even get the big payoff--there are lots more indies that get big payoffs these days. "

Fargo added that crowdfunding is conducive to a healthier, more productive environment. He added that some of the things publishers provide--such as structure and accountability with milestone deadlines--can be replaced by backers just like funding.

"You could put a milestone out to the public, which is basically a self-enforced gun to your head," Fargo said. "It's like having your own public milestones."

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Latest comments (2)

Rolf Klischewski Founder & CEO, gameslocalization.com2 years ago
Mr Fargo, your crowdsourced translators don't own their work either and their "big payoff" consists of a digital copy of the game, the 21st century's equivalent of glass beads.

If there's anything life's too short for, it's some guy making a mint on your pro-bono work while, at the same time, styling himself public benefactor.
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Paul Acevedo Games Editor, Windows Central2 years ago
Mr Fargo, your crowdsourced translators don't own their work either and their "big payoff" consists of a digital copy of the game, the 21st century's equivalent of glass beads.

If there's anything life's too short for, it's some guy making a mint on your pro-bono work while, at the same time, styling himself public benefactor.
I was mystified that someone would criticize Fargo for crowdsourcing translation, until I saw who was doing the criticizing.
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