Splash Damage: "The risk is massive for independent devs"

Wedgwood on the need for strong publishing support, and why Splash Damage has survived

Splash Damage boss Paul Wedgwood has emphasised the importance of strong publishing support for independent developers.

"If you're not self-publishing all you can do is make something good and hope your publisher does a good job of selling it," he told

"We take ourselves really seriously, but the risk is massive for independent developers. In terms of your production team, if you're doing anything good it's very difficult to have more than one game, so if you're a good independent developer you're probably only working on one big game at a time."

For Splash Damage, this currently means hybrid singleplayer/multiplayer shooter Brink, due for release next year with help from Bethesda.

"[This] means you have a single source of revenue, which means that you're actively tied to that publisher support for whether you live or die. Every independent developer faces that, and it's almost always the reason why they go bust. They fall out with the publisher, things go wrong."

Splash Damage had been fortunate, he felt. "For 10 years we've collected every milestone payment that's ever been owed to us, we've never defaulted on a creditor, we've never had to make anybody redundant, we've never have a project cancelled...

"But nobody's a psychic, it's always impossible to know how things will go. So I think that the best thing any developer can do is make stuff that they can stand by."

Another way to avoid danger was to set up alternative revenue streams, he claimed, such as Epic's Unreal Engine and Valve's Steam, but Wedgwood felt those were rarefied examples.

"There aren't that many opportunities to do that kind of thing in the games industry, and many of those exist only because you were around at the end of the 90s or the very beginning of this century, and were there at the point to make that happen."

However, he was optimistic about Splash Damage's future as an independent developer. "Publishers know ultimately that, no matter what we're doing, we're ultimately doing it because we believe that it's going to be good.

"We've never made anything that's crap, we've never compromised on iterating on something until we felt it was good. We've always been really prepared to cut content that isn't fun."

For the full interview with Paul Wedgwood, in which he discusses company culture, how a small company can afford a city-grade CFO and whether there are lessons to be learned from APB's failure, please click here.

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Latest comments (2)

Armando Marini Product Development, Big Viking Games8 years ago
Unfortunately, many independents have done a terrible job of delivering on their promises to the publishers. It's of little surprise that publishers are doing more and more in house development as a result. Props to any developer that can deliver a good project on time and on budget.
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Martyn Brown Managing Director, Insight For Hire8 years ago
It's a two-way street. It's all too easy to blame the developers when lots are very poorly managed by publishers in the first place.

For any production involving a publishing partner, there has to be a cohesive and structured approach where both parties understands each others needs and processes - and acts with due expectations accordingly.

When that doesn't happen, development inevitably suffers and as soon as a development is demotivated (through a bunch of leverage opportunities which may include payment postponement/delay, penalties and the need to effectively work 24/7) then the writing is on the wall.

I'm not suggesting that every developer is innocent and the fault lies at the door of the publisher every time, but there are a wide range of reasons that projects fail - and no-one (at least that I know of) sets off with the intention to fail.

Tons of internal projects are also (a) canned (b) late (c) over-budget. That's development for you. As an indie who self-publishes, we're also culpable of those situations arising from time to time, but we deal with it and learn from it - even after 20yrs!
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