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Red 5 Studios CEO: "Who needs publishers any more?"

Mark Kern on why consoles are dead and the model is broken

Former World Of Warcraft team lead and CEO of Red 5 Studios, Mark Kern, has criticised the traditional publishing model, calling it broken, and declared the death of consoles.

"Who needs publishers any more? I certainly don't. I couldn't care less about them at this stage," he told Eurogamer.

"You're either an indie game or you're a massive AAA, IP-backed sequel with derivative game play that's rehashed over and over again as it's the only safe bet you can make when you're spending hundreds of millions of dollars."

"Something has to change. Consoles, I believe, are dead"

"The failure is that there's no middle ground. All the games in the middle that could have been made but have been squeezed out and we've seen all these independent studios get closed down over the last few years."

He also slammed the practice of cutting staff numbers after product launches, and said the argument that it was the same model used by the film industry was wrong.

"In Hollywood they work on contract - it's very different. They expect only to work from A to B. In games, these big publishers are hiring swathes of people expecting to have jobs long-term but then lay them off at the end of a project because it doesn't quite deliver. This is unsustainable."

And it's not as if Kern is some mouthy upstart, this is the man who has worked on some of the biggest MMO franchises in the industry, World Of Warcraft, Diablo and StarCraft. And all that experience leads him to believe the console is doomed.

"It takes billions of dollars of investment to create a console and then you have to milk it for five to seven years in order to get your money back," he explained.

He pointed out that the model forces publishers to play it safe, which actually leads to bored customers who stop coming back.


"So something has to change. Consoles, I believe, are dead," he declared.

"There's no incentive for me to be on console. I'm more interested in getting onto the Mac OS or even iOS in some form. That's what's more interesting to me."

Kern's Red 5 Studios is currently working on Firefall, an MMO that is due for release this year.

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Latest comments (16)

Antony Cain Lecturer, Teesside University8 years ago
Something new is 'dying' every time I read game related news...

As impressive as his history is, it still reads as "Man who works with neither publishers nor consoles hates publishers and consoles"

Off topic: Anyone from the site reading this: can we please have the 'Recent comments' section on the right side of the homepage back, as it was before the merge?

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Antony Cain on 3rd May 2012 11:32am

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+1 Anthony
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game8 years ago
+1 on both the main point and the recent comments request, Anthony
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Show all comments (16)
Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University8 years ago
I can only hope the next console cycle is even bigger than the last; I'm all for new business models and ways of gaming, but they can co-exist with what we already have. Well said Anthony!
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 8 years ago
I bet this guy doesnt even play video games. I thourouly enjoy my console games. I play almost everyday and i have expirienced many great games. So WTF is all these bullshit articles about people saying consoles are dead. I belive consoles will evolve with the times as they always have. Everybody seems to think the future of gaming is on an iPAD and everyone is gonna download everything on the internet. Games get bigger all the time. What is it about these people claiming consoles will die?
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Saehoon Lee Lead technical artist, Kuno Interactive8 years ago
Console wont die.. But it is also true that given long life time of such console life time, the console business model lacks in quick reponds against rapidly changing consumer demands. However , i am all up to see what the next generation console will bring in whatever way they be. Because now we are in very interesting time line where console business will be able to repond to that demand in a big way. If next gen console will come next year then it will be very interesting 2013.
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There's plenty of GOTY material still coming for these "dead" platforms, not every game is an "IP-backed sequel with derivative game play that's rehashed over and over again". It's pretty ridiculous to suggest that, glance over the list of GOTYs and critically acclaimed hits of the last 5-7 years and most of them will be new IPs from this console generation.
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Alot of the naysayers are folks that probably have been run through the mill, experience severe studio closures (whilst working on consoles) or have seen the light via their own business model that seems to work for them

Overall, the Console wont die. It may evolve into somethign entirely else, but the market is there for niche core experiences. Whether its a GIANT niche or a shrinking market, time will tell.

Now please keep on pumping out more core games for our daily dose of gratuitous core experiences.
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Andrzej Wroblewski Localization Generalist, Albion Localisations8 years ago
I'd say that interpreting the success of F2P and indie model-based companies as "death of console market" is an overstatement. One doing fine doesn't necessarily mean the other facing a gruesome fate. Of course, there will be a time when consoles will transit to F2P as well, and with e.g. Playstation Store we can already see a solution enabling F2P title distribution even more robustly than with PC market. So... with all due respect, you're preaching it wrong, Mark :)
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Indeed, who needs publishers when you got $20 million in venture funding?
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Robert Douglas Studying B.A in Game Art and Design, Art Institute of Pittsburgh8 years ago
As it always seems to play out, we'll all be back this time next year seeing the headline: "After massive layoffs at Red 5 studios, CEO Mark Kern was let go after Firefall, Red 5's latest MMO was unsuccessful after a few months in the crowded MMO market. He attempted several iOS games, but they were unsuccessful due to over saturation in this market of the same derivative 5-minute distraction titles. He recently started a new studio and is working on a new project however; he was quoted, 'Me and (new studio name) look forward to working with (insert publisher) to get us working on the latest (insert next-gen console) (insert game title), after all, us new studios rely on the muscle and backing that only (insert publisher) provides, and we're excited to be working on the amazing platform that is (next-gen console).' More info on his new project as we get it."

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Robert Douglas on 3rd May 2012 8:52pm

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Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 8 years ago
If "dead" means that we are no longer in turmoil, as developers have to keep up with constantly changing technology, then I say lets "kill" as many tech platforms as possible.

It is very hard to be a game designer, focussed on new gameplay and narrative, when the technology guys are always trying to prove who has the biggest you-know-what. Frankly, I'm tired of that treadmill.

Give me stable platforms and stable tools.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Tim Carter on 3rd May 2012 7:41pm

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
+1 Tim. Also, let's see how well Firefall does in a market that's frankly way too crowded with content and needs some serious trimming.
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West Clendinning Senior/Lead Artist, Rovio Entertainment8 years ago
on the same page as this article saying consoles are dead IOS rocks!,
is this one:
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Why do folks keep trying to say product X is alive, product Y is dead. Might as well start a games hedge fund.

The fact is, no one knows, and chances are nothing dies. Just a changing of boundaries in some shape and form. Can we all get back to making great products for our various platforms we enjoy working for?
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