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Cock Sure

Gamecock CEO Mike Wilson on why developers should find strength in independence.

Gamecock Media Group made major headlines when its existence was first announced back in February, and not just because of the company's unusual game. As CEO Mike Wilson explained, Gamecock loudly declared its intentions to bring innovation back to gaming and stay away from "safe bets".

In this guest editorial, Wilson reveals more about Gamecock's plans for the future. Read on to find out why he believes it is developers, not publishers, who should lead the games industry forward - and to learn about the decision behind that name...


Like every other segment of the entertainment industry before it, the videogame industry has moved from many small groups with differing visions to a handful of large conglomerates that exist solely to make profit. Of course, making money is not a bad thing, but when that's your only goal - which is entirely the case with any public company - then creative concerns and willingness to take risks fall to the wayside.

In fact, when I think of the video game business in its current state, I'm reminded of something Hunter S. Thompson wrote regarding the music industry many years ago. It's "A cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."

This is the environment within which most game developers work; a place where originality is discouraged and new ideas are smothered by fiscal concerns. It's going to sound ironic coming from yours truly - the "Grand Champeen" of Gamecock Media Group - but this kind of atmosphere turns everyone into a bunch of chickens.

Think about EA's Madden. EA shut down the competition by securing the exclusive NFL licence so EA could make their shareholders comfortable. But competition is what drives any product to be better!

Or consider the very controversial Grand Theft Auto. GTA3 took a huge leap into the 3D world, and was massively rewarded by becoming one of the best-selling games of our generation. Now look at where we are, only six years and something like eight iterations later. Rockstar cranked out trilogy packs, Xbox versions, GTA on GBA. Who would have thought a PSP game would be ported to PS2? But they need to do that to keep the company's investors happy.

What if we took away this crushing need to always please investors? What if there was a place where all developers had to worry about was making a great game? Let's face facts - nine times out of 10, a game is a blockbuster because it's simply really fun to play.

And what if there was a place where the marketing dollars needed to compete with the big boys were put behind promising titles? Not because the game is a sequel or a sure thing, but because the people creating it are living their dream and putting all their passion behind it. Gamecock Media Group aims to be that place.

There are a ton of great ideas out there, and there are visionaries like Will Wright doing their part to create the next evolution of creative games. There are also teams of extremely talented people waiting in the wings for the chance to create their next killer idea.

I'm fortunate enough to have some of them under my wing - like Alex Seropian at Wideload, the guys at Firefly, and some new start-ups that will be making a name for themselves in the very near future. All of these folks got on the map by developing their own original games that were critical hits. Why would we want to stop them from doing what they do best?

I, the Gamecock, am here to tell all developers and to tell all of you this: independence is not weakness, it is strength.

As the physical embodiment of my brand/company name, Gamecock, the first question anyone involved asks when they see me strutting my stuff is, "You named your company what?" That one's easy enough to answer. We gave our company a ridiculous name because ultimately, no one cares who the publisher is, but you do want to know who the creative genius is behind it. That's why we're here, declaring loud and proud the return of the independent developer.

More often than not, however, this response brings up an interesting follow-up question. One that's not as easy to answer in a few sentences. That question is, "Why do I want games from an indie studio?" I'm not sure how it happened, but somewhere in the last 20 years the term "independent developer" has changed from meaning able to do what you want and how you want to do it to...well, small and weak.

To prove my point, let me ask you to do something. Conjure up a picture of an independent developer in your mind.

I'm betting you dreamt up something akin to a few people in a dimly lit, cramped basement, hunched over their computers, programming a crappy freeware game that they hope will be get them hired by a huge studio. Wasn't too far off, was I?

As the most creative, most passionate and most visionary force in videogames, it is developers who should be given the reigns to our gaming future. They, more than anyone else, are keenly aware of where we're at and where we should be going. We pledge to peck around and bring you the best and brightest from the independent scene, and hope others will do the same. So be on the lookout.

I'm just sayin'...

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Mike Wilson

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