Opinion: The industry needs to listen to Rubin's call to arms
This week's announcement that Naughty Dog president Jason Rubin is to leave the well-known developer after the completion of Jak III raised a few eyebrows around the industry - but perhaps more importantly, it also focused attention on statements which he made at the DICE Summit only days before he announced his intention to leave the studio.
Rubin's DICE keynote argued that publishers are damaging the industry by failing to recognise and respect the talent responsible for creating the games which are the industry's life blood. He called upon developers to communicate and collaborate in an effort to win this respect and influence the direction of the industry as a whole.
It's not exactly a new message, but Rubin delivered it as a rousing call to arms for developers, and the message was all the stronger since it came from someone who has been responsible for a string of successful games for some of the most important publishers in the industry. It's also a timely message, and one that the industry needs not just to hear, but to listen to.
Some commentators have opined that Rubin's claim that there's not a single publisher in the industry that "gets it" could ruffle a few feathers. If it does, then good; our industry has entered a state of complacency over the status quo in terms of game development and production that will only be ended when some feathers are very severely ruffled.
The games industry attracts and employs some of the most talented creative individuals in the world. Game designers, artists and programmers are people who lead their fields not just within this industry, but in the world as a whole; their application of stunning creative talent to cutting edge technology is unrivalled in any other entertainment or business area.
However, to hear upper management at most if not all publishers talk, you would think that people can be picked up off the streets and sat in front of PCs to do this work. They receive little credit for the work they do and are often forced to work ridiculous, unpaid hours for months on end to get projects completed. That kind of practice is understandable at a small developer which is struggling to scrape a living in a hostile business environment, but at studios belonging to huge publishers with turnover in the hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, it's completely unacceptable.
To make matters worse, the quality of games is quite simply considered unimportant by many publishers, or in other cases, the obvious link between quality of games and quality and treatment of staff is not made. This is a situation that will only ever be rectified by the developers themselves. It is not in the publishers' interests to promote developers' brands, and most of them simply don't have the expertise to recognise high quality games or manage their business processes in order to produce such games.
The industry is on a growth spurt, and natural factors such as the broadening of the gaming demographic will continue this growth for some time - but it won't carry us forever. For the industry to realise its true potential, publishers are going to have to "get it"; and for that to happen, developers are going to have to force them to "get it".
This editorial originally appeared in the GamesIndustry.biz Weekly Update, a free email news bulletin which is distributed to subscribers every Wednesday afternoon and features a round-up of the key headlines from the previous week, software charts, recruitment information and editorial opinion on key issues of the week.
You can sign up to the GI Weekly Update by entering your email address in the box on the left hand side of this page and clicking "Join". Your personal privacy is respected and your email address will not be sold on to any third parties.