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Positech: "If I ran a big studio I'd be petrified" staff would go solo

Devs "effectively taking bank loans from publishers" is "crazy" - Cliff Harris

The surprise success of one-man or small team projects such as Minecraft means corporate-employed developers may be increasingly considering their own projects, believes Positech Games founder Cliff Harris.

Speaking to in an interview published today, the Gratuitous Space Battles developer argued that "If I ran a big studio and employed lots of people, I would be petrified that the best people would just bugger off and start their own studios - because you'd lose your best people then.

"It must be a nightmare now, with Minecraft [reaching one million paying players], with lead coders saying "I want another £20,000 or I'm just going to go off and do what that guy did."

While appreciating that "it's nowhere near as simple as that", he felt that big studios' resistance to smaller games and self-publishing had meant they had missed the window of opportunity to create a viable rival to Steam in its infancy.

He had pitched the concept to former employer Lionhead whilst working there, but "they just said 'no, we don't think there's any future in that.'

"I knew Steam would be massive. Nobody seemed to take it seriously at the time, they just thought it was insane. It's crazy that everyone just sat on their hands and let the few smart guys go and sort of grab the whole digital download market.

"Thing is, though, I worked for a company that sold all their games as boxes on shelves - so to them it seemed a little bit strange, I guess. I'd already done quite a few games by then that were selling online and making a little bit of money, so I knew it worked.

"It seems absolutely crazy, all those companies like Lionhead continued to go along, effectively taking bank loans from publishers in order to make games. It seemed crazy then and it's still crazy now."

For the full interview with Harris, in which he also discusses early experiences with the Mac App Store, his concerns about how app stores in general could harm gaming and why it's still possible to earn a living without major third party distribution, please click here.

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Alec Meer: A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.
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