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Publishers are "going to try to take" dev IP, says insider

An anonymous employee of a large publisher gives Kotaku fans the straight story

Today, Kotaku sponsored a live Q&A event with anonymous "insider" at an unnamed large publisher. The event covered a number of topics, providing a rare insight into the publisher mindset.

A large number of questions from Kotaku readers involved new IP and publishers' reluctance to take risks this late in the console cycle. The insider reinforced the idea, but explained that consumers are just as closed-minded about new brands on old consoles.

"You don't spend your money on new IPs, at least not at this stage in the cycle," the insider said.

"You may feel like you are, but trust me, I've seen the numbers, and with very few exceptions (which unfortunately get trumpeted in the media the loudest), you're not. New consoles are where gamers and the public are most likely to take a chance on new IPs."

On the continuing topic of IP, the insider talked about the opportunities available to independent developers at large publishers. The comments kicked off with a mention of the recent revelation that Playdead's Limbo skipped over being a PlayStation Network exclusive due to Sony's stipulations over IP ownership.

Playdead's indie hit was almost an exclusive.

"If you want us to fully fund your idea, we'll take the IP as part of the deal, no question. If you've self-funded most or all of the development, there's a good chance you can negotiate retaining the rights to your IP. But we're going to try to take it from you, all the same. Look at what Sony said about losing Limbo... happens all the time," the insider began.

"I've worked on projects on both extremes: here's an almost finished game where we need help a the final stage (usually things like QA, distribution, marketing, etc.), and here's a concept on paper with pretty pictures. We signed both, and the former was a little unknown indie dev team, and the latter was an established powerhouse."

"If you're really good, chances are you can self-fund your work (see Blow, Hecker, etc.). If you're not good, then you're open to working with us, but we don't want to work with you," the insider stated. "Publishers are all about managing risk and profit. If we've never heard of you before, you're going to need way more to convince us to sign your title. And you'll get a crappy backend deal to match."

The topic then turned to PC gaming, DRM, and the ongoing war between gamers and publishers.

"The standard retail model for PC isn't working for large companies anymore, and we're all trying to figure out the next step. Publishers won't be releasing $60 PC-exclusive titles any time soon, because they're not selling," said the insider. "Not that we don't want to! The margins are significantly higher on PC, once we figure out how to get there (Origin, etc.)"

"I agree that, for the most part, DRM isn't going well. The problem is that it's an escalating arms race, with neither side (hackers, publishers) willing to back down. As a gamer and engineer, you could get around DRM relatively easy. I'm not worried about you, I'm worried about the average guy/girl who wants to play our games. If it's easier to download it for free, that's what they'll do. If we throw up enough roadblocks, then they'll probably just buy it outright."

When one Kotaku reader asked for publishers to stop creating Day One downloadable content, the insider merely replied, "Then stop buying it."

Fans did not take well to Mass Effect 3's ending.

Finally, the insider answered a question about consumers being entitled, a sentiment kicked off by the outrage over Mass Effect 3's ending and Bioware's subsequent Extended Cut ending DLC.

"Gamers are absurdly entitled, but I think they got there because we ask so much money from them every step of the way. No one's demanding reshoots for the final Matrix, because it only cost you 10 bucks to see it. Sometimes I think we in the industry lose sight of what it's like to pay $60 for a piece of entertainment. Other than downloadable titles, I get all my games for free through friends," the insider said.

It was an excellent event by Kotaku and the full comment thread is worth a read.

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Mike Williams avatar
Mike Williams: M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.
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