Over the past eight or so years, we’ve all seen a worrying increase in the number of Western game development studios going bankrupt. We’re told this is due to the economic climate and that modern games cost more to make. Much of that is misdirection and plain old-fashioned bullshit.
I should know. I’ve been in the games industry for over a decade. While I’ve spent the bulk of that time working in development, as a designer, I also had a decent spell in publishing too.
In short, I’ve been on both sides of the fence.
In the previous console generation, the size of development teams was far smaller. Because of that, budgets were, too. One major platform, the PlayStation 2, dominated the market with an immense install base. All of that meant you had great profit margins.
By “you,” I mean the large game publishers.
The orgy of cash publishers enjoyed in the PS2 era made the majority of the management in games publishing complacent. A lot of people at the publishing companies made it into positions they wouldn’t normally have achieved. They were carried there by those large profits. Basically, they failed upwards.
These days, the market is much more fractured in terms of platforms. Games cost even more to make. And something has had to give.
Unfortunately, due to the fact that we have a large number of idiots in publishing management, this means that when they’re unable to manage budgets properly—most often the result of their own interference inflating costs—they hit the panic button and shut down the studio that just tried to make a game for them.