If you were a gamer back in the PS1 era you might recall a little game called Abe’s Oddysee? You could fart, burp and communicate in various ways with other forms of life in Abe’s world. The two-dimensional game brought with it some of the best animation we had witnessed to date and spawned a sequel called Abe’s Exoddus. From there they released Munch’s Oddysee and Strangers Wrath exclusively on the original Xbox, and this is where Lorne Lanning got fed up with publisher agreements.
He says that once you owned your own development studio that publishers would make you sign up your company in such a way that you’d ultimately sign it away. Because of the upwards trend of Indie developers these days he’s back in the game, hence we’ve got Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! on the way. The influence of publishers these days is not as tough as it was a few years ago.
We’d had enough of what was happening. And what was happening was quite simply if you wanted to build big expensive games, and you were getting them funded by a publisher, you were basically giving up your company.
When I started making games people were on average building games for $500,000, maybe a $1 million, on the Sega Mega Drive and SNES. We come in on the PlayStation era and it’s like, oh, it’s going to go to multi-million dollars. And there were a lot of concerns about how teams would grow and all that stuff.
Now, we didn’t create the company to sell the company, right? But you would basically have these deals where if you wanted to sign a $15 million development deal you were simultaneously signing an acquisition deal: if you had success they would be able to buy you and they would leverage the power of that money.
And I looked at that and I said, ‘that’s not why I started building these games’. I don’t care for some of these relationships, I think they’re very unfair. And I don’t think they’re good for the industry, the development community, or the customer. And if that’s how it’s gonna be I’d rather not play, period.”
With self-publishing I’ve sold more copies of Stranger’s Wrath than the publisher did originally. The same game, years later, because I had to wait for the rights to expire. Their rights to expire. We put it out there on digital, lower price point, and that’s turned more units than it ever did.
And that our dear readers is the reason why Indie developing is so important. It helps to separate the sheep from the wolfs in sheep clothing.