Author Topic: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...  (Read 9947 times)

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Offline Stratos

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Re: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...
« Reply #25 on: April 30, 2020, 01:52:36 PM »
I read the leaks because I doubt I'll get around to playing these games and it just sounds super bizarre. Like an extra bad season of Walking Dead. But maybe I just never understood what the first game was about, as I thought it was a survival horror game where you played as a father protecting his daughter (or a girl he found and becomes a father figure to). All this relationship stuff just sounds like a bad CW teen-zombie show, but again, maybe I just never understood what the original product was.

As for developer crunch, it happens in other tech orgs, but you seem to find better variety there and even some options that just work with a better Work Life Balance. I have deadlines to meet for my apps, but it won't impact my company's revenue stream if I hit a roadblock and get delayed. I can go home and turn off work because I don't fear being terminated if I fall behind.

I suspect it has something to do with typical work culture in game studios. I'm sure the type of product also plays a role on that as well. Epic's Fortnite team has a better WLB that someone putting out an annualized "AAA" million dollar game because Fortnite's platform is built with a tool for revenue while continuing development of additional content. Most big-budget games have one-time fees that come after +80% of the work has been done, and that puts strain on timelines working out with budgets. Its why paid DLC and micro transactions creep into these games as it is additional revenue beyond the initial ticket price.

If we are being honest, games are under priced in some cases at $60 considering inflation. It also doesn't help that the market for games promotes steep discounts due to aggressive sales, especially on digital platforms like Steam. Its so common to undervalue a game I've run into people offended that Nintendo refuses to drop the price on their flagship games like Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey years later. They think it is a right to buy a game at a lower price if it is 6 months old or more. And can you blame him? I've learned to not buy Ubisoft games even if they are good until at least a month or later because they will drop in price very quickly. And with all of the post-release support most games receive in the way of bug fixes, new features, performance enhancements, and balance patches, it almost makes sense to wait for a price drop.

So the games industry has backed themselves into a bit of a catch-22 situation and they work their teams harder to compensate.
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Offline Luigi Dude

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Re: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...
« Reply #26 on: April 30, 2020, 03:49:51 PM »
I think the biggest issue is literally every major gaming company that isn't Nintendo is controlled by people with no experience in the creation of actual videogames.  They don't realize how the design process works, and so they have no problem asking for unrealistic development cycles that lead to horrible treatment of employees and the quality of the games suffering as a result.  It reminds me how interviews from former Rare employees who originally thought being bought by Microsoft was going to be great and they'd have so much more freedom, but then realize just how wrong they were.

Nintendo might have been strict on certain things, but was more willing to delay a title if they felt the quality needed it.  The supervisors from Nintendo would also give advice to Rare when game were having issues to help create a better vision that would help with development as well.  They did the same with Retro where it was Miyamoto who told them to make it First Person when they were having trouble getting the gameplay to work right in third person, and Miyamoto said a first person view would accomplish what they wanted to do better.

In comparison, Microsoft basically set deadlines for when a game had to be ready and if there was trouble with development there was no higher ups that could come in to give guidance.  So this would put a lot more stress on the employees since they now had to put in more work trying to create a clear vision for the game while still getting it done in time.  As development cost have gotten way higher and team much bigger, it's no surprise this kind of attitudes from many of these companies has less to the messes we've been getting.
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Offline Adrock

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Re: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...
« Reply #27 on: May 01, 2020, 04:54:28 PM »
I think the biggest issue is literally every major gaming company that isn't Nintendo is controlled by people with no experience in the creation of actual videogames.  They don't realize how the design process works, and so they have no problem asking for unrealistic development cycles that lead to horrible treatment of employees and the quality of the games suffering as a result.
Nah, man. I’m not giving them that, particularly Sony. It has been in the gaming business for over 25 years. The people who run Sony Interactive Entertainment and its subsidiaries such as Naughty Dog know how it all works. This is simply prioritizing immediate profits at the cost of human suffering. The people in charge can either delay the game and make the same profits months later, or pay people for optional crunch time.

No offense to you. I don’t mean this as an indictment on what you wrote. I just have no patience for the lack of common decency from these execs running people into the ground and taking advantage of the non-hourly pay structure. Maybe I’m spoiled by having followed Nintendo for so long. As you mentioned, it’ll just delay a game. Most recently, Nintendo delayed Animal Crossing out of 2019 entirely to avoid what other companies call crunch time. To Nintendo, crunch time involves hiring more contractors/increasing headcount rather than increasing hours of employees. This is, of course, in addition to stories like Satoru Iwata taking a 50% pay cut rather than laying off employees after a particularly bad fiscal year. There’s just no universe in which I give a company a pass for treating employees and contractors poorly. Responsibility starts at the top.

Offline pokepal148

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Re: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...
« Reply #28 on: May 01, 2020, 11:21:57 PM »
Apparently Sony claims that they know where the leak came from and it didn't come from inside the company somehow. I am curious about how that's supposed to make sense
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Offline broodwars

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Re: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...
« Reply #29 on: May 02, 2020, 06:08:02 AM »
Apparently Sony claims that they know where the leak came from and it didn't come from inside the company somehow. I am curious about how that's supposed to make sense

You know the situation is bad when Sony would rather say they were hacked AGAIN (this is, what..the 3rd time now) rather than admit that they have no control over Naughty Dog. Because really, unless Sony wants to claim that someone literally broke into Naughty Dog's offices & stole a dev kit (which SOMEONE would have noticed), that's the only other way this could have gotten out.

I mean, they could claim that someone at the mastering plant leaked it, except that The Last of Us 2 hadn't gone gold yet, so they wouldn't have had it yet.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2020, 06:10:31 AM by broodwars »
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Offline Steefosaurus

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Re: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...
« Reply #30 on: May 02, 2020, 10:54:39 AM »
You know the situation is bad when Sony would rather say they were hacked AGAIN (this is, what..the 3rd time now) rather than admit that they have no control over Naughty Dog. Because really, unless Sony wants to claim that someone literally broke into Naughty Dog's offices & stole a dev kit (which SOMEONE would have noticed), that's the only other way this could have gotten out.

Not defending Sony here, but I'm not sure if a hack or theft is the most obvious conclusion to draw here? Various builds of games pass through many (internal & external) offices before ever reaching market. Warner Bros. managed to hold a focus group and somehow still have someone leak video from their upcoming Harry Potter game. Information is difficult to control (luckily so, imo).
[EDIT: Spoke to soon perhaps? Schreier reports a hack may have been the case after all.]

I agree someone within Sony (a massive corporation) or Naughty Dog would be obvious candidates, especially if speculation about a disgruntled employee is correct. Naughty Dog has repeatedly relied on crunch development (not just on Last of Us 2, but also on Uncharted). That's bound to burn people out, especially if no compensation is offered.

This is the same company which allegedly tried to covered up internal sexual abuse by having Sony HR step in and offer the victim $20,000 of shush money. The following is speculative, but if HR is clearly not on the side of the employees, what avenue do employees have to resolve conflicts?

Honestly, we're doing Sony a favour by turning this into a witch hunt for the suspected leaker. That distracts from what seems to be the underlying problem, a terrible work culture. For the workers, you can bet this leak will result in a long internal investigation. That could exacerbate internal distrust, and purposefully isolates people a bit from each other. Sony/ND can spin this in such a way that the search for the leaker becomes their lightning rod for a while, and wave that as an excuse to not treat their employees better.
Fans may even take corporate's side on this because they don't want their precious game spoiled.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2020, 09:17:31 AM by Steefosaurus »

Offline broodwars

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Re: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...
« Reply #31 on: May 04, 2020, 03:10:53 PM »
According to Jason Schreier, the cover story regarding The Last of Us 2's leak is that someone "hacked" Naughty Dog's development servers via the online multiplayer of an older title. If this sounds like bullshit, that's probably because it's likely bullshit.

In other Naughty Dog news, apparently someone claiming to be affiliated with Naughty Dog and/or Sony is going around issuing copyright takedown strikes on not only Youtube channels that discuss the leaks, but also those that discuss that the leaks occurred at all (without discussing what was in those leaks). Lovely.
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Offline nickmitch

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Re: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...
« Reply #32 on: May 04, 2020, 07:15:06 PM »
So, what's the fix for "crunch culture"?
Developers have to form unions and/or people have to stop buying games from developers forced into crunch. Send a message to publishers that crunch is unacceptable. That’s a lot of organizing which makes it unlikely so yeah, the answer is to form unions.

I'm for developers having unions, but what do they ask for? A limit to the number of hours per week?  Guaranteed overtime pay?  I'm not sure, but publishers will still have to find a way to break even on any deal they make with unions.  Either make cuts, increase prices, or change the model.

I've worked in the games industry in a minor, QA, capacity, so I'm not about to say it's realistic that we can ever really get rid of crunch. However, the amount of crunch that has to be done can be managed by having competent management with a clear development plan and realistic goals that take into account that the train's going to derail at some point. If your plan bakes in time to get the train back onto the tracks, you can minimize crunch.

The problem is that the inmates run the asylum over at Naughty Dog, so the only solution I can think of is for Sony to fire the management and restructure the company. There's just too much of a perfectionist, direction-less culture there right now, and I suspect that they aren't as profitable as Sony wants people to believe they are. Sony had to bail out both Uncharted 4 & The Last of Us 2 with significant delays when they languished in development hell for years, and even despite that the crunch was still horrendous.

Agreed.  I don't think you can get rid of it completely.  The game has a deadline and unless you're finishing early, there's gonna be a push to the end.  And like you suggested, the competent management can minimize the amount of crunch with proper planning.  I come from an industry where we have the same thing, but we call it "busy season".  It's generally accepted that you can work 80+ hours per week for a while, but you get a pretty flexible schedule outside of that.

Some crunch time is probably inevitable, and not such a big deal when people are rewarded appropriately with time and money afterwards.

Continuous crunch time is a real problem though, and usually an indication that management has no clue what they are doing. Something on the project has to go significantly off-track, whether that's over-promising for content and delivery times or actual development issues that couldn't be easily foreseen.


That said, I feel like games being increasingly large and complex makes the whole development cycle more taxing. Teams are larger and more spread out, and the likelihood of unexpected problems cropping up during development are much higher also. Trying to accurately scope the time and resources that a large project will need is really difficult, and when mistakes happen it can affect a lot of people depending on how much pressure the company is under to live up to early commitments.

Being in stuck in it for months on end really sucks because it takes a toll on both your physical and mental health pretty quickly.  But to your last point, I think part of the answer is scoping games down.  At some point, I think the $60 model is going to stop being profitable for big games, and I think we might be getting there pretty quickly.
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Offline broodwars

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Re: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...
« Reply #33 on: May 04, 2020, 08:02:59 PM »
Timely. Lab Zero announced their 1st (?) piece of post-launch Indivisible DLC, which is a set of platforming & combat challenges (ever the go-to favorite of lazy DLC. Control and Star Wars Jedi Fallen order recently got those, too). The DLC comes out this week on PS4, and who knows when (if ever) it will hit the new Switch version. At least it offers new trophies, so along with New Game+ there's at least some reason to go back to Indivisible. Snark aside, the platforming gauntlets were my favorite sections of the main game, so I could maybe see a replay for this.

https://www.playstationtrophies.org/news/news-30755-Indivisible--Razmi-s-Challenges--DLC-Arrives-This-Week-with-New-Trophies.html

And no, backers were not told this was coming, and I highly doubt backers will get codes for this.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2020, 08:07:21 PM by broodwars »
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Offline Adrock

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Re: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...
« Reply #34 on: May 05, 2020, 11:15:58 AM »
I'm for developers having unions, but what do they ask for? A limit to the number of hours per week?  Guaranteed overtime pay?  I'm not sure, but publishers will still have to find a way to break even on any deal they make with unions. Either make cuts, increase prices, or change the model.
Ask for a fair compromise. Companies are taking advantage of salary pay loopholes. If a publisher can’t release a game without mistreating its workers, it shouldn’t be in business. To me, exploitation is the line.

My understanding is developers are not being compensated for excessive mandatory overtime. To start, overtime ever being mandatory is ridiculous on its face. If it’s mandatory, it isn’t overtime anymore; it’s just the time. And since it’s mandatory, workers are being threatened with insubordination for not working OT and possibly being fired. What kind of asinine logic is that? If a company is going to keep workers away from their homes/families, the least they could do is pay them for the personal and interpersonal stress that overtime causes.

Crunch time is an unfortunate reality of the games industry. I understand the need to release products by certain dates. I’m in favor of just delaying the game because if it’s worth a damn, it’ll make money anyway. If delaying a game isn’t possible for whatever reason, just don’t be a dick about it. These publishers clearly cannot be trusted to not be dicks so a union that keeps them in line would be beneficial for worker rights.

Offline nickmitch

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Re: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...
« Reply #35 on: May 05, 2020, 11:50:22 AM »
I think the extra hours leading up to the release is something that's unavoidable.  They're gonna need all hands on deck for extended hours for at least a few weeks.  But unions could certainly demand more flexible hours during other time frames and more guaranteed bonuses.  I'm sure actual programmers have more specific wants, but that's what I'm thinking.  Something that at least puts them in line with other industries that have that type of work cycle.
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Offline broodwars

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Re: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...
« Reply #36 on: May 05, 2020, 12:17:40 PM »
Crunch is something that is just unavoidable as you near release, ESPECIALLY when your game is I'm certification and one of the platform holders finds a must-fix rare crash bug that all the wagons have to be circled for in all departments to get locked down.

Or when hypothetically Nintendo of Japan decides that system friend names aren't being immediately displayed correctly in the first second that a leaderboard is refreshing once you cross over 100 names. Not that I ever ran into such a ridiculous bug, one so ridiculous that even NoA and NoE would have to step in to tell NoA to knock it off.

On an unrelated note, Nintendo certification can **** off, at least as it was during the Wii's life cycle. It's just the most insanely convoluted, hierarchical, lovecraftian nightmare.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2020, 12:20:18 PM by broodwars »
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Offline pokepal148

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Re: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...
« Reply #37 on: May 12, 2020, 12:44:29 AM »
And now Sony has been caught blatantly inflating The Last of Us 2's user score on the PSN store with hundreds of 5 star scores.
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Offline broodwars

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Re: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...
« Reply #38 on: May 26, 2020, 03:54:48 PM »
In other Naughty Dog news, apparently someone claiming to be affiliated with Naughty Dog and/or Sony is going around issuing copyright takedown strikes on not only Youtube channels that discuss the leaks, but also those that discuss that the leaks occurred at all (without discussing what was in those leaks). Lovely.

In a hilarious follow-up to this (which has been getting incredibly ridiculous), Sony today posted a new official trailer for The Last of Us 2 today...which was promptly copyright-stricken by...themselves.  :rolleyes:

https://twitter.com/PlayStation/status/1258131429936021507
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Offline ejamer

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Re: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...
« Reply #39 on: May 27, 2020, 06:31:27 AM »
In other Naughty Dog news, apparently someone claiming to be affiliated with Naughty Dog and/or Sony is going around issuing copyright takedown strikes on not only Youtube channels that discuss the leaks, but also those that discuss that the leaks occurred at all (without discussing what was in those leaks). Lovely.

In a hilarious follow-up to this (which has been getting incredibly ridiculous), Sony today posted a new official trailer for The Last of Us 2 today...which was promptly copyright-stricken by...themselves.  :rolleyes:

https://twitter.com/PlayStation/status/1258131429936021507

This made me laugh out loud. Thanks for sharing - wouldn't have seen it otherwise.
What a debacle.
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Offline pokepal148

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Re: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...
« Reply #40 on: June 13, 2020, 08:46:52 PM »
Quote from: a guy on Twitter.
Naughty Dog claimed animal-loving players could complete Last of Us II without having to kill any dogs.

Polygon has confirmed this was a lie, as an unavoidable QTE sequence forces you to murder a dog, then watch a flashback where that same dog happily plays fetch.

What the **** https://t.co/HfRUyUdCTV


link
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Offline broodwars

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Re: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...
« Reply #41 on: June 13, 2020, 08:54:46 PM »
Quote from: a guy on Twitter.
Naughty Dog claimed animal-loving players could complete Last of Us II without having to kill any dogs.

Polygon has confirmed this was a lie, as an unavoidable QTE sequence forces you to murder a dog, then watch a flashback where that same dog happily plays fetch.

What the **** https://t.co/HfRUyUdCTV


link

The Last of US 2 reviews have been interesting. To quote someone on Twitter: "every last of us 2 review is going to be "it's miserable. it's not fun. playing it actively sucked and i hated every single moment. that's why i'm going to give it a 10/10. ebert was wrong. finally i can show my parents how grown up my job is."

Hit that nail right on the head. Every review I've seen of the game has gone into great detail about how miserable an experience playing it is, & how they hate playing it...and then they turn around & give it a high score. I was actually willing to give the game a 2nd chance if the reviews basically confirmed that the leaks were out of context & the story DOES work in context, but just about every one that's gone near the embargoed subject has confirmed that the story is just as awful, miserable, & full of despicable characters as the leaks made it appear.

So instead of gearing up for Last of Us 2, I'm replaying Ratchet & Clank 2016 right now. It feels...cathartic.
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Offline pokepal148

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Re: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...
« Reply #42 on: June 18, 2020, 11:49:54 PM »
I'm watching a stream of the game. There is literally 15 minutes of Elle walking followed by a QTE, a bunch of cutscenes, and walking for another 10 minutes, than she throws a rock at a window and does some basic parkour, and than there's 25(!) minutes of walking and cutscenes before he uninstalled the game out of shrer frustration.
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Offline Luigi Dude

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Re: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...
« Reply #43 on: June 25, 2020, 11:12:09 AM »
That said, I feel like games being increasingly large and complex makes the whole development cycle more taxing. Teams are larger and more spread out, and the likelihood of unexpected problems cropping up during development are much higher also. Trying to accurately scope the time and resources that a large project will need is really difficult, and when mistakes happen it can affect a lot of people depending on how much pressure the company is under to live up to early commitments.

Being in stuck in it for months on end really sucks because it takes a toll on both your physical and mental health pretty quickly.  But to your last point, I think part of the answer is scoping games down.  At some point, I think the $60 model is going to stop being profitable for big games, and I think we might be getting there pretty quickly.

Looks like Shawn Layden, former chairmen of Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios, in a recent interview agrees.

https://venturebeat.com/2020/06/23/shawn-layden-interview-the-man-with-the-crash-bandicoot-t-shirt/view-all/

Quote
Layden: I still remember when games would cost $1 million to make. Those days are long gone. The cost of creating games has increased. Some studies show that’s gone up 2X every time a console generation advances. The problem with that model is it’s just not sustainable. Major triple-A games in the current generation go anywhere from $80 million to $150 million or more to build, and that’s before marketing. It’s a huge up-front cost. Extended over time, it takes three or four or five years to build a game while you’re not getting any return on the investment. You just continue to pay into it looking for the big payoff at the end.

I don’t think, in the next generation, you can take those numbers and multiply them by two and expect the industry to continue to grow. The industry as a whole needs to sit back and think, “What are we building? What’s the audience expectation? What is the best way to get our stories across, to say what we need to say?” That’s going to cause the industry to look at the kind of games we’re doing, where we go from there, and what we’re putting into them. It’s hard for every adventure game to shoot for 50 or 60 hours of gameplay. That’s going to be so much more expensive to achieve.

Quote
Layden:  How can we look at that and say, “Is there another answer?” Instead of spending five years to make an 80-hour game, what does three years and a 15-hour game look like? What are the costs around that? Is that a full experience? Personally, as an older gamer now, I would welcome the return of the 12-15 hour game. I would finish more games, first of all. Just like a well-edited piece of literature or a movie — I’ve been looking at the discipline around that, the containment around that. It could get us tighter, more compelling content. It would be something I’d like to see a return to.
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Offline Ian Sane

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Re: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...
« Reply #44 on: June 25, 2020, 04:18:43 PM »
You know how in other mediums there are only a handful of major publishers?  There's the big three labels, the big five movie studios, and the big five book publishers.  It isn't like that in videogames... yet.  We don't have as many publishers as we used to have but we still aren't down to only a handful.  If the budget of game development keeps increasing then it will shrink the amount of publishers that are still in the business.  But for the biggest publishers that may be worth it to narrow the competition down to an oligopoly.  Controlling the market in that manner might be worth the investment.

Offline Stratos

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Re: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...
« Reply #45 on: June 26, 2020, 10:23:55 AM »
At least in gaming there are some factors that level the playing field. Indies have built a string following and being all-digital for most of their efforts also lowers cost of entry, and the fact that there are over a dozen sales ecosystems also helps (Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, Steam, GOG, Epic, etc).

Other industries may not have similar focuses on indie output. Indie film festivals are the only thing that comes to mind. Amazon has really got a stranglehold on the book scene.
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Offline nickmitch

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Re: Meanwhile, Over At The Other Developers...
« Reply #46 on: June 26, 2020, 05:59:38 PM »
I really liked that interview, and I'm glad he touched on smaller scale games, which is what I'd like to see. He talked a lot about costs and revenues, but I don't think he mentioned price increases? He mentioned $60 being the norm, but I think games one TLOU2's scale may run up to $80.
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