Usually, the ultimate “pay-day” that fee-for-service studios seek, is, to be bought out (acquired) by an investor type, like a publisher. Or at least that’s the only conclusion I can draw. Shareholders in the company either get a bigger and potentially more rewarding stake in the company that acquires the studio, or, they finally get their dreamed of multi-million pay-out – it’s usually the goal of all business types.
Presumably, they retire to work as consultants for other studios whose management also want to cash-in likewise.
However once the deal is signed, it’s time for a downsizing. This at the very least means that employees, on the lower levels, get the shaft after having worked abysmal hours and suffered through harsh working conditions on the promise of their being an eventual light at the end of the tunnel – a “reward” for their hard work and loyalty. On the mid-scale, it means the closure of studios if there are multiple studios, and, some just aren’t performing or are only acting in a support capacity to the main studio.
At the most harsh, it means that the company ends up no longer existing.
Whatever IP (technology and licenses) that exist get absorbed by the company that buys them out, along with, key staff in order to maintain and integrate such properties into their own company – which seems the more likely reason for that acquisition in the first place. Everyone else, is out of a job. The only way this leads to a workable arrangement, is when the acquired studio is not only capable of delivering high-quality fee-for-service work, but is also capable of developing competent original IP. For whatever reason, these titles don’t entirely do as well the studio hopes – maybe critic successes but not market success.
Then a publisher you’ve worked with acquires you so that you become a first-party developer of theirs. Happy days… for a while.
As long as you continue to deliver the same quality of work, things will stay the same for at least a couple of years. Eventually, excess publisher studios get downsized or closed to keep the main studios running, as these studios lose talent and end up only playing second fiddle to other studios – if the economy is too strong locally, then an international parent studio is going to look at cutting whatever they can in order to increase their profits, aren’t they? One of these studios, could very well be your own.
So being acquired, might work for management – as they’ll likely get a pay out. But for everyone else, its a rough ride when you’re on the bottom- receiving-end…
The End is just the Beginning Again…
The problem with the old-guard, is that it’s populated by suits who are wannabe game designers that secretly aspire to be media moguls. They just don’t get it as much as they want to. Game development is an entertainment industry. It is as much an art as it is a business.
If you want to run it and think of it as purely a business enterprise, then get into another entertainment industry. Like one that also refers to itself as a “gaming” industry – but what they mean by it, is morally bankrupt “gambling.”
That’s the only way to make a quick buck in gaming, and I hear that online is also a growing segment of this market – poker and betting. Just try to learn a few lessons from James Packer, last I heard he’s not worth anywhere near as much as once claimed.
As much as I’d like to say that things are so much better now. They aren’t. It’s an illusory situation that we find ourselves in, perhaps even, the calm that comes from being within the eye of the storm. That perhaps our real hurdle is ahead of us if we don’t wont to merely repeat the mistakes of the past. Yet again.
After all, one of the architects for the “bigger and fatter is better” camp, is still a player in the industry. Still has many people’s ear. And as soon as these studios close, management simply sets up another shop with the same baked deck of cards. But now with a new inviting indie shop-front, welcoming you with a warm “comrade” embrace at the door.
What puzzles me is that it’s hard to build a sustainable studio, when the deck, is full of so many jokers that it’s beyond a laugh.
For those that are now recently out of a job, I can only offer you the following advice: don’t listen to those that belittle the indie option, at trying to create your own IP for digital markets. Krome’s Blade Kitten, is probably a case of too little, too late as far as original IP goes – everything I’ve seen of it, speaks, of aiming for the mediocre 50 to 70% Metacritic middle. But, you shouldn’t let that and those that are too afraid to attempt it, stop you from attempting to create your own.
Just don’t expect to release any old crap via digital distribution, and, expect to pay off your mortgage – those app days are gone.
I wrote about my thoughts on this a while back. It’s a bit on the cryptic side, but, it’s plastered with links. With a bit of detective work, you should find some info to make a good start of it. Just take care not to repeat the same old mistakes, ending up, having to eat someone else’s shit and having to like it!
Make sure to read: Krome’s Studio of Cards, Part 1!