Letter to the Editor: The Biggest Loser

As a developer we often deal with so many fires and situations that force us to be innovative, cunning and creative. This helps empower us and our team to create a compelling product in this very competitive environment. With all the pleasures of quality, testing and creativity thrust upon us, why oh why are we also forced to deal with the squabbling of our distributors like a bad family during the holidays?  

It’s funny how a year ago we only had to deal with 1-2 issues: Give an exclusive to RealArcade (Real), and they may sit on it for a year (basically killing it).  If you give an exclusive to Big Fish Games (Big Fish), then Real won’t take it unless it’s a big hit.

Fast forward a year and here we are today.  Now that Big Fish has rocketed past Real as the predominate online sales channel for casual games, a whole new slew of dirt comes to the for-front that developers have to face.  Real Arcade forces developers to sign an amendment that drops their rates if they give an exclusive. So why would any developer want to work with them anyway? All you get is a tiny royalty while they make the lion’s share for the privilege.  

Now that Big Fish Games does exclusives with developers, other online distributers like iWin, Reflexive and Spintop won’t distribute your game at all. We developers understand they are hurt that their playing field is not even since Big Fish has had the game exclusive and the game was not launched in parity. Common sense says "let’s hurt the developer so that they can’t make any money with us instead." That is their best approach! So rather than them making more money so they can afford to compete with Big Fish Games or Real, they say no and neither side makes any money. Meanwhile, Big Fish continues to grow, take your customers and get even larger. Smart, very smart!

Do they think that makes the developer tremble and shake and say they will never work with Big Fish again? Or does it make them say, "Big Fish is a better partner so rather than working with smaller channels that want to hurt me, I will work even closer with Big Fish for a better relationship."

On top of that, we are dealing with the same thing that happened in the video games business in the 1990s: publishers making their own games. Now, they get 100% of the revenue so they can risk more in development and R&D. And, they control their customers so they can analyze what they like and don’t like and include that competitive intelligence in their own games. So they will continue to always have a competitive advantage.

Is this fair? No. But the reality of the situation is forcing developers to innovate and be even more creative, which is fine.

But we have to learn to get along, people! Real won’t work with Big Fish, Oberon, and the others. iWin won’t work with Big Fish and any developer that does an exclusive with Big Fish, and now the smaller sites are creating this separatist group that is only meant to hurt developers, when their goal should be to  find ways to draw developers away, grow their business and attract more customers from the larger portals.

This attitude will not grow our business. It will not help the casual games industry and it will start to push young creative minds away from our business, which is already desperate for innovation and creativity.

It is time for the distributors of this industry to stop squabbling.  The biggest loser in all this is not just the developer.  It’s the consumer.  And with less developers able to survive to create the games that consumers want to play and buy, in the end, the biggest loser… is you, the distributor.

Editor’s note: This editorial was submitted by a developer who wished to remain nameless. Any opinions in the editorial are the express ideas of the writer and do not necessarily represent the viewpoints of Gamezebo. All hail free speech.

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