Modern publishing is a spider’s web of interconnectivity. The public can talk directly to the author, the publisher or their peers as if they were sat next to one another. There was a time when every part of that web was clearly defined and separated, everyone knew their role and played their part. Does that same relationship still exist?
Video gamers have a unique relationship – for better or worse – with their publishers, developers and critics. Whether it’s the unmitigated abuse suffered by some developers when an unwanted change is implemented; the sea of reviews and opinions that saturate the internet about a new game within hours of it’s release; or demanding changes directly to the publisher.
Mainstream critics endure. A hand full of gaming magazines are still in print, although increasingly we are seeing popular publications – PC Gamer, Edge – moving to a digital model to compliment their print counterparts. Particularly when pitching to an audience who is so reliant and at ease with the internet, clear and concise information, delivered quickly, is a must.
Review aggregation sites – like Metacritic – are used by the masses as a tool to establish a games worth. These systems however are highly fallible and even exploitable. Video game companies who displease the gaming community can be subject to vigilante justice, in the form of negative review bombs. A practice that involves posting 0/10 scores about games in order to lower their average score. In some cases this can be more detrimental than simply making a game look unattractive to potential customers. Sometimes it can effect the pay and bonuses of the development team. People’s very livelihoods can be turned upside down by disgruntled fans, or shoddy volunteer review websites that Metacritic include in their algorithm.
Similarly the relationship shared by the publishers and developers with the public are much closer and more intimate than they used to be. It is increasingly common for developers to allow public users into closed beta – or even alpha – versions of the game long before it is due to be launched. Star Citizen for example is barely even a game at this point but you can still walk around your virtual hanger bay. This quick and easy feedback is an invaluable tool for developers looking to please a player base.
Star Citizen also shows us another huge change in the digital marketplace: the ability to donate to a project still in development. Crowd sourcing – via Kickstarter or Indiegogo for example – has become quite commonplace and is obviously a huge boon to smaller developers who need quick cash. Crowd funding is also a game changer for publishers. Star Citizen was able to raise $2,134,374 with 34,397 backers using Kickstater, what more proof of concept do you need?
What do you think video game publishing will be like in a few years? Please give your answer to this question below in the comments!
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In my next instalment I will be looking at how ready we are for a digital future.