When OpNoobs interviewed tinyBuild, we sought to find out what they did for developers that developers didn’t or couldn't do themselves. In other words, our intent was to shed light on an indie publisher’s purpose in today’s distribution market.
The fact is, we find it increasingly difficult to justify a publishing house for indie games. The democratization of publishing as a process, made largely possible by Valve and its international program, Steam Greenlight, coupled with publicizing tools such as search engines, social media networks, crowdfunding sites, even WordPress and other user-friendly content management systems, meant that the new millennium for indie gaming would see the end of the middle man. For developers, it meant a dramatic cut in doing business, not to mention unprecedented access.
Publishing houses, on the other hand, would need to reinvent themselves. Sadly, they haven't yet, tinyBuild certainly didn’t, and their day-to-day operation continues to claim the profits that frankly, ought to go to developers instead. We would leave the matter alone, as it isn't worth the trouble. They are a dying breed, perhaps on the verge of extinction, and tinyBuild itself, as a service, isn't impressive by any standard. They released less than a handful of games in years of operation, and now that the once successful Early Access, Speedrunners, has released with underwhelming sales, they seem to be running into financial trouble.
All the reasons why this attack on G2A is undocumented and suspiciously timely. To be credible, tinyBuild needed to accompany their accusation with data on sales coming from stolen credit card transactions. They didn’t. Furthermore, they refused to work with G2A, when asked to communicate information on keys bought illegally. Strange behavior, to say the least. Could it be that, tinyBuild, without much of a game-plan for what comes next, much less the ambition of revisiting an outdated business model through hard work and innovation, instead opted for cheap sensationalism, a popularity boost by association, and as hypocrites, in defense of the developers' pockets?
If they did, it certainly worked. Once again, they’re the talk of the town; once again, credit without work. Congratulations?
On the other side, stands an isolated and destabilized G2A.
We realize that most of us, including myself, feel inclined to support an entrepreneurial team advocating for artists against big business. Yet in this case we ought to consider two things, before casting vote. For one, that the advocate should be part of the solution rather than the problem. They should themselves help developers and cut their cost of business, instead of increasing expenses thanks to their rolodex. Secondly, that the near-absolute majority of Indie Devs are not coding games to get rich, but coding games to learn and build a portfolio, as any other professional would to become competitive on the job market. That developer, OpNoobs knows, is first and foremost a gamer. A gamer, like you and I.
Then let us ask ourselves, what a company like G2A and its hundreds of thousands of followers did for us, gamers. Has their business model not broken down the quasi-monopoly controlling prices? Has it not allowed us to experience more with less? And is experience not the fuel for innovation in the indie scene?
Then is the insinuation that resellers beyond Humble Store and BundleStars are crooks, if not outright criminals. That’s a big accusation, again that lacks proof. I also find it insulting, considering that I’ve regularly visited and bought games from dozens of sites over the recent years, and saved hundreds if not thousands. It’s clear to me that most if not all have put a lot of work and effort in setting up shop, not to mention analyzing and operating by market trends, a practice by the way, that mankind has well embedded in his DNA when it comes to doing business. Outside of gaming, it’s called trade, and it’s the heart of our global economy.
Then comes the question of responsibility. Like the US government prints a dollar bill and chooses who gets it, developers release Steam keys and decide where they go. Some will be distributed to press, others will remain under their close control on Steam; and then is the third option, which is to release them to the free market.
The “Ebay for game keys” is a choice, one developers make, and asking for royalties when a game sells again, is called double-dipping.
Which leads us to our central point: “$450k worth of SpeedRunners, Party Hard, and Punch Club sold on G2A without any compensation to the developers” is not only misleading. It’s outright false. The developers made their money the first time around, when they sold the key at retail price.
While tinyBuild’s time and effort would be better spent denouncing Valve - the industry’s behemoth who takes a greedy 40% off the game’s sale, regardless of sales and without concern toward the development team’s budget - attacking G2A is anti-populist, it’s an assault on the downward spiral that the company brilliantly managed to create against all odds, fighting quasi-monopolies by increasing competition among suppliers, which consequently and undeniably led to a decrease in the inflated cost of gaming. Let’s not forget, shall we, that it is thanks to resellers that indie devs can do what they love best: play games, and lots of them.
Of course antiquated institutions like publishing houses for indie gaming will fight the trend, as they belong to the elitist circle that used to be, the gaming industry.
Also Check Out: tinyBuild Games Interview with Yulia Vakhrusheva, Director, Business Development.