Big Game Studio Mocks Indie Developer For Saying He Wants To Connect With Fans

It seems that no matter what area of the content creation business we talk about, when we talk about business models that work for smaller, indie content creators, which focus on connecting with fans and giving them a reason to buy, we almost always get someone scoffing about how that model doesn’t work for the big blockbusters. First of all, I don’t think that’s true, but more importantly, it misses the point. If the content creator is happy making a good living with happy and loyal fans, what’s wrong with that? Two recent stories in the video gaming space highlighted this issue.

The first, found via Karl Bode, is a story about how Mark Rein, a VP from Epic Games, the large video game developer behind Gears of War among other games, audibly scoffs at Cliff Harris of the one-man shop Positech Games (whom we’ve written about before, concerning his plans to “compete with pirates.”) Harris was on stage discussing how indie developers, like himself, had an easier time “forming personal relationships with gamers.” Apparently, Rein loudly announced that forming a personal relationship with “a small number of gamers” was a “waste of time.” Harris shot back on his blog, pointing out that (a) whatever he’s doing is working for him, because he’s been happily making games (and a living) for 13 years and seems to have a devoted fanbase and (b) Mark Rein is a jerk for acting the way he did.

I think it has something to do with the mindset of those who focus on shooting for “blockbuster” type successes. They know that direct one-to-one relationships don’t scale to the blockbuster level (not that there aren’t different ways to connect with fans), so they look down upon it. But, the thing is, for those who aren’t aiming for blockbuster results — but a good living — it works out great. And the nice thing is that it’s possible to do that these days without having to sell your soul to some company only targeted towards making blockbusters.

Along those lines, JohnForDummies, points us to a talk by BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk at the same conference, where he noted that trying to develop blockbuster video games these days is probably a mistake. Basically, the risk is way too high, because you have to become a top 10 seller to make back your money. Instead, he suggested focusing on more specific, and achievable goals — which certainly could include focusing on a niche and better connecting with that niche, as Harris described above, despite the scoffing from Rein. The problem is the same one we see in music, movies, books and other arenas, where people have defined “success” one way for so long, they don’t quite realize that others define it differently. Where it becomes sad is when it leads to personal attacks on those who have forged their own path successfully.

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