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Opinion: The Existance of Games Publishers

Date: Jul 05 2011 05:01:31 Source: Gamasutra.com Views:
KeyWord: Marketing, Games Publishers

[In the age of digital distribution and social marketing, do we need these inflated, expensive, inefficient organizations? Business editor Colin Campbell gets ready for the revolution.]

Why do games publishers exist? Seriously. What is the point of these dictatorships? Why are we at the mercy of their ambitions and their avarice? Couldn't we just rise up and get rid of these ayatollahs?

Put it another way. The function that games publishers perform has little to do with games, and everything to do with publishing. What they actually do is no different from a book publishing house in the smoky Victorian cities of yore. They source content from the talent, repackage it, create a physical artifact, sell it to retailers and try to get the word out about their new thing, mostly via advertising.

And yet games require no physical form. Talent can -- and does -- create content that is sold directly to consumers who are able to "market" the product through super-connected social channels. (Exhibit One: Minecraft.)

Minecraft

Today, games make money for their creators without the aid of a publisher, or even of those other non-producing, value-extracting middle-men, the retailers. So couldn't we just lose them all together? Imagine how much money the retailers and publishers take out of the market in order to sustain themselves and their shareholders. Why?

Brothers and sisters let us rise up, stride heroically to the barricades, sing joyfully of sunlit uplands. The future is... oh wait... hang on... what the hell am I talking about here?

Games publishers aren't going anywhere. They control the nexus between the content creator and the content consumer. That technology has rendered them (theoretically) obsolete is irrelevant. This isn't about social and distribution technology, it never was. It's about human behavior and the nature of power. The idea of games publishers disappearing is a straw man.

Surely it would be useful to ask ourselves why games publishers exist in a world where they don't actually need to exist. Here are ten reasons I recently discussed with leading analysts. There are certainly more.Please add your ideas in the comments section.

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