Tuesday, February 18, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

The movement towards smaller, more intimate development is hardly new. Self-publishing has been successful for many developers looking to be masters and commanders of their own vision, and crowd-funding has likely given birth to more games than any single publisher has within the last few years. News hit today putting this continuous phenomenon into new perspective along with the names of two major creative directors attached.

GDC released polls taken from their “State of the industry report” which lends statistical context to the direction of the industry. Out of the games industry professionals polled, 64 percent stated that they are not working with a publisher on their current game. In addition, more than half are moving over to development on mobile and PC platforms.

Speaking of shifting over to PC, veteran game designer Cliff Bleszinski spoke about his attitude towards which market he’ll develop for. While admitting that Gears of War’s direction didn’t quite live up to his original vision, he firmly states, “I'll never make another disc-based game for the rest of my career.” Instead, Bleszinski sees value in the PC market and the community intimacy that it facilitates. He looks to games like RUST as inspiration.

But perhaps the shocking unveilings that happened today comes from Irrational Games which, as stated by co-founder Ken Levine, will become considerably smaller and vastly different from the studio that brought us Bioshock Infinite.

Levine, “I am winding down Irrational Games as you know it.”

Levine will lay off all but 15 employees at Irrational – which holds well over 100 employees – and stated that the new direction for the studio will be focused entirely on story driven, digitally distributed experiences.

Though this gradual pendulum swing has been in motion for quite some time, seeing glaring statistics and two big name creators remove themselves from the traditional games model is a profound illustration of where the market is growing.

As a console only gamer, this is irrationally unnerving. I admittedly gravitate towards these bombastic, high budget experiences that aren’t quite devoid of creativity, but sacrifice artist’s vision for the sake of mass appeal. I disagree with Jim Sterling when he says that, “Nobody wants these kinds of games” when millions of copies of these games are sold every year.

But my unnerved reaction is, as I stated, irrational as the unfathomable sales figures of these games will ensure that this model doesn’t go away. Regardless, this independent agency of creative talent is undoubtedly healthy for the industry as ideas uncontaminated by the executive focus of demographics need to be created.

For more information, check out Ken Levine's official statement, and Cliff Bleszinski's interview with Gamasutra.

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