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Jaffe: “This is business”, so stop blaming publishers for lack of creative control

Tuesday, 16th April 2013 00:19 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Former Eat Sleep Play boss David Jaffe has said developers need to stop whining about the evils of publisher interference and instead get good enough to avoid it all together.

“At least 50% of the time the developer just isn’t good enough to make the great game they think they are capable of making, regardless of how much creative freedom they have.”

“I reject the tired accusation that it’s the publisher keeping game developers down. And I reject that accusation because of the classic line that I am sure you’ve heard before: you are worth what you can negotiate. Period,” Jaffe wrote on his blog in an disappointingly curse-free post.

The God of War creator argued that developers shouldn’t sign deals with publishers they don’t like, and shouldn’t agree to anything unless they are completely satisfied with the contract.

“If your studio is not good enough to demand better deals and is not clever enough to secure alternate forms of financing thus allowing you to bypass the publishers all together then you deserve what you get,” he added.

The outspoken designer expressed his sympathy for developers trapped by pressure beyond their control, but compared blaming publishers for all the problems to expecting every kid to win a trophy.

“This is business. You want to be treated better? Sign a contract demanding it. You are not able to get such a contract? Then improve your team until you can demand in the real world what you think you are really worth in your mind,” he said.

“Because at the moment the real world is making something very clear to you. And that is this: for the time being anyway, you are not as good as you think you are.”

While acknowledging that some games might have been more successful or artistic without publisher interference, Jaffe said it’s not as common as many people seem to think.

“As a guy who has worked for the publisher and for the developer I can tell you that at least 50% of the time the developer just isn’t good enough to make the great game they think they are capable of making, regardless of how much creative freedom they have,” he claimed.

Developers can either waste time complaining about it or accept it and do one of two things, Jaffe continued. They can leave games development, or they can “put the effort into getting so good that they can pretty much write their own ticket”.

In a footnote, Jaffe said that most triple-A boxed products won’t be backed up by deals developers enjoy, because at that price point, marketing and brand matter too much – consumers will mostly buy sequels and known quantities. He expects the digital revolution to change this for the better.

Jaffe created both God of War and Twisted Metal and founded Eat Sleep Play, which he has since stepped back from in order to pursue non-traditional development; we’re expecting a free-to-play shooter of some kind, but he’s also got a collaboration with Jenova Chen.

It’s worth noting that Jaffe makes two references to the fact that talented developers have the chance to “write their own ticket” and “secure alternate forms of financing” – as, for example, the famously disenchanted Brain Fargo has done, turning to Kickstarter to fund two old school RPGs publishers wouldn’t touch. Steph spoke to Fargo at GDC and found him perfectly happy to answer to 70,000 of you instead of a bunch of suits and focus groups.

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12 Comments

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  1. apollyonbob

    Yeah I pretty much agree wholeheartedly with Jaffe here. This is true in more than game dev, this is true everywhere.

    #1 1 year ago
  2. DGOJG

    Oh Jaffe Cake not again with your rants…

    #2 1 year ago
  3. melonbuster1

    Its true blaming the publishers is a copout. .

    #3 1 year ago
  4. TD_Monstrous69

    U know what, he’s right. What a good explanation for what happened with Twisted Metal…….BURN!…….just kidding.

    #4 1 year ago
  5. Telepathic.Geometry

    I think that there’s enough blame to go around. But yeah, it’s true that we tend to blame evil EA or whoever more than we should for pressuring devs. It IS business, so obviously whoever’s paying the bills DOES have to get paid.

    I wouldn’t let them off the hook completely though, I think that a lot of the blame for shitty soul-less designed by committee games falls squarely on them…

    But obviously you can find extreme cases either way…

    #5 1 year ago
  6. Cobra951

    Someone like Mojang has bargaining power with publishers. But most small, unproven devs don’t have any clout at all. There’s very little they can negotiate. Either they accept the publisher’s terms, or they’re on their own.

    #6 1 year ago
  7. redwood

    sooooo.. why is he not working with the big pubs again? kinda like not practicing his own bible here

    #7 1 year ago
  8. redwood

    also does that mean “he is not as good as he thinks”

    #8 1 year ago
  9. Phoenixblight

    @7

    Did you not read the article? THe entire article is about the developer proving their worth in order to negotiate a better deal or finding other alternatives to find financing.

    #9 1 year ago
  10. redwood

    yes i did.. and i also read the article that he replied to..

    http://kotaku.com/we-need-better-video-game-publishers-472880781
    which i think is a better trend that industry veterans need to preach.

    what jeffe is preaching is that everything is ok in the industry, which clearly isn’t. The big publishers need to take responsibility for the state of the industry.

    #10 1 year ago
  11. CyberMarco

    “If your studio is not good enough to demand better deals and is not clever enough to secure alternate forms of financing thus allowing you to bypass the publishers all together then you deserve what you get,” he added.

    A-men!

    #11 1 year ago
  12. NooB GobliN

    Game development is a tricky thing. Different studios work differently. It’s a young industry, we’re still figuring this shit out.

    #12 1 year ago