Former Microsoft executive Ed Fries sees a possible future without “big publishers”

Tuesday, 6th August 2013 20:23 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Former Microsoft executive and “father of Xbox” Ed Fries said he was both surprised and impressed with his former company’s policy reversal on allowing self-publishing on Xbox One, and feels that in the future, the “big publishers” may vanish.

Speaking with [a]list daily, Fried said Microsoft’s policy reversals prove the company is “responsive to feedback,” as it’s important to listen to customers. He also noted his surprise when the company announced World of Tanks – a free-to-play title- would be releasing on Xbox 360.

“[That] and the indie publishing announcement surprised me as well,” Fries said. “I think, like a lot of people now, I’m waiting to see the details. I gave a talk last year about how the world of games is changing, and how it might be difficult for big parts of the industry to change along with it, for big publishers to change or for developers to change. I talked specifically about this issue, about free-to-play and about the barriers to consoles truly adopting free-to-play. I’m glad they’re heading that way.

“It’s hard for these companies to change. You see that all the time – it’s the innovator’s dilemma.

“Who knows if there’ll be big publishers in the future? There don’t have to be. Maybe the world of the future doesn’t look like that. Maybe it’s just lots of small developers, getting together and then breaking up into little teams all over the world, that’s where great games are going to come from. Big publishers were formed because games were really expensive, there were big distribution issues. Walmart didn’t want to deal with a hundred companies, they wanted to deal with four or five.

“A lot of those things changed with digital distribution. Maybe what we’ll see in the future isn’t like what we’ve seen in the past. What does that mean? There are winners and losers all through that.”

Microsoft is expected to outline its self-publishing policies in more detail during gamescom later this month.



  1. OlderGamer

    I think the big boys will be around for a very long time.

    But I do think that more smaller teams will make waves without the chains of the EAs/UBIs/Actis/MSs/Sonys etc. True selfpublishing can be the answer for some studios. But I don’t think the console power brokers are ready to fully embrace self-pub.

    And in a closed eco system like consoles there is a balance between publishing freedom and quality control…XBLI gaming mostly terrible. Publisher help filter out the trash. And that benefits everyone.

    Right now all of this indie praise and self-pub talk is just part of the hype train. We will see what happens.

    I still think more like Minecraft, born somewhere else, brought to Console. That isn’t the same thing as the PC eco system.

    #1 1 year ago
  2. MCTJim

    The big guys all started as the little guys at some point.

    #2 1 year ago

    Well, in a digital world, you don’t need a publisher.

    Just enough money to fund the dev process…

    #3 1 year ago
  4. bradk825

    Once things are digital only the big publishers may indeed go by the wayside, but big devs will remain. Also an franchises owned by the publishers will either be sold or the pubs will stay in business a while longer over those.

    Or it could have effects we are not even imaging, publishers may simply adjust and do business in a different way. Record labels still exist.

    #4 1 year ago
  5. OlderGamer

    Right, but marketing and making the product visible makes a big difference. Esp on a console where there are advertising windows and channels where a game can get exposure.

    My worry is that in the digital space you need to make sure it doesn’t break down into an App store like scene. Could be a gem of a game that you just simply never heard of and have a hard time finding.

    Just saying there needs to be a balance.

    #5 1 year ago
  6. bradk825

    @5 Good point. In the end you really still need marketing no matter what.

    #6 1 year ago
  7. MrWaffles

    Indie cinema and music is growing, yet most ain’t making the kind of money publisher-backed content can.

    If there’s still big money to be made by taking the AAA budget route and millions-of-dollars marketing push, there’ll be publishers pushing the mass market stuff down your throats.

    #7 1 year ago
  8. fearmonkey

    I wish MS would hire Ed back. They need someone like him again, a likeable persona rather than the suits they have now. Only Major Nelson remains as a non suit type.

    #8 1 year ago
  9. spazman

    typical conceited remark from an MS ex employee. The truth is, the game publishers like T-2 (rockstar), ubisoft, and capcom have a unique opportunity to cut out these two console manufactures as we move toward dedicated servers. Rockstar for one, could command a rapid uptake of subscriptions with all their games, gta world, red dead world, etc,(single/multi), plus indie games, the works. In fact, ubi & t-2 could easily merge and share the costs. And there will be plenty of third party vendors to build the input and stream devices and throw in a game pad for under a hundred bucks. Or better still, connect straight from your pc/laptop, or even now, direct from your TV. Looking at next gen games, a lot of the new ones are online dedicated server only which means the shit box and the 4, in part – are a con.

    #9 1 year ago

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