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Prison Architect Dev Introversion Explains Indies' Trouble with Retail

Eurogamer's Tom Phillips reports on an eye-opening talk at the recent PC and indie games show Rezzed.

This article first appeared on USgamer, a partner publication of VG247. Some content, such as this article, has been migrated to VG247 for posterity after USgamer's closure - but it has not been edited or further vetted by the VG247 team.

Uplink and Darwinia developer Introversion has discussed the troubles that indie creators face getting their games noticed by publishers and traditional brick and mortar shops.

Introversion's Mark Morris was speaking during a panel at UK-based PC and indie games show Rezzed 2013 -- organized by our sister sites Eurogamer and Rock, Paper, Shotgun -- discussing the various business strategies now open to indie PC developers.

Morris and Delay were on stage with Dreamfall Chapters' Ragnar Tornquist, Frozen Synapse's Paul Taylor, Project Eternity's Chris Avellone and Rock, Paper, Shotgun's John Walker.

"Publishers and retailers are c***s," Morris began, to whoops and cheers from the audience. "I can expand on that.

"From our perspective we couldn't get our games anywhere near UK retail when we started out. There was no interest in picking up any obscure titles. They just wanted 100 copies of the latest AAA title. If that model had continued then the indie revolution would not have occurred."

Introversion is now using a paid alpha model for Prison Architect which is already proving successful -- Morris explained that the alpha alone was most profitable project in its history.

"Prison Architect is the most financially successful project that Introversion has ever done," Morris revealed. "Without a shadow of a doubt.

"It's wonderful for us as we've never previously released a game that we were happy with - it always took us another six months to get to where we wanted to be on version one.

The discussion continued as Project Eternity developer Chris Avellone suggested that publishers and traditional retailers were simply behaving as companies do -- not wanting to risk money on games which may very well not turn a profit.

"To play devil's advocate here, to an extent I understand where publishers are coming from," Avellone countered. "When they're investing $20-30 million in a crazy AAA game, their desire to take risks and be innovative, their desire to experiment with a hardcore or PC-only game... They don't want to hear any of that.

"Prison Architect is the most financially successful project that Introversion has ever done. Without a shadow of a doubt."

Introversion's Mark Morris

"They know their investment is so large and they understand the level of return they need to get. But the more we can get out of the loop of the old business model the better."

Alpha game models provide other benefits, too, the panel members agreed.

"One of the wonderful aspects of doing an alpha is we get feedback," Morris' Introversion colleague Chris Delay explained. "Sometimes it was as long as two years before anyone saw it, as your funds slowly trickle down to zero while you're making it."

Developers also know exactly how much money is coming in during development - and have an ongoing revenue stream - so studios know exactly how much they can spend, he continued.

You can watch the whole panel, hosted by Rock, Paper, Shotgun's John Walker, via the embed below.

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