Indie Games and Publishers

So, over the past few years, there were multiple cases of Indie Game Publishers doing very bad things and it’s quite infuriating when you hear about it. There are many controversies surrounded around publishers that exploit small developers and try to profit off of them in ways that are frankly… hideous. I wanted to briefly talk about that today… but I also wanted to talk about why publishers aren’t generally “evil” and some posts I plan for the upcoming days on the matter to help paint a broader picture on what publishers are actually about or what some publishers do to ensure everyone gets their fair share.

Publishers acting in Bad Faith

For instance, the Frogwares lawsuit against BBI/Nacon (as far as I know) continues to drag on. I wrote about it a while ago over here and here. What happened here is that Frogwares were developing The Sinking City and got in contact with Big-Ben-Interactive/Nacon who were supposed to help them fund the game in return for the right to distribute the game on different platforms. BBI/Nacon had other plans… and the gist of it is that BBI wanted the source code to develop the game in another studio – something that Frogwares refused to do.

Because of that, BBI stopped paying them the funds they’re contractually obligated to pay – and they’d try to sell the game as their own on multiple occasions, once even pirating the game, altering the code and distributing it on Steam, not to mention the fact that they also struck an Exclusive deal with Epic Games which would have broken the agreement that Nacon had with Sony and Microsoft.

And I can’t really find any updates on the lawsuit, sadly, which is upsetting, to say the least. More on that later.

This, however, isn’t the only horror story in the Indie Game Industry. The Indonesia-based Indie Studio “Mojiken Studio” accused PQube a while ago of stealing grant money from a diversity fund. PQube was also accused by Thai developer Corecell Team of withholding guaranteed payments and refusing to relinquish publishing rights to AeternoBlade II in Europe. It’s a whole mess. Mojiken Studio was working on A Space For The Unbound, which is now set to release on January 19th, 2023. You can read the full statement on the matter over here in full.

How can Publishers get away with this?

The big issue with a lot of these “bad-faith publishers” is that they get away with it. PQube has yet to release a statement… and they don’t have to. They really don’t. If they wanted to, they could do worse stuff and would get away with it.

Part of it is that they have a track record of good experiences and great games. The other thing is, though, that publishers like that cannot really get sued by Indie Game Developers that are very small… A lot of them can’t afford to pay the legal fees for lawyers and lawsuits in other countries. A lot of it also just isn’t worth it for them either.

And even if it would pay off, in the public eye, it’s often just “A said/B said”. Two sides. Believe whichever one you like more.

Are all Publishers bad?

Short Answer: No.

Publishers give developers essentially a helping hand. Most of them do a fantastic job at that as well.

From Console port negotiations, community feedback, social media & community management, PR, and other responsibilities… it’s just too much for small developers to handle and that’s where a lot of publishers do a fantastic job.

That’s sort of where these few outliers come in who give publishers a bad name and while it’s important to be wary of underhanded business tactics and companies like Nacon who could possibly do horrible things… it’s important to not judge all of them based on a few exceptions.

I mean, there are so many great publishers out there from Annapurna, tinyBuild, Devolver Digital and Neon Doctrine to Raw Fury, HitCents, Application Systems Heidelberg, and Chucklefish, to name a few.

What I plan to do:

In the next few days, I want to publish interviews that I did with a bunch of people from different publishers. Some of these were still from this year’s Gamescom… and I haven’t published them yet because of me sort of not getting to them in time.

Either way, I’d love to give people insights into what different publishers do and what they stand for. There are some great people I talked to back then, so look forward to that!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

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