Publishers in the Indie Market: Could This Become A Problem?

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This was something I wanted to talk about, but wasn’t sure I should until I saw official conformation from a Shenmue 3 trailer. Lo and behold, it was true. Shenmue has been acquired by Deep Silver. In the midst of the hype due to it’s existence, I think people forget what this could mean. I don’t want to spell gloom and doom, but so far we have one example to go off of and it isn’t a good one. 
Now, as we are supposed to understand, Kickstarter is a means to cut out the publisher and allow developers to create what they want with the stipulation that the people also want it. Kickstarter has bred many good games, my favorite being Shovel Knight, but with as many successes as the platform has had, it’s had just as many failures. What’s worse is then the “indie darlings” fail to meet expectations. You know the ones. The games with major advertising behind it making the promise of being the game that brings back a genre we haven’t seen in a long time or a successor of a game we know isn’t coming back.
When THOSE fail to live up to their hype? You’ve seen the affects. Look no further than Mighty No. 9 and Yooka-Laylee. However, for the intention of this article, let’s once again talk about Mighty No. 9 because they did something that at the time people found suspicious. Now, that suspicious act seems to slowly become something to worry about.
If you’ll recall, along Mighty No. 9’s development the game was acquired by Deep Silver. Soon after we saw that really…questionable trailer that looked NOTHING like what the initial screenshots looked like. Mind you, those screenshots were phenomenal but not many believed the game would look exactly like that at launch. Still, it shouldn’t have looked like THAT, Not with the backing behind it. In case you forgot, almost 4 million dollars went into that. Now, I won’t put all the blame on Deep Silver for Mighty No. 9’s handling, but…it didn’t look like that before their involvement is all.
So now we enter present day and we learn that Shenmue 3 is also being published by Deep Silver. Now, Shenmue’s Kickstarter was questionable to begin with. It wasn’t to create the game. No, their Kickstarter was to “gauge interest” and I suppose it exceeded expectations as they made over 6.3 million dollars. What’s even more interesting is that when they ran the Kickstarter, they made it clear that Sony and Shibuya Productions was handling publishing. So what happened? Where did Deep Silver come from? Where did Sony and Shibuya go? Are they still a part of this? Did they need MORE money? 
If they do, I hope it’s spent on facial animations and model movements. More to the point, it does not inspire confidence for a publisher to all of the sudden slide into the development cycle and the game starts to look different (i.e. the game’s logo). Now, this wouldn’t be too much to talk about if this were the only case of a publisher suddenly taking up an indie project but…
We Happy Few is a game I’ve followed eerily close since I saw it’s reveal trailer. Unfortunately, it was initially announced as a PC only title so I didn’t back it. However, once they revealed the high possibility of a console release, I was more than excited. This game was a much more modest project; making only about $334k out of their $250k asking price. They rode off their BioShock influences and made their vision come true…as a heavy resource managing survival game. Since it hit early access, people kept giving criticisms and the developers made it clear they were listening to each and every piece of constructive criticism. This was a project of passion.
AND THEN GEARBOX HAPPENED!! Now, unlike Mighty No. 9 and (for now) Shenmue, Gearbox went full in with this game and seemingly made it their own. Preorder bonuses, a collector’s edition that DOES NOT INCLUDE THE GAME BUT STILL COSTS $150, a Season Pass, and…a mark up from it’s initial $30 to now $60. They’ve taken a Kickstarter darling and AAAed the fuck out it. As you can imagine, people are not happy. Of course, for this modest project, the argument could be made that they needed the money. However, did they need the money so bad that they had to let the claws of the AAA market dig so deeply?
Mind you, Gearbox is FAR from perfect. Aliens: Colonial Marines, Battleborn, Duke Nukem Forever, and that shameful Bulletstorm remaster cash grab makes Gearbox a very questionable choice. I mean, they’ve had their successes as well in Borderlands 1 and 2 (the Pre-Sequel sucked) and Brothers in Arms…I guess, but their partnership in this game being immediately followed by so much of the AAA bullshit we have come to be tired off is less than inspirational, especially since this was once a promising indie game. Now it’s a sorta promising AAA game with much less hype. 

So why do publishers keep hooking their claws into these indie projects? Are they trying that hard to profit off their hype? Are they recognizing that the indie market is incredibly profitable and popular? They aren’t good signs, ultimately. One of the charms of the Indie space is that they aren’t cold corporate publishers. They’re people you can talk to and who talk back with passion. They love what they’re doing and want to genuinely make a good product. The addition of these AAA publishers are worrying and may begin to set a cynical precedent where the indie space becomes slowly but surely infected.

Because as we know, any time the AAA market touches something it’ll slowly become something malformed and twisted. Look at every aspect of the AAA market we hate: DLC, preorders, microtransactions, and so on. All good ideas (except Season Passes. They were NEVER good) that the AAA market took and just made tiring and completely anti-consumer. Now, here we are with their hands creeping into the Indie market; particularly the Kickstarter market.

Here’s to hoping Bloodstained can keep away.

So, how do you all feel about this? Do you think these games will be great still? Are you worried? Is it not a big deal? Let us know in the comments.

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