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Default Dragon Commander - Status Update

September 8th, 2011, 11:29
Lar has posted a lengthy status update again, talking about his difficulty getting major publishers interested in Dragon Commander at Gamescom:
Other than showing the game to the press, which was handled well by Farhang I think (you can see how he did on the gametrailers footage,) my main purpose at Gamescom was seeking out distribution in retail, so that one day you can actually buy a copy of Dragon Commander in stores. During the conversations I had for that purpose, I quickly realized that even being called the biggest surprise of the show by many a site does not impress some of the dinosaurs of the games industry

“You know, marketing did research on Dragons for one of our own major properties, and they told me positively that there’s no audience. Nobody will buy it.” was a statement I heard from one of the guardians to retail heaven. I had been building up quite some enthousiasm as I was presenting him the game, at least in my head as I was imagining all the cool things we were going do in Dragon Commander, and I honestly couldn’t imagine him not being at least moderately positive this time. I’d presented quite a few games to him in the past with little success, but this time, fresh from the enthousiastic reception I’d been experiencing the previous days, I was sure I’d struck gold. I of course didn’t think about what marketing would have to say – I just wanted to hear if he liked it.

As he politely started explaining to me why Dragon Commander would be a total failure, memories of a similar conversation popped up in my head, where I was equally politely told by the same guy that maybe I should focus on our kids titles because clearly we had nothing to seek in the “real game” space. He didn’t remember that I think, or didn’t want to remember it as the success of the Dragon Knight Saga was too tangible a proof that his predictions had a tendency of being iffy. So as I was waiting for him to tell me that “jetpacks might raise global warming issues among the audience” (which to his credit he didn’t say), I suddenly realized that the best endorsement I could get was this guy telling me that it was going to be a complete and utter failure! Or so I liked to think.

And it continued. I met major publisher after major publisher, meeting completly risk averse people, seemingly brainwashed by their marketing departments and thinking about games as SKUs. I had to look up what a SKU was, so for the equally ill informed, a SKU is a number or code used to identify each unique product or item for sale in a store or other business (at least according to Wikipedia). To be blunt, my feelings about thinking about a game as a SKU can be summarized as - Yuk! Yuk! And Yuk! But that’s just me. It’s cliché to talk about majors like that, but hell, why do they have to honor those clichés ? A little bit of out of the box behavior would make these meetings a lot more fun!
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September 8th, 2011, 11:29
This is really sad and demonstrate how hard it is make the games you want. If it's this hard for well know and successful developer to make game what chance does small Indi people have?

I was talking to a developer at my company (we are in the financial industry) recently and he told me that he was games developer for about 15 years before he joined us. He owned small game company employing about 13 people. They made some reasonably successful games but in the end got screwed over by the publisher who refused to pay them. I asked him why he didn't sue, but he said he had to put up his house as collateral and that was risk too far. Sad story really.
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September 8th, 2011, 11:57
Another snippet from this Status Update :

Funnily enough, the same majors I was ranting at in this update started contacting us after the show, telling us, you know, your game actually has potential. I imagine it had something to do with us gently pointing out all the coverage the game received, which probably opened the eyes of at least some marketing departments. We even got our first offer for a worldwide publishing deal, which we, shockingly, respectfully declined, at least for the time being. The reason– being madly in love with Dragon Commander and not wanting to lose creative control, something that automatically happens when signing one of those deals (For the understandable reason that people do get very nervous once they committed millions to something so they want to have a say)

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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September 8th, 2011, 15:17
Actually it reflects my view of major publishers and 'marketing' in general. We ask our selves why games are so expensive. It is because major publishers spend millions on 'marketing'. I generally have a very low view based on my first hand experience with marketing folks and over the years my view on CEO who pamper them have been taking a similar route. Alas there is a lack of space for me to present the details of why my perception has hit rock bottom on this class of corporate culture. Anyways it would be interesting to know which publishers he had the pleasure of chatting; and luckily i'm willing to buy on steam and he's willing to publish on steam (which I believe is a better deal for studio than traditional publishers).
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September 8th, 2011, 19:38
Well, I think this needs to be seen in perspective. Lar and his studio are making it really hard for publishers with this particular (type of) game. Dragons with jet packs? Control dragon armies (instead of slaughtering them)? Mixing fantasy with fancy tech stuff?

Let's be realistic here. This game is screaming "niche" from the top of its lungs so I'm not sure why anyone (especially Lar) is the least bit surprised that major publishers are not exactly in a hurry to outbid each other.

I'd understand if he'd be disappointed in a lack of interest if he'd be trying to sell Divinity 3 (as a Diablo clone with a story and a purpose) to people but Dragon Commander is like fly-fishing minus the fly . I mean there's zero bait or reason to bite for a major publisher since this game is simply not going to appeal to a large audience.
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September 8th, 2011, 23:22
Moriendor mentions the whole "dragons as enemies" thing that publishers like… Yet a quick look through amazon shows a whole section of fantasy novels about dragons and the like as romantic/desireable/heroic. Then look at all the sales of dragon sculptures etc that you see at pratically mall. There's clearly a demand for dragon stuff, and you'd think that alone would be enough to net some interest.

However, the combination of steam-punk with the dragons is certainly a bit difficult to pitch without sounding crazy. You have to have played one of Lars' previous games to realise that Larian can pull that stuff off. Most publishers don't actually play the games, so it is no surprise they don't see how things could work…
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September 8th, 2011, 23:33
I agree with Moriendor. They wish to remain independent and this poses problems when you need to find publishers. I recall I had to wait almost a entire year just to play there last game even though it was completed. No publishers were interested in NA.

This is why I think digital releases are the future. Gets rid of the publisher and lets the developer get more money and I'm not thinking of steam. They still take a cut just to put your games on there delivery system.

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September 9th, 2011, 00:59
Moriendor is right. This is clearly a niche title, hence the top-tier publishers have no business being interested because it isn't clear it will move 3M+ (or whatever the minimum AAA benchmark is these days).

As for retail and SKUs…well, every industry has their benchmarks. A much as I hate GameStop and their ilk, a typical store has around 70m2 space and the only way to get the best results is to maximise sales-per-square-metre. SKUs might be "yuk" but that's the nature of retail.

Online and digital is the future for niche titles.

Best of luck to them but stop worrying about majors, Lar!

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September 9th, 2011, 09:40
How did Lars not know what a SKU (stock keeping unit) was? Was he joking? If not, that's a serious investment concern right away.

He shouldn't be selling this to western publishers. From what I can tell, this game would be much better suited to Asian markets.
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September 9th, 2011, 13:39
I think therre's another layer under this "yuk SKUs" meaning.

I think he's so negative about it, because treating games = SKUs stripps off them the whole "play" meaning". Like my philosophical approach that a thing retains its self only as long as it is considered as [the parts which] constiturtes itself. Um, difficult words.

It's like saying : This is not a man, it's a number. A number living in a flat. We don't need to know anything else about it. It eats food, it watches TV, it produces waste - but it is still a number. It even has no name anymore. It is a number to us. THX1138.

The same goes on for games in "the business" right now. Actual "playing" isn't needed anymore. All what counts is whether it is sold, it sells, or not. They are no more games [for them]. They are numbers. SKUs.

And I think this is, what Lar - as an underlying meaning" "is so yuk about", so to say.

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September 9th, 2011, 13:41
Yes.. that's their job It shouldn't come as a surprise to find out that the numbers people are interested in numbers
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September 9th, 2011, 13:43
But humanity gets least this way, don't you understand ?

If everything becomes a number - well then we may end up like the Nazis.

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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September 9th, 2011, 14:25
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
But humanity gets least this way, don't you understand ?

If everything becomes a number - well then we may end up like the Nazis.
Well I'm not suggesting everyone should be a number person. Only the number people need to be number people. Someone has to be though.
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September 10th, 2011, 02:29
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
The same goes on for games in "the business" right now. Actual "playing" isn't needed anymore. All what counts is whether it is sold, it sells, or not. They are no more games [for them]. They are numbers. SKUs.

And I think this is, what Lar - as an underlying meaning" "is so yuk about", so to say.
Sometimes you need to let this go, Alrik.

Shops aren't about fostering art - they're about commerce. Larian could sell their houses, use the money to pay for development and give the game away for free, right? It would be all about the art. But (of course), they don't. Internally, you don't think Lar has worked on sales projections and costings? Of course he has! In fact, I bet they use the equivalent of skus internally.

To pick an example, GameStop has 6,500 stores. To put 2x copies of a game in each store (one display, one backup) means an investment of around $350,000 per sku. That needs to be paid for at some point in real money, not sentiment. Any manager would be a fool not use some form of stock tracking system to control this.

Now, I appreciate you don't care about all this but I know you like to buy real boxes at shops so someone needs to look after the business side or those shops won't be there for long.

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