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Default Larian Studios - How Larian Became Self Funding

January 9th, 2012, 14:45
Lar writes in his column today what moved him to make Larian Studios self funding. In it he writes about what publishing tasks can be done by Larian and that for getting boxed copies of the game in shops a publisher would still be needed.
So after having sat through several of those defining first-impression moments where I saw the marketing guys pick up their blackberries after seeing a couple of minutes of footage of the games we were working on, I came to the conclusion that if the game wouldn’t look and move like a first person shooter at the same stage of development, and didn’t feature a big hook that could be communicated in one phrase, it would never work. The only thing that would work would be if I showed a powerpoint where I say – dude, the previous game sold 3 million units – so even if you don’t get it, there’s a market.
Somewhere in between one of those meetings I made the decision that the only way we could break through would be by doing it ourselves, without the involvement of a large publisher. Given an environment in which record sales require massive polish which in turn requires massive investments, I needed to find a way to get access to that investment, without the shortcut of getting it from a publisher.
So I asked myself, why do you need these people anyway ? Seriously ?
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January 9th, 2012, 14:45
Another quote from there :

We actually did make it to several green-light committees of top 10 publishers, I even sat in on a few of them to present my games, but we never managed to sign with any of them, so obviously something went wrong. Other than occasionally having to deal with idiots, the biggest common hurdle I found has always been the marketing department. I’ve learnt that in general these people don’t like RPGs. They just don’t get it.

“ 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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January 9th, 2012, 14:53
Sounds exactly like the kind of middle market developer we want making our games

As for his comments on what it takes to get a game green-lit, I doubt it comes as a surprise to people here…
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January 9th, 2012, 15:53
I think we need companies to have the ability to avoid using big publishers. We want quantity and quality and the former would be severely lacking if all RPGs had to be big budget through major publishers. Hopefully this approach can be shown to be economically viable.
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January 9th, 2012, 18:08
Its just another lesson on why publishers and there marketing teams only care about action and fps games. They have no clue on how to market a rpg as it has been proven many times even with Bioware.

I always enjoy Lar's posts on how the marketing works as he shows how many hoops you have to go through for idiots who only see numbers.

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January 9th, 2012, 19:01
One would think games like minecraft would make Marketing teams think twice before stereotyping what games should all look like, but alas, not yet.

I also hope that flops like Dragon Age 2 and Rage make some people in charge think twice before leting marketing teams decide what creative freedom should rule.

I for once as long as I have a good life i'll always buy games from Larian. Besides them being realy good, its a pleasure to endorse free-thinking in this world.
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January 9th, 2012, 22:40
exactly, just preordered Dishonored, I suggest you do the same
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January 10th, 2012, 02:00
Originally Posted by Couchpotato View Post
I always enjoy Lar's posts on how the marketing works as he shows how many hoops you have to go through for idiots who only see numbers.
I wouldn't call them "idiots" but just conservative. The vast majority of games and that includes FPSs and action games are losing money. Making an RPG is like begging to lose money. Unless you're really lucky and hit the right nerve at the right time but that is out of the realm of predictability because we have all seen good games sell terribly and shitty games sell like hot cakes…

I sincerely hope that Lar's plans work out and that Larian will be making money from Dragon Commander and other releases but I remain somewhat skeptical.
Doesn't seem very likely to me that digital distribution is the big money maker. Look at The Witcher 2. CD Projekt sold a mere 35K copies on Good Old Games which is a well established sales platform that is getting a lot of traffic. Larian's own online store is going to perform much worse.
And to ship the game to a considerable number of retail stores across Europe and the US is going to cost lots and lots of money.
Securing shelf space, negotiating the contracts, coming up with incentives etc. etc. etc. is tons of work and it is what the major publishers are really good at. And good luck on convincing them to stock up on a PC game (especially in North America) when the store managers could use the space for something that is likely to yield them more $ per square meter.

If going solo would be easy then a lot more devs would do it, I guess. But they aren't. So there must be some merit to having a (big) publisher that takes care of all the crap and the ground and foot work. Or maybe everyone just thinks that way and is too lazy or scared to do it themselves so maybe Larian will be breaking new ground. Or maybe they will just get lucky and pull a Minecraft with Dragon Commander, i.e. hitting the right nerve at the right time as stated above.
We shall see. I definitely wish them the best of luck. I'm afraid they're going to need it, too…
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January 10th, 2012, 09:28
You're not begging to lose money if you invest appropriately. The problem is the one-track mind of most business people - and that's maximum return. They haven't the insight required to understand the potential of a good CRPG, and that's because they don't care about games that aren't the most profitable. End of story.

Thankfully, we have Skyrim now to set the eyes of suits alight.
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January 10th, 2012, 10:26
Massive applause to Lars, it takes a lot of time and money to build up a good gaming IP, more time than the average suit will stick around for in a company. Only way to counter that is a good dose of self-funding.

Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Thankfully, we have Skyrim now to set the eyes of suits alight.
But it could just mean more dragons, memes, and viscera.
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January 10th, 2012, 10:37
Originally Posted by KapitanUnterhosen View Post
But it could just mean more dragons, memes, and viscera.
It could mean anything.

Essentially, it means that the genre in itself is going to be attractive to suits. From there, it's up to developers to exploit that opportunity.

Still, if there's a way to avoid the suits altogether - then that's certainly the route to choose if you're about the art.
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January 10th, 2012, 11:53
Originally Posted by Moriendor View Post

If going solo would be easy then a lot more devs would do it, I guess. But they aren't. So there must be some merit to having a (big) publisher that takes care of all the crap and the ground and foot work. Or maybe everyone just thinks that way and is too lazy or scared to do it themselves so maybe Larian will be breaking new ground. Or maybe they will just get lucky and pull a Minecraft with Dragon Commander, i.e. hitting the right nerve at the right time as stated above.
We shall see. I definitely wish them the best of luck. I'm afraid they're going to need it, too…
It seems he is pretty well aware of the difficulties:
That stage is the self-publishing adventure we now find ourselves in. We recently started staffing up our in-house publishing team to the extent that we’ll be able to offer more publishing attention to our games than they would actually get at most publishers, and we’re now happily making our games without anybody interfering.

All I need to do now is get the games in the stores, because even if digital sales make up for a lot of revenue, retail still matters very much. And that’s the one thing we can’t do ourselves. We can make the boxes, we can ship them, but we don’t have the sales network required to put it in the stores.

That means I still need to go through publishers, which is what concerns my team
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