Chris Taylor: Arguing Over Business Models Is Silly

Gas Powered Games CEO says gamers should support what they love and not get caught up in the noise; believes $50 is too much for a PC game.

Gas Powered Games founder and CEO Chris Taylor is fed up with gamers' eagerness to argue over business models. The longtime game designer who recently bet everything he has ever worked for on a new RPG/RTS hybrid for PC called Wild Man told GameSpot recently that gamers should simply support what they love and not let the rest rattle them.

Chris Taylor.

"What's interesting about any model is that if you don't like it, you shouldn't play it. If you like free-to-play games or Zynga games, then play them. If you hate them, if you want to kill them, then don't play their f**king games," Taylor said. "When did consumer vote with your dollar ever stop being part of real life? What happened to common sense?"

Taylor said gamers shouldn't make decisions for other gamers, who in many instances have different interests. He likened the situation to that of him walking into a department store and arguing about women's underwear.

"I love how we can project ourselves as consumers into the shoes of a consumer that we are not and make decisions for that person. I don't walk into Target and walk through the ladies' underwear section and say 'I can't believe this lace…oh my God' and pitch a fit on the floor and they have to scoop me up and haul me out. And the security would say, 'What's wrong with that man?' 'Well, he's really upset about ladies' underwear.'"

"The point is I really see that happening in games. I see people getting really upset about [business] models that they don't like and my whole thing is: Why care? Unless you think it's going to sweep the entire business. But consumers get to vote with their dollars and they will win. Consumers will win. They will clear the path and the water runs downhill and it follows the shortest path to the ocean. The world that we're going to be living in in the next ten years is a world that will be decided by the dollars spent from all the gamers in the world."

Taylor is an outspoken and opinionated person. Not only did he share his thoughts about arguing over business models, but he also explained why he thinks Minecraft's charm is in its low-end graphics, why $50 is too much for a PC game, and why he paid $3 an episode to watch The Walking Dead.

Ed. Note: This interview was conducted prior to the Wild Man Kickstarter campaign going live and the ensuing substantial layoffs at Gas Powered Games. Around 40 developers were let go on Friday and Taylor has discussed terminating the Kickstarter effort altogether. At press time, the fund stands at $296,109 pledged (26 percent) from 5,652 backers with 24 days remaining.

On whether or not established game developers should use Kickstarter:

"Well, if you don't think they should, then don't fund their games. Give someone else your money."

On the possibility of Wild Man being funded by a traditional publisher:

"I brought it up very subtly to at least one publisher and I can almost say two, and the initial response I got was, you could just tell that wasn't where their head was at. When I talk about traditional publishers, you can guess who they are, and the reality is they are just not interested. And they are so heads-down right now; there is so much concern over the console business, when the next generation [of consoles] will come about, how that's gonna go, what's happening at retail. Their head is just a million miles away from saying 'Oh yeah, let's jump in and explore some cool s**t on the PC.'"

"[Kickstarter] is so much bigger than Tim Schafer raising money to make an adventure game. That was just the tip of the iceberg. "

"Someone might have said we'll publish it. But here's the secret: I don't want them to. There's a will inside me that's pushing this towards the direct relationship to customer. Because I know crossing this somewhat scary desert will get us to an oasis."

On Kickstarter:

"It's a revolution. When we saw that, we thought this is so much bigger than Tim Schafer raising money to make an adventure game. That was just the tip of the iceberg. That was only a fraction of the total thing that is happening here. And I really want to get the word out about that."

On the possibility of failure:

"Enormous pressure. If I fail, what do I do? If I fail at this, I think I'm moving away to the country and I'm going to live in a little log cabin and I'm going to be a weird old man. That's my next job. Even if we fail, it's still fantastic. It's still a wonderful adventure to go on. You look at people climbing the face of a rock cliff, and you say 'Why the hell would they do that? They could fall.' And usually someone does and they die. But that's the thrill. I have taken everything in the company; I have taken all the resources, and I have got it all on this game."

Don't like it? Don't support it, says Taylor.

On touch-based real-time strategy games:

"People got so excited about the touchpad when they thought about RTS. 'Oh, it's going to be so great; I'm gonna be able to control my armies, I'm gonna be able to pinch to zoom.' And that seemed like a correct assumption, but in practice, it doesn't work. Because the twitch factor of RTS is so high that your hand is physically moving and your arm is physically moving all over the pad. And not that I want to make gamers sound like they're lazy, but that's a lot of work. But with a mouse, you're literally moving your mouse a centimeter; the motions are very, very small."

"With the model we have with Wild Man, controlling your one hero character and having the camera stick on them is a much more doable game than having a battlefield where you're pinching to zoom and clicking, selecting, doing all this stuff. It may be true that it's not as good [as the PC version]. I am a mouse and keyboard zealot. I mean, pry my dead body off the mouse [laughs]. But when I'm at the doctor's office, and I've got my iPhone, and I'm sitting there waiting an hour, I'm thankful that I've got my iPhone with my cool touch display and I'd love to play Wild Man in that context."

On PC game pricing:

"I love where the pricing is going; I love the fact that the pricing is heading down. I don't want to buy a game for $50. It's too much money to spend. When I walk into a Costco and I'm buying my bread and my milk and I see the DVD rack and a DVD is $19.99, my first response is 'no f**ing way.' I'm not spending $19.99 on Looper. No offense, but I want to rent that for a couple of bucks. If it was to purchase at $7.99; there's a sweet spot. You'd have my sale every time. It's economics. I do not want to spend $50 on a video game, but I'll spend $20. $20 seems like the magic number. And if I feel like I'm getting extra content, I'll go from there."

"I thrive on that unknown. Jumping out of an airplane without a parachute and thinking 'F**k,' as I'm in freefall, how am I going to get out of this one?"

On AMC's The Walking Dead:

"When I was watching the series on Apple TV it was costing me like $2.99 an episode. It seems like a lot, but when you're jonesing for one more hour--sort of slapping the vein on your arm going 'take my money'--that's a good place for consumers to be. There's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with creative people, the people that made the series, going 'People want it, they're going to pay for it.' I don't know how high that number can go, but I bet it can get pretty damn high, when I'm in a pinch for a fix."

On taking risks:

"I thrive on that unknown. Jumping out of an airplane without a parachute and thinking 'F**k, as I'm in freefall, how am I going to get out of this one?'"

On Wild Man's learning curve:

"I do not wish to push people through a steep learning curve. Part of the joy of a good game is the nice, gentle, entertaining but continuously progressing game that just sweeps me up and takes me for a ride. Fundamentally, we try to adhere to that philosophy."

On the allure of Minecraft:

"When my friend first said to me, 'Hey we've been playing Minecraft all weekend; it's really amazing how fun it is.' They sort of warn you when they tell you how awesome it is about the graphics. 'But when you look at the game, you'll freak out a little bit because the graphics are so retro.' And you're like, 'Yeah, but I can tell from the twinkle in your eye and the enthusiasm in your voice that the graphics don't matter.' And sure enough you're right. The graphics didn't matter. In fact, the graphics became part of the charm."

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

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44 comments
Atombomb1981
Atombomb1981

With this kind of attitude, there won't be any business model to cash in from. The more barriers they put between their games and their customers, the more customers will turn away from them. They will never question the quality of their product, their insane price and DRM, the delivery of the game content (and extra content) to the players etc... They simply create a game. You want it, you buy it. You don't want it, you don't buy it. But if you buy it, you have to agree to every bullshit they come up along the way, because..."Hey, that's our wonderful business model!". He was way smarter in "Dungeon Siege" days or maybe he kept his dumb ideas to himself and focused more on creating a good game.

Yagami-san
Yagami-san

This guy is stupid. Basically what he's saying is that if someone punches me in the face, I should go on with my life pretending it never happened. He's stupid for someone taking charge of game development.

x-TwilighT-x
x-TwilighT-x

"People shouldn't argue over business models" ----- "50$ is too much for a pc game"
Isn't that kind of a business model?

IanNottinghamX
IanNottinghamX

Chris Taylor : "When did consumer vote with your dollar ever stop being part of real life? What happened to common sense?" 

 The problem is not everything popular is good nor should it dominate the landscape. Because its bad for the industry long term. Look at Call of Duty I don't buy those games yet people without fail buy those games every year despite lackluster changes and annual updates to a game engine that's pretty much the same...paint by numbers.... Yes its about making money for Activision but what happens when people wise up too much and decide they dont want to play junk rehashed games and don't give games that truly deserve it a chance?

advancedcaveman
advancedcaveman

Complaining about business isn't about "making decisions for other consumers." Its a natural reaction when the things you like get pushed out of the market by things you don't like. It's also a reaction to all these old school developers who made great games in the 90s turning into cynical assholes with a grandfather complex trying to turn gaming into a giant pyramid scheme. 

Unholy123
Unholy123

I agree with the pricing statement atm $50 dollars for a new PC game is far too much especially in this era of digital data downloads, I get no box, no manual, and no DVD case yet they still charge the same price as if they were supplying these items it seems ridiculous to me hence why I usually find the will power to wait on most games till  they are selling for 30 to less on sales. Of course I sometimes buy pre orders for games I really want but I cannot wait till publishers finally break down and admit they can sell new PC Digital Downloads for $30 off the bat.

I get buying a physical copy for $59.99 when you factor in the cost of shipping the game and the cost of physical materials and manuals and box's with box arts but not for Digital Downloads.

Yulaw2000
Yulaw2000

Voting with our money is only part of the solution. Letting publishers and fellow players know our reason for not buying a game can help the publishers improve and help our fellow players see reason, so hopefully they are more likely to make decisions that will benefit both players and the industry, rather than encourage bad business practises. To speak one's mind is a personal choice, as it is to listen to the opinion's of others.

ZOD777
ZOD777

"Taylor said gamers shouldn't make decisions for other gamers, who in many instances have different interests. He likened the situation to that of him walking into a department store and arguing about women's underwear."

Gamers cannot make decisions for other gamers.   Gamers are stubborn, and just as opinionated as Taylor.  If I could make decisions for other gamers, nobody would buy DLC anymore, and nobody would play games that have microtransactions.  So I guess people went ahead and bought those panties with lace anyway, despite your protests right, Mr. Taylor?  I see what he is getting at, but that doesn't mean that we have to remain silent and only vote with dollars.  I think other gamers need to hear the possible plights and pitfalls of industry trends from other gamers who disagree with certain business models.  Sure, it may fall on deaf ears, but it is important to some of us who have been gamers for 25+ years to share concerns with the future of gaming and where the industry is heading.

bjvill
bjvill

Sales-figurese is the only language those publishers understand, so they will use whatever business model brings in the most money. And they will keep using the tactic that rakes in the highest profit despite our whining.

He does have some good points: 

1.) speak with your wallet. 

2.) if you are buying it despite an exploitative business model, you are letting publishers know you are so addicted to their game/IP that you are okay with them to continuing to milk you.


megatronx2
megatronx2

Well i think 30 would be more realistic.

Urufudo
Urufudo

Consumers have every right to bitch about business models, as much as Mr Taylor has every right to bitch about people bitching about them. :P

I don't mind paying $50 for a full game. It's pretty rare to find a brand new release for $50 in Canada though; new releases are around $70 despite so many game companies actually originating in Canada. What bothers me more is that these games end up going down in price barely 2 months after they're released... it's almost like a "fuck you" to the people who buy the game right away. That being said, I just wait now. :P lol

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

Business models have very strong impact on game design. Their strong tie is one major reason why I cannot enjoy SWTOR the way I want to enjoy it, and why I could not enjoy TSW until recently. It is in my best interest to be as aggressive as possible to promote business practices that suit my taste because they directly dictate the kind of games available to me. The same is true for everyone, whether they share my view or hold the exact opposite. We should all actively contribute to promote our own interests as long as we respect others' right to do the same. I don't see any evidence that gamers are actively sabotaging other gamers' right to choose, so I don't see Mr. Tyler's problem.

I argue that $50 is actually too low a price for some PC games, SWTOR and TSW for example. One-time sale at that price does not generate enough revenue to justify the development of such games. This phenomenon is closely linked to the decision to make these games completely online and subscription based even though many if not most players would agree that a substantial portion of those games have no justifiable reason to adopt such a model. All single-player-only or single-player-capable components should be sold at a one-time price appropriate for development cost; multiplayer elements should be subscribed to separately, and be capable of standing on their own to justify the additional cost, not ride the coat-tail of a successful single player mode.

sozoshu
sozoshu

True, consumers will win and vote with their dollar. Too bad majority of these consumers are mindless walking wallets with no taste or common sense. Which is why shit like Zynga exists and earns a lot in a first place. So yeah, it kind of does ruin and defile the whole industry. It's a very sad sight, this combination of greedy developers and tasteless consumers who didn't work their ass off to get the money they're spending on trashy games. On the bright side, there are still some developers who care about putting their souls into games that they're making, and not just thinking about cash they will get, without taking into consideration anything else at all.

Atombomb1981
Atombomb1981

Games are too expensive for what they offer nowadays. 

W e don't like a business model. No problem, we don't buy the game, because we should only pay for what we like. So when we have a franchise, we should skip titles with intrusive DRM for example... Or ignore DLC filling up gaps in the main storyline. Or beta test products to get a functional patch half a year later. 

Wake up people most of the companies these day employ some of the most offensive business models that everyone hates. Except them of course, because they specifically designed them to suck the money out of their clients. Let's just not buy anything that's on the market these days. 

Chris Tyler was way smarter when he created Dungeon Siege...:(


Deadly_Nemesis
Deadly_Nemesis

Yeah I'm not reading all of this but all I have to say to the quote in the title is ...going about things like that is how gaming has ended up in the sorry state it is currently in...so no. Ignorance is bliss but you’re still going to have to wake up eventually and pay the tab

Fossil-
Fossil-

F2P games do suck and I ignore them as a result. But that isn't the issue with gamers. The problem is when greed driven business models start to permeate games we already love. For example, say a sequel to one of your favorite series is released. We buy the game, but what we don't get is a few hours of story/gameplay that is released Day 1 as DLC. Sure people will pay for it and you as a consumer aren't obligated to follow suit, but you can't help but feel you were cheated out of content that could have been included but is instead sold off at a premium. This is not an argument against DLC, just an example.

Also, while I agree $20 for a DVD is too much, $3 for a single episode is absurd; far worse than $50 for a video game at least. At $3 an episode it will cost you more than buying the whole season on Blu-Ray. Except you have no physical copy and there are no production costs associated with it except for bandwith.

ZackRoyer
ZackRoyer

I don't care paying 50 dollars in a game that I know i will play hours and hours whenever I want, online or not. I care about paying more than 50$ dollars in a game sequel that changes nothing from its precedent, had a DRM that only allows me to play when i'm connected, only if I have the signature of bill gates, the game producers, my pets, my boss and the president. Sometimes I go to places where I don't have internet connection and the only thing I have is my notebook with my games. If i want to play GTA IV or Batman Arkham City, "oops you don't have a internet connection so you can't access your singleplayer save.". If developers want¨their games worthing 50$ so they should make their games worth 50$.

green_scorpion
green_scorpion

The reason people get so passionate about this issue is that we dont want 'features' like DRM, online passes, microtransactions, ect. infecting other games.  If developers see that they can get away with taking advantage of their fanbase who will take whatever they are given, they will nickel and dime us dry.  "Dont argue over business models, just buy the game if you like it regardless if its exploitive."  Yeah... no. 

Vambran
Vambran

50$ is not high. Games require so much these days. Sure in the 80's you could hire some guy in a garage to crank out a arcade game in a few months ( ET ). But games now need CGI , Voice actors , some kind of online support and the list goes on. 

Nothing against indie games like minecraft , but prefer a well made AAA game over it any day.

As for Wildman ..... i don't know. Would rather have Sup com 3 or even that Kings and Castles Game.

oflow
oflow

I dunno, I'm not really a fan of the new F2P models that are taking over all the games.  Al lot of them become pay2win or they nickel and dime you to the point where its costing more than you would pay for a sub.

I agree with the $50 thing, but I buy most of my games on Steam and unless its a AAA title its usually $19.99 or less anyway.

M-S-M-S
M-S-M-S

But there are cases where the costumers have no choice but to adopt this business mode, even if it hurts them, due to the fact that this model is set by a huge company (EA...). So we should speak aloud about this and even argue.

I do agree that 50$ is high, especially now when digital distribution has become an norm in the PC gaming platform.

kenmanius
kenmanius

I would say most gamers don't care about business models period. They just want traditional good quality at a fair cost no matter the method of delivery. It was some fat cat manager who decided that the business aspect would invade our gaming. For instance, Ubisoft is one of the best supporters of pc games, but their always on DRM is invasive and only pisses the consumer off. Lots of other companies want the $10 up charge that console licensing incurs without giving anything in return. Maybe even less if the port sucks. I never cared about business models. I just wanted to buy the game I want off the shelf and be able to play it without too many hitches.  

YYankee
YYankee

I advise anybody that is interested in Wildman to checkout the kickstarter here: www.kickstarter.com/projects/gaspoweredgames/wildman-an-evolutionary-action-rpg

MAD_AI
MAD_AI

Man I hope GPG and Chris pull through this crisis, GPG has been a staple in PC gaming, a pity they didn't commercially succeed in spite of making great games. Best of luck.

seemanrun
seemanrun

$50 for a game like Skyrim is in no way too much money.  A $20 price point for PC games will inevitably dull the experience unless you want to pay more.  


I am just finished Arkham City on PC this weekend and am in awe of all the stuff they have jam packed into that game.  Would I pay an extra 4$ for more riddler puzzles; no way.  But packing them into the whole thing is awesome and I will surely buy their next game at $50 if it is complete and not a pay to play model.

mattcake
mattcake

I think there should be an independent site that averages all the scores a game gets reviewed at, and we pay an amount for the game based on it's rating :) If only...

robfield
robfield

@x-TwilighT-x 

Yes, he is saying that you shouldn't argue about it. That means if you think that $50 is too much then don't buy it and move on. Don't spend your time starting a campaign to demand that the price be lowered. If other people are willing to spend $50 and the publisher is fine without your money, then there is nothing left to say.

Fossil-
Fossil-

@Unholy123 I agree with the point you're making here. What I find funny is that he makes the argument that $50 is too much for a game, and then in the very next paragraph talks about how he is fine with paying $3 for one episode of TWD. At that price you could buy the entire season on Blu-Ray for less than the cost of watching them online.

x-TwilighT-x
x-TwilighT-x

@Yulaw2000 Great example. Some developers listen some don't. Which is really a shame, if many developers would be more open minded to community suggestions I think everyone would be happier.

Zid96
Zid96

@bjvillSo true And i agree "speak with your wallet".  Iv goting 2nd hand or just never got some game cuz i dont like there makers.

  And players arent buying like they use to. Do to games just being bad or not likeing there business mode. Like im doing. But there not changeing at all. Heck we seen 2 big time companys just gone down in the last 3 mouths.  This is what i think many are worryed about.  That we may be seeing the end of a age. And we dont know how the next one will be.

Coren_Larken
Coren_Larken

@oflow F2P done right is okay. However, the only one I've seen was jetpack joyride on iOS. Most of them are an irritating distraction--that I avoid. 

N0tYrBeezin
N0tYrBeezin

@MAD_AI They did not have commercial success because their games are mediocre.

predailen
predailen

@seemanrunI agree, $50 is not that big of a hit on my wallet to stop me from buying games. What I don't get is why many pc games are going up in price like Call of duty black ops 2, Boraderlands 2, Dishonored to name a few. I see no reason why they get to charge us an extra $10 if their is no licensing fee.

N0tYrBeezin
N0tYrBeezin

@seemanrun Some games are so good that they are worth the $50 price tag but most are not. 

blitzinD
blitzinD

@seemanrun I agree, $50 isn't bad if you really want the game. Otherwise wait and most games eventually go on sale for around $20. He sort of contradicts himself when he says:

"There's nothing wrong with creative people, the people that made the series, going 'People want it, they're going to pay for it.' I don't know how high that number can go, but I bet it can get pretty damn high, when I'm in a pinch for a fix."

Well for some the price for the PC game fix is $50. If you can wait for the fix, you'll get it for $20. Seems to be working as he would like no?

Golden_Gonads
Golden_Gonads

@mattcake But then the publishers would issue fake reviews to drive the prices up, and cheap gamers would write lousy ones to drive prices down.

Unholy123
Unholy123

@Fossil- Yeah he does defeat himself there because he freely admits they could continue to raise the price of the episodes and he would continue to pay it because it's a want that he's Jonesing for more of, which is alot of the reason dev's get away with such high cost's for new release games on the digital scene they realize that when its just come out that's when you'll get alot of people buying it at $50+ because its out right now and they have a want for it right now.

 As I've said I'm guilty of this too in some games (XCOM was the last game I got brand new) but then most games in a month they are dropping the price and on sale (Steam and GoG sales for example) and its far more reasonable pricing which to me suggest that developers realize that 1-2 months after a game's released that 50+ price point is hurting not helping their sales.

MAD_AI
MAD_AI

@N0tYrBeezin @MAD_AI  

Matter of taste, in the end to each his own.

But most of their games, with the exception of Space Siege, have received generally favorable reviews.

Dungeons Siege was one of my favorite RPG's growing up, played it to no end, and SupCom was just massive in scale. 

mlcarter815
mlcarter815

@predailen They know people will pay it. I personally wait until games are under $20. Most of my games I have picked up on $7 sales from digital retailers. 

seemanrun
seemanrun

@mlcarter815  

Are you saying a game you really wanted to play came out and you decided to wait until it went on sale for $20 or it just so happens that most of your library is from the Steam Summer/Winter sale and you paid a reduced price for your games.  I know that is how I picked up a couple of gems and there is nothing wrong with that.

 What I am against is making the experience a $20 dollar experience with the hopes of getting people to pay more via micro-transactions.  I feel that the $20 experience is inferior to the $50 (in the case of both being quality games).  I didn't play Skyrim enough honestly, but still felt like they definitely earned my money.  Whereas I play a game for hours on my phone but when they want a mere 99 cents for additional content, I go find another free game to play.  I think the same thing will happen PC games if Chris Taylor's idea of what PC gaming should be came to fruition. 

predailen
predailen

@mlcarter815 @predailen Same here, but I still prefer that smell of an unopened game case that you can only get if you by a physical copy of the game.