Oddworld Creator Says Capitalism Is Killing Games

Lorne Lanning laments current state of gaming industry.

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In an interview with Games Industry International, Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning is wary of how capitalism encourages constant, exponential growth and massive game budgets. Instead, developers should cater to niche audiences, making games for smaller, dedicated communities.

"As craftsmen, " Lanning said,"our opportunity lies in finding the niches where we know our audience, we focus on it, we listen to it, we respect it, we treat it with some grace."

Publishers, Lanning says, have become much more risk averse because of the sheer size of the investments they are dumping into new games. As games get more expensive, developers need more money from publishers, and that puts developers in a position of weakness when negotiating business deals.

"So the budget's going up, and now [publishers are] saying, 'Now we're spending $20 million on a title and not $5 million, and at $20 million, we need better terms. You're going to do 10 times the work, but you're going to get a fifth of the backside because we're risking all this money.' Depending on how savvy they would be with the deals, usually they never made money... They were able to stay in the business. But the way the deals were structured, they were basically dead."

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Refocusing development on smaller games for smaller audiences will help keep studios sustainable, and avoid the kinds of massive layoffs and closings that have wracked the industry over the past few years. Lanning also thinks that this will give developers more creative opportunity and gamers more interesting games to play.

"So the indie possibility is they can actually find their audience. The cheaper they can make their product, the more creative opportunity they have. So you can take more risks the cheaper you are."

Lanning's games have always been critical of capitalism, and recently he's been focused on remaking them for new platforms. Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty , a remake of the first game in the Oddworld series--Abe's Oddysee--launched for Playstation 4 last year, PC in February, and the Xbox One on March 27. The game has been well received by critics.

Playstation Vita and Wii U versions should see a release by the end of the year.

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Avatar image for miller_ameran

Video games are not necessary for human survival. Therefore, video games ought to be a communist endeavor. Really, if you know anything about Marx, (and this is just to rile up the comments section and for fun), the idea was to get society to a point that people could CHOOSE to do things out of pleasure and leisure and for art's sake, once the necessities were provided for. I mean, wouldn't it be awesome for the video game industry to actually become a pastime, not for money, where video games required no real money to produce, but only required time and know-how, making them supremely awesome? But that would be an idea too advanced for many of you all to comprehend, probably.

Avatar image for mungojerry77

How very condecending of you. Clearly well read and educated but no manners. Your parents must be proud

Avatar image for mungojerry77

Could you be any more condescending? All that education yet no manners. Your parents must be proud

Avatar image for Alturis

Hmmm.. Actually I think the current gaming industry has already moved to a great new place where games don't have to be huge to be great. As consumers we get the best of both worlds. Huge blockbusters with enormous teams of talented people pouring themselves into giant spectacles to behold, and creative fresh ideas coming from equally talented indie and crowd funded projects.

I love them all!

Avatar image for liquorandgunfun

How flawed this poor dipsh!t is. Minecraft wasn't 20 million dollars to make. Another example coming soon, no mans sky. Keep an eye on it, capitalism isn't the problem, indoctrination of stupidity is. All because no one wants to play oddworld and he can't budget anything small enough to make nothing more than a fancy lemmings game.

Avatar image for gibbey531

Wait...is this guy saying the industry is stifling creativity? The same guy that is currently remaking one of his older games?

Avatar image for master20234

Capitalism kills everything....very slowly. It's one of those things that look good at first but you'll be kicking yourself later about it.

Avatar image for msdos622wasfun

It's the Fishing and Game industry that's ruining ... uh ... the, game ... industry. Just sayin'.

But on a serious note, I wonder if I can make an appeal to try not to defend capitalism/freedom in one breath and then a couple sentences later make a list of games that are crap in another breath just because we don't like them and deem them unworthy. True freedom means tolerating those who like to play even Call of Duty. :-)

Heck, my uncle was one of the fiercest proponents of capitalism I've ever met, and he flat out told me gaming "is such a waste of time." Food for thought. :-)

Avatar image for dietc

saying that big budget productions lack innovation and creativity because they need to cater to a wide audience in order to turn a profit is being critical of capitalism? so capitalism = much money , critical of capitalism = less money? wow, daniel, that's a great conclusion.

Avatar image for blackbetty1974

Pinning the salvation of the gaming industry on Indies is weak at best. The ability of indie devs to produce product cheap and fast has led to the market being flooded with mediocre junk. The same thing was said for the music and film industry. For every good film or musician, there are a hundred mediocre versions, and thousands of downright awful ones. Contrary to being it's salvation, Indies are bringing it down. I don't see any reason for it to be different with the games industry.

Avatar image for blackbetty1974

The gaming industry is a victim of it's own success. Gaming has gone mainstream in recent years. With that transition comes caveats. Appealing to a much wider audience requires more "pretty shiny", which results in bigger budgets. Those bigger budgets require broadening your sales base to pay for it. In order to do that, you inevitably water down the content to appeal to that broader audience, thus stunting the creativity. It's the audience that you choose, not the economic system in which you operate.

Avatar image for PSYCLOWN185

I dont disagree with what he said but i also think that indie devs need to step up their game because honestly some of the most boring games i've ever played have been indie games. So on the one side you have overhyped unfinished generic garbage and on the other you have great concepts poorly executed and overly reliant on art style for success. So honestly both sides of the fence suck right now.

Avatar image for blackbetty1974

<< LINK REMOVED >> For me, it's the retro indy thing. I get it for the kids that grew up in the Xbox generation, but I grew up gaming in the 80s. Those games were great back then, but it's already been done, and in most cases better. Some of the newer games are good, most are just fodder for hipsters to gain street cred. I'm ready to move forward.

Avatar image for Hvac0120

Micro transactions and free-to-play are hurting the industry. We now see $60, AAA games that contain elements brought over from other business models just to help offset the developers increasing costs. And neither developer nor publisher get away without backlash from gamers; and for good reason. Gamers are the ones that are paying the extra cost that comes along with all the capitalistic ideals guiding the business of games.

There are room for all the business models. Each developer and each publisher have to balance their resources for the products they want to make. But there should be a variety of games available for any type of player.

Avatar image for akaimizu

I love how people are quick to jump on the Capitalism wagon without actually reading the context. The line "Capitalism is killing the gaming industry" was the click-bait headline, and not what the guy actually said in any of the quotes. It's a shame that people react so passionately on click-bait headlines instead of reading the article for what it really is saying.

He is talking about the current unchecked way Capitalism is being run where it gets controlled by big companies always going for short term exponential growth on a per-year basis. If you read what he said, that's exactly what he's saying given that going for niche audiences with lesser budgets IS a part of Capitalism. And possibly one where longer-term goals still exist in better capacity.

The problem boils down to the classic keep eating until you explode issue. Something even a lot of older and long-term businesses used to warn about, in earlier years. Something that many are forgetting because this is the "New way". Well, the new way isn't always better. Especially when they forget the context of what they are employing the "New way" tactics. Plus, art and imagination isn't something that you can plainly sell like a commodity. And it is following some of the music industry (and movie industry) into the same issues. Though it's not as bad as the music industry given that the profitable indie level of the music industry practically doesn't exist.

Avatar image for redskinStu

Ha, ha, this is hilarious. If it wasn't for capitalism, this website that you're free to comment on wouldn't even be here. The free market will allow people to make their own choices when it comes to games that are available on the market, and that includes picking mass-produced junk, good quality indy games or excellent quality first or third party games. The reason a lot of garbage becomes popular is the same reason Vanilla Ice became a big star. People are free to buy what they like, and that's exactly the way it should be.

Avatar image for mungojerry77

Hail to capitalism. Dude, if you were really for capitalism, you'd realize that it has now mutated into a fucked up system where everything has a price and nothing a value. There ain't no trickle down or opportunity for all. Left unchecked by the governments (elections cost money don't you know) capitalism means destruction. And no, I'm not a communist, I'm a capitalist who knows that without checks, my ability to make money will be destroyed. It's called being sensible and yes, fair

Avatar image for tacoterrorist89

<< LINK REMOVED >> How so? The development of the internet was funded by the US government because it was too expensive for any one company to take a risk in it. Even if what you say is true, it would be irrelevant as it does not mean anything. Furthermore, there is no free market. I wish kids would shut up.

Avatar image for nobum62

that guy is right that publishers are ruining games by forcing the devs to do what they want (since the publishers invested in the game), but it's also the consumer's fault for being gullible enough to buy microtransactions, season pass BS, the latest rehash of a game franchise (such as COD and assassins creed), and getting fucked by the corporations every time.

Avatar image for praha1234

<< LINK REMOVED >>"Capitalism is the root of most evil"

Control, power, greed is the root of most evil.

Unfortunately, those things are present in *humanity*, not capitalism. Don't be so naive as to think the capitalist is any more greedy than the communist. Both have a *greed* to acquire something that benefits them, be it monetary or even psychological.

Self-interest is natural because we are free-thinking. Don't paint it as something that should be resisted. I'm sure Stalin would be proud.

Avatar image for SnakeEyesX80

While capitalism is destroying the world in general, I think in the gaming industry it's an over-saturation of shitty indie games, mobile games and this abhorrent "Free-To-Play" business model most companies are starting to adopt.

Avatar image for TheFrow

<< LINK REMOVED >> The over-saturation of indie games does not have an effect on the industry. When a new indie game comes out that's not notable in the least, the dev slowly goes away and 3-5 people lose their jobs or go somewhere else.

When a big budget title flops, 100-300 is a normal figure for the amount of people that get axed, and when closures occur you're looking at up to 500 people gone. THAT has an effect on the industry.

It's like comparing a hobo dying in the street and the president being assassinated. Both are death, yeah, but not the same at all. The repercussions are different.

Avatar image for Hagan

its not capitalism, but making more casualized games that appeal to wider audiences so big publishers (SE, EA, Activision, Ubi, Konami) generate more sales.

You can find a lot of smaller budget niche games on PC. A lot of dev end of self publishing and the results are mixed, but there are certainly some gems out there.

Avatar image for nobum62

this comment section is full of capitalist apologists and over-opinionated assholes

Avatar image for RCT4ShouldExist

<< LINK REMOVED >> Its unamurrican to believe anything else.

Avatar image for jt2251

This guy is such a freaking hypocrite... He does realize that capitalism helped make Oddworld one of the most recognizable "cult" games of all time, right? Check his twitter out and buy some T-shirts LOL... give me a break.

Avatar image for darkHevn

Gaming died since PS2 life ended anyway

Avatar image for Raidenwins0

lol does this person realize it's thanks to capitalism we have videogames in the first place?! Last I heard, videogames were invented in the United States and not the soviet union.

Avatar image for tacoterrorist89

<< LINK REMOVED >> Irrelevant, logical fallacy.

Avatar image for BorgMind00

While I agree with most of his point, I disagree that with the notion that capitalism is at the root of it all. There is a place for capitalism in the game industry if done right. I can't really say who's doing it right but the studios that have closed are obviously doing it wrong. Bethesda Softworks strikes me as one publisher that has seem to strike a good balance with budgets as well as the studio publisher relationship. A lot of people try to stay away from blaming the consumer but the consumer is sometimes to blame. All too often, consumers (myself included) support games later deemed bad games and complain about it after, only to do the same thing again and again.

Avatar image for deathblow3

<< LINK REMOVED >> i dont think capitolism is why game suck << LINK REMOVED >> but yes what he is saying is try that why good devs are going under pubs are starting to be like music pubs artist get almost no money for the music they have to tour to make money

Avatar image for deathblow3

<< LINK REMOVED >> also remember the more money involved also can come with some creative control like ME having multi-player and game being release unfinished because the faster a game is on the market the faster the pub can make money.

Avatar image for Elranzer

What we're experiencing is the second great videogame crash, like from the 1980s. Like recessions, this will happen in cycles.

This time, it's caused primarily by iOS and mobile, microtransactions, DLC, subpar indie games and such. It will crash, burn and eventually another renaissance will happen. I'm sure Nintendo will play a role.

Avatar image for deathblow3

<< LINK REMOVED >> i dont know about mobile being the cause as that will continue to make money. nor will indie cause a crash but may be the reason game doesnt die. the crash will come from our lofty demand on devs to be bigger and better like that happens for free. this will cause a sameness in game that will alienate players. this sameness in game will be because most devs will try to recreate the "winning" formula kind of like re6 tried. the reason games worked in the past is becuase expectations were low so deves didnt pour 50 million in a game that would sell for 50 bucks. now they do and the price didnt change much. 2million dev cost @ 50 a game profit is made at 50k. with todays numbers even at 25 mill you need half a million in sells to make profit. mind you most of this money does not go to the devs it goes to the publishers. so the how will the dev keep lights on with no money coming in and having to pay employees? this is what is meant by capitalism.....

an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.

money made by devs is controlled by pubs=capitalism

Avatar image for tr4newreck

<< LINK REMOVED >> that's not necessarily what he's talking about... its the 'for profit' model... if you know anything about corporations in a capitalist system its that they must grow... every year or are considered failures by investors...

if your corporation made 6mil last year and is on track to make 6mil this year... its not really considered a success...nobody will want to invest in it, until you show a business plan to grow your profits the next year... otherwise whats the point of investing your cash in it, if its not going to grow

THAT policy is why you have stagnant franchises that wont budge from the 'tried, tested, true'

ie Call of Duty will almost always look the same, play similarly... no investor/corporation would want to risk changing the successful formula

THAT is why gaming is stagnant and devoid of new IP, these people are utterly risk averse.

few will fork out cash on untested franchises or even new ones for that matter...

small time publishers will get eaten by lopsided contracts, from these risk averse deuchebags

Avatar image for deathblow3

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> and when they do fork out $$$ for a new IP the deal is so backhanded that the only one that benefits from it is the pub. so if the game is not a super smash runaway success the dev may go under. like KOA which did great numbers better never made enough to actually get paid for there work. and when EA cut funding on there next game they went under.