'Developer/publisher power balance redressed by digital distribution,' says Cecil

'Developer/publisher power balance redressed by digital distribution,' says Cecil
Michael French

By Michael French

July 7th 2008 at 5:36PM

And Revolution chief heralds NESTA fundâ??s arrival as opportune for independent developers

Charles Cecil has praised the arrival of NESTA’s new half-million fund for games developers saying the cash comes at a perfect time as more power shifts towards developers.

Cecil, who was chair of today’s event fleshing out NESTA’s Raise the Game fund, opened proceedings with an overview of the UK games industry and its historical treatment of independent studios to give context to why the £450,000 scheme was good for developers.

The Revolution founder and MD recounted the rise of bedroom coders and the domination of UK over Europe during the Sinclair Spectrum era. “It fitted the British psyche so well,” he said of the industry’s then-entrepreneurial spirit. “We were unassailable – or so we thought. What happened then was that, as has happened to so many media companies, the big publishers came and the industry was maturing – which really means that it was making more money for it to be worthwhile.

“Like music publishing and film distribution they then controlled the supply – in which they tied up the artist, or the developers – and they chose what products were produced and at what price they were released.”

The rise of publishers has mean that “UK developers, while still very good at what they do” find it “very difficult to get ideas to market”.

But the rise of new platforms to release games on and the NESTA fund are helping “redress the balance” between publishers and developers.

He said: “Digital distribution disrupts that completely. In one sense, we can reach the fans of our games easily and immediately. But most importantly it has thrown into question the traditional business model.”

Cecil pointed out that while boxed product means publishing, distribution and retail – and the slicing up of profits between them – new channels like WiiWare and iTunes were good examples of how things have changed for developers. The 70 per cent profit margin from Apple, he added, was in stark contrast to “when we’re used to getting just 10 per cent and really demonstrates how things have changed”.

But, Cecil was keen to stress that publishers aren’t set to go extinct: “I’m not in any way anti-publisher – they have an important role to play in the industry and always will. But what is interesting is that the balance of power is being rapidly redressed. The power for both developer and studio is becoming much more equal.”

And on that platform, he said that the NESTA fund – which makes £450,00 available to fund a mix of projects including Tiga’s new online portal for games recruiters and a new Dare to be Digital scheme – is  “really, really timely, and further helps change way we can innovate.”