OPINION: The false promise of digital distribution

OPINION: The false promise of digital distribution

By 'Deejay'

February 17th 2011 at 2:05PM

Binary Tweed managing director wants channels open and ideas unrestricted

"IndieCity is an upcoming website and online store that'll be selling all manner of indie games with no 'gatekeeper'. I'm working on it full time.

Yes, I am still making games. It's just in my spare time now. I'm looking forward very much to unleashing the next game on the world, and I hope you'll all fucking hate it. Seriously... It's that kind of game.

So why did I decide to work on IndieCity? Because I believe that the games industry is controlled by a few 100-pound gorillas who are deciding what is available to consumers, and which select few should stand a decent shot at making some money. Most games do not make a profit. Nothing outside of the Top 10 comes close. It does not need to be this way.

The 'long tail' is a lie. The infinite virtual storefront has been denied to us by those trying to retain control of the market. All games retail channels are controlled by people with a vested interest in restricting that channel.

The availability of games in online stores is dictated by relationships with publishers that the platform-holder needs to nurture. It doesn't matter how good your indie game is, if it conflicts with [INSERT BIG PUBLISHER HERE]'s next AAA title then you're not getting green-lit. If giving users a decent search/recommendations feature reduces the platform-holder's leverage over their heavyweight content-providers, then it just isn't going to happen.

In the case of mobile app stores, either the owners don't care or they're too busy rolling around in money to care. It works well enough for them, so who cares?

The only people that consistently win in a high-risk industry are the distribution channel. If Tesco sell you all your groceries, they don't care if one product line fails - they're still taking all your cash. It's a very different story for the creator of that product. Even if you win a few times, sooner or later you'll fuck up, lose your mojo, and the company will fold making hundreds redundant. Sound familiar?

Fuck that. Let's let the consumers decide instead of the channel-owners.

I don't go to Amazon and complain that because they stock everything, there's a lot of rubbish too.

I don't whinge that eBay should only stock the finest items in each of its categories.

I want to walk into a music store and find an EP from a local rock band as well as not only the latest manufactured pop. There's a time and a place for that, but it's not all the time and everywhere."

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'Deejay' is the managing director of UK indie outfit Binary Tweed, developer Xbox Live Arcade and PC title Clover: A Curious Tale. His views do not necessarily represent Develop's.