THQ, Wildman, & The Problem Of Voting With Our Wallets

By Nathan Grayson on January 29th, 2013 at 9:00 pm.

Vote with your wallet. We constantly preach it as an approach that actually Makes Important Things Happen, but does it? Does it really? It’s such an easy be-all, end-all argument to toss out, but things are rarely that simple. The recent death of THQ and potential failure of Gas Powered Games’ Wildman represent very tangible examples of how “vote with your wallet” can screech and shatter like so many piggy banks being hurled into a craggy abyss. But there’s hope, too, if you know where to look for it. The industry’s changing. Here’s why that makes us – its most vocal, diehard fans – equal parts more and less powerful than ever.

It’s never easy to say goodbye.

Sometimes, though, acceptance comes quickly. All good things must come to an end, after all. But watching THQ go from slow tailspin into inescapable nosedive last week just left me with this wretched knot in my gut. It felt equal parts unreal and all wrong. I mean, here was this fixture of the gaming industry responsible – especially in recent years – for some games I legitimately fell in love with (oh Metro 2033, Red Faction: Guerrilla, and Saints Row: The Third, let me count the ways) crashing and burning. And I was powerless to do anything about it. So I just looked on from the sidelines as a vulture storm of other publishers lapped up the remains.

Here’s the thing, though: much as it tears me up to see super talented heads roll, the part that really bothered me concerned THQ as an organization. Because ultimately, it did a whole, whole, whole lot of things right. Or at least, its publishing choices were correct by our traditional, gamerly views of correctness. I mean, the Activisions of the world steer clear of risk and novelty with the cold, calculated expertise of a professional figure skater. An evil figure skater. But while THQ certainly wasn’t innocent of dipping its bucket into a well of stagnation (hi, Homefront), it certainly did its fair share of rolling the dice. Metro 2033 was a shot in the dark, Saints Row evolved into a gloriously unique rainbow cocaine explosion of pure madness, reviving Company of Heroes in a climate where RTSes are (depressingly) near-dead financially may have been madness, etc.

But it died. It died horribly, a fact that can mainly be chalked up to one awful business decision. Kid-friendly doodle peripheral uDraw failed miserably on Xbox 360 and PS3, and – for a company that needed a boost while the digital era forced everyone out of their comfort zones – it was the beginning of the end.

Sad? Absolutely. And we really couldn’t have done much to halt the screaming car-plane-boat-train-hovercraft-dilo-bat wreck short of buying a whole heap of uDraws, either. But therein, I think, lies a very important lesson: us media types always like to preach about “voting with your wallet.” But when the stakes are this high and the factors playing into them this nuanced, what does that even mean anymore? How feasible is it to tell a company “Good job, you’re doing the correct thing” when it could be doing something completely incorrectly with a different product or audience, or dealing with financial strain from some other, only vaguely controllable factor entirely?

Of course, this brings us to another core tenet of the “vote with your wallet” creed: frequently, it refers to withholding money – not spending it. Don’t like it? Don’t buy it. Etc. But once again, we hit a showstopping snag. Other, less informed customers will often buy whatever “it” is anyway, and bad/derivative/objectionable ideas will live to fight another day.

Are there exceptions to these cases? Sure. But they often involve specific products and licenses. It’s a different thing entirely to encourage or discourage ideals - especially in large companies. To say, “Hey, Company X, pregnant with the loathsome parasite that is a brood of shareholders, thanks for not being evil or lazy – even though it might be to your financial detriment to do so. Thanks for trying. Thanks for betting things will work out in the long run, even though you just had to lay-off, like, a billion people in the short term. Even though other companies are dropping like flies.” More often than not, people will opt to do what they have to if it means getting by. Ideals be damned.

But hark, on the horizon, a potential bright side: gaming’s entering a new era. Audiences are communicating more directly with game-makers than ever. Kickstarter, self-publishing, Greenlight, Indie DB, and so on and so forth. And yet, once again, the present provides us with a somewhat troubling example of how the “vote with your wallet” process can break down. On paper, Chris Taylor and co have done a lot of things we – hardcore, RTS, RPG, and depth-obsessed PC gamers – asked for with Wildman. They’ve based a Kickstarter around a new property instead of stuffing the moldy teat of nostalgia in our mouths. They came out of the gate with details, footage of the game in action, and a willingness to communicate openly and honestly. Whether they were motivated by ingrained values or the promise of cash is irrelevant. They were paying attention to us.

Goodness, though, that’s not a particularly healthy Kickstarter total, is it? But once again, there are multiple issues at play here. Sure, Taylor and co are running a fairly strong, appreciably reactive Kickstarter, but is Wildman really a strong enough concept to support it? And at this point, it’s all so muddled in the post-layoff/rehiring drama that many lessons Gas Powered Games could’ve taken away from whatever support they get are moot.

Fortunately, we’re now in an environment where communication’s more direct, which means game-makers do actually read our words – not just the numbers on the sides of our money. But money will always speak louder, and it’s the thing that’s most likely to get other game-makers quickly following suit.

Am I saying we should give up on voting with our wallets? No. Definitely not. Sometimes, ideals and products and circumstances will align, and we’ll get to shout “Hey developers and/or publishers, do more of this” from the money-built mountaintops. But I am saying that we shouldn’t always expect that voting with our wallets will work. It’s an approach that’s a great deal more complicated than a lot of people give it credit for, and – now that the industry’s transitioning and morphing like a teenager who also got bitten by a radioactive mutant teenager – it stands to become even more so. So vote with your wallet. Just make sure you know what exactly you’re voting for first – and understand that it can only count so much in this day and age.

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151 Comments »

  1. Arach says:

    This whole thing is a huge bummer for GPG and Chris,as well as all of the employees of the company,but honestly,the moment when Chris came out and talked about the lay offs was when they lost support from a lot of people,that is as far as I´m concerned,the reason as to why this KS is going so slow and has a very real chance of not making it.
    It was the honest thing to do but from the perspective of the project funding,not the wisest,many people will simply not want to support a project when the company is in shambles like GPG,wich is a damn shame because now that´s what they needed the most,but most people won´t see it like that.

    I´m rooting for them though,and man,the Matt Chat interview(youtube) sure was depressing but very eye opening regarding the industry practices,everyone should watch it.

    • P.Funk says:

      But I think thats the crux of what this article is trying to say. People are punishing the kickstarter because of the layoffs? Because they think the company is in trouble? CT himself said dont pony up just cause you feel sorry for us, but if you legit want Wildman, why would the financial issues hold you back, at least as some have insisted in a moral sense?

      I don’t want GPG to die, and yet I see people saying they won’t suppose a kickstarter BECAUSE they laid people off, ironic since they’d be firing more people if they just flat shut down.

      There is a bit of irrational self righteousness in some people’s logic and I don’t think its justified.

      • monkeybars says:

        People don’t like losing money yo. If a company is in trouble before the KS is even finished, that’s not a good sign.

          • roguewombat says:

            CLEVER SPAM LINK IS CLEVER.

          • Baines says:

            Yeah, saw this spambot in the comments to another RPS article a while back.

            It uses almost relevant posts, and the displayed link test is legit for the post itself. The real link is hidden behind a URL shortener, apparently with an “RU” country code?

            My guess is that it is cloning comments that have links in them, and replacing the original link with a URL shortened spam link. Since it is URL shortened, people wouldn’t immediately notice it was spam.

          • Baines says:

            Yes. Spam bot stole the text of Mad Godji’s comment from the “Mass Regret: Last ME3 DLC To Be Not-Rubbish?” article, and posted it in this article with the Penny Arcade link replaced with a URL shortened link to a spam site.

          • SlappyBag says:

            You must be-able to convert the URL to a string before posting, therefore destroying the weird hidden tinyURL type thang and making the original link text work.

          • enobayram says:

            The solution is easy, really, just don’t let a string that looks like a raw URL be a description for another URL.

          • mike2R says:

            First one I’ve seen that hasn’t used Youtube for the anchor text. That might well have got me if I’d seen it before the warning was posted.

            Also wot enobayram said. Or if they don’t want to do that, just add the domain the link points to in brackets afterwards.

          • Hahaha says:

            Always check links before you click them
            Always run short urls through http://www.unshorten.com/index.php or similar

            And again it’s chinagadgetland
            www(dot)chinagadgetland(dot)com/iphone-repair-parts-c-150_211(dot)html?utm_source
            =onemorething(dot)nl&utm_medium=forum&utm_
            campaign=zql

          • Didero says:

            I made a little Greasemonkey script that tries to identify these fake links, and so far it’s working pretty well.

            I’ll clean it up and post it somewhere, since it’d be of help to other people too, I think.

      • Arach says:

        Oh I know and I agree,but it´s simply not the way many will see it,aside from big fans of GPG and CT,wich will obviously most likely back the project regardless,many will just glance at the whole situation and simply dismiss it becaus of those issues.

        I like that they went with a new IP to the fray,but honestly,I feel they would´ve been much,much more sucessful if they were Kickstarting say,SupCom3,that would get the attention of a lot of people and would surely be a much safer bet to make considering the state of GPG.

        • Meat Circus says:

          I didn’t back the Wildman KS because I found it deeply offensive.

          “Give us your money and we won’t shoot these puppies in the head”.

          It’s basically “if this Kickstarter fails, I am going TO SACK ALL THESE PEOPLE AND IT WILL BE YOUR FAULT.” Emotional blackmail seems not to be a viable pitching strategy.

          • enobayram says:

            I think it’s more like “Give us your money or we’ll go bankrupt”. It’s not fundamentally different from what you’re saying, but much less evil.

          • Cinek says:

            I first pledged for Wildman, but then seen the video and took my money back.
            Don’t need another copy of DoTA. Sorry. It’s known right from the start that it’ll fail after 1 year or less.

          • Lobotomist says:

            I guess the big problem here is Kickstarter itself. How many project do they think people will support before going oversaturated ? I supported many projects , yet I am still year away from seeing even the first one.

            The whole concept of paying for entertaiment product you are going to see in year or two is completely opposite to fun – and gaming is supposed to be about fun … not long term investment.

      • Bhazor says:

        Well would you support a project when the project lead admits the team will probably go broke or split up *even if* they make their funding goal? Thats not going into
        a) the fact that their last attempt at this genre was regarded as an all around clusterfuck,
        b) The game is scheduled to enter the already oversaturated MOBA scene
        c) The project lead basically said he only came up with the idea when Kings and Castles (a game more to his team’s strength) failed.

        • stupid_mcgee says:

          To me, firing the staff was cutting off their nose to spite their face. It doesn’t bode well. If they’re laying people off before they can even start the project, it makes you wonder how well they can manage their financials. While they can certainly hire more staff, it does make one question if the quality or functionality of the game would suffer because they had to let talent go. And even when it comes to rehiring, would they get staff just as experienced or more so? Would they be able to replace all of the let-go staff?

          I understand the financial situation and necessity, but such a move does not inspire confidence, and confidence is what people typically desire to decide to make a financial backing.

        • malkav11 says:

          The “MOBA scene” is pretty much exclusively multiplayer. Wildman as far as I can tell is primarily aimed at singleplayer. That’s enough to make them basically competing in an arena all their own to my mind. That said, I don’t trust GPG to make a game I want to play because they’ve yet to manage to do so.

      • Mario Figueiredo says:

        “I don’t want GPG to die, and yet I see people saying they won’t suppose a kickstarter BECAUSE they laid people off, ironic since they’d be firing more people if they just flat shut down.”

        It’s perfectly acceptable for you to think that way. But here’s the thing, I don’t support a company that just sent a whole bunch of people to the unemployment line. And you’ll have to agree to disagree.

        “There is a bit of irrational self righteousness in some people’s logic and I don’t think its justified.”

        I won’t call you an insensitive bastard that concerns himself more with a stupid game than real people. It would be unfair and almost certainly wrong. So you should stop judging me for my decision too.

        It’s merely a matter of principle, that I don’t even feel there’s a need to justify. It’s a principle. What you call “irrational” is a moral decision based on my own moral values, which I don’t claim to be higher than yours, but you should neither claim to be stupid or illogical. Otherwise that high horse you are seeing is yours after all.

        • Brun says:

          It’s perfectly acceptable for you to think that way. But here’s the thing, I don’t support a company that just sent a whole bunch of people to the unemployment line. And you’ll have to agree to disagree.

          So you don’t support companies that lay off their employees? I’m guessing that means you just don’t buy anything from anyone, then.

          The point is that such logic doesn’t make sense at all. Why would you punish a company that does what it has to just to try to stay afloat?

          • Mario Figueiredo says:

            Read the context of the discussion. This is about kickstarting companies, not buying their products.

            And as an FYI I never bought into that concept — which I consider ridiculously conceited and profoundly wrong from the point of view of consumer rights — that buying a product from a company is my way of supporting them. Let it be clear between you and me right here, I buy a game because I want to have fun with it. It’s a pure business transaction. Nothing more. It’s like me buying a refrigerator or a pair of socks.

            If I wish to really support a company, I send them money, I do good publicity, I write them a thank you letter, I sell my body for them. I don’t do it while buying their product. That’s just trash marketing talk that stuck because in this damn industry we consumers decided to be brain washed by ideas of loyalty and fanhood.

          • P.Funk says:

            @Mario
            Unfortunately that kind of puritanical adherence to the most detached form of commerce smacks of a kind of aloof apathy that doesn’t really jive in a culture which is still in many respects niche and community oriented.

            Considering the number of hours I spend playing games I cannot just look on it as a simple business transaction, not so long as the nature of the relationship between me and the company exists in a respectful manner. I don’t buy tickets to my home town hockey team and consider it merely a financial transaction, separate from my joy for the game of hockey. Its my home team, its not just some abstract form of time sink to allow me to exist in an acceptable mood of distraction between working hours.

            With that said, I consider the underlying principles and values of good commerce to be of paramount significance. If a publisher is jerking me around, as EA and Ubi so love to, then I am much more reluctant to just throw my money at something I like or even a developer I like. However, for me it doesn’t still devolve into a purely commercial evaluation, despite the necessity of using those metrics for forming value based judgments which feed this still emotional consumer relationship.

            Also I think its somewhat contradictory to say that you don’t support companies that send people to the unemployment line, but then insist that also you consider it only a financial transaction. Is it a relationship based on unemotional consumer principles, or is it more emotionally charged and based on human values as it would be with the unemployment pitch?

            I am a huge supporter of labour rights, but at the same time there’s much debate to be had whether or not actually laying them off now is in fact the better thing to do. I’ve read game development people writing that many times they’ve been laid off suddenly and without warning and without severance because the company suddenly closed and that they had been made to keep working as they were trying to squeeze more work out of employees they knew they’d never end up paying. I suggest that this binary assertion that to simply lay someone off is purely wrong is oversimplifying a very complex scenario.

          • Mario Figueiredo says:

            @P.Funk, there’s a silver lining to everything. The point is whether you can see it or not. On this particular case I couldn’t. You apparently could.

            This company initiated a project without doing a proper business analysis. It put at stake the jobs of its employees on some vague notion that it would have a good response to its kickstart project. The result was that it ended up firing a bunch of people and restart the same project. It didn’t reconsider the project, it’s didn’t try to conclude form the weak earlier responses that people weren’t looking at its employees, but at the actual game. It still wants to make even if it costs the job of — I’m certain — honest and dedicated professionals.

            Frankly I couldn’t care any less about this company.

            Now, you do say I show some manner of contradiction between my apparent care for the well being of a professional and my lack of emotions towards game development studios. And you know what? You are right. It’s one of the many inconsistencies we share as human beings. I’m not ashamed of it, I won’t hide it, or try to find excuses for it. What I am damn sure though is that any company that makes bad decisions that end up resulting in the firing of innocent workers instead of the one responsible, is a company that immediately gets thrown to my don’t-buy list.

            And really, this is the last I speak of it.

          • gwathdring says:

            Considering the number of hours I spend playing games I cannot just look on it as a simple business transaction, not so long as the nature of the relationship between me and the company exists in a respectful manner. I don’t buy tickets to my home town hockey team and consider it merely a financial transaction, separate from my joy for the game of hockey. Its my home team, its not just some abstract form of time sink to allow me to exist in an acceptable mood of distraction between working hours.

            I agree with you that we can’t simply take part in the machine without thought. But I also think Mario is right in that there is no reason my purchases ought represent support of a company. They represent my desire for a product, and I’m comfortable saying that even after I’ve taken the complexities into account. For example, perhaps Microsoft has practices I disapprove of. But having access to Microsoft software makes my life significantly easier in a large number of ways chief among them that it is required for some of the work I’ve done. Furthermore, my ability to affect Microsoft’s hold on the OS market is limited. I think I’d be much better off, both ideologically and practically, purchasing what Microsoft products I need most (as cheaply as they can be bought), and support open source software with my patronage, my voice and what spare time and limited skills I have for coding.

            A similar argument came up during the most recent sexism in games discussion with respect to The Witcher games. I found certain elements of The Witcher unpleasant and distasteful–but the games are so well crafted in so many ways that I feel like my limited ability to be heard (and heard along such specific lines) by speaking against the game with my wallet is less valuable than supporting both what the game does well and my own entertainment with my wallet.

            I don’t think not buying things is a very good statement. Silence rarely is. I think being vocal works better. Contact companies you like and dislike. Complain about bad practices in as constructive a manner as possible. Talk to your friends and fellow consumers. In my mind, it’s much more important to consider the ethical implications of a company’s actions that to make purchasing decisions based on ethical decisions. My best weapon is information, no cash. I have less money to my name, all told, at this point in my life, than some Kickstarter campaigns. I’m not going to change the fate of massive companies with my month to month purchasing habits. Every penny counts … but it only counts as one measly little cent unless you collect a bunch of other pennies.

            To incorporate all the complexity of consumer ethics and none of the complexities of scale and of relative worth and of relative ethics and of personal happiness is to do only part of the work. There is nothing inherently inconsistent in what Mario has said, because he is speaking of personal ethical balances–the Kickstarter transaction represents a fundamentally different relationship with a correspondingly different ethical scale. Additionally, as Mario alluded, inconsistencies are inevitable in any body of ethical decisions and they do not of themselves invalidate a decision.

            I guess I come down a bit in between the two of you for my own purchases, but closer to Mario. As I said, I favor non-economic measures when it comes to voicing either my opposition or my support. For my part I keep myself very well informed and I think quite carefully about my purchasing decisions. As such, while we may disagree on the relative weighting of factors for a given decision, I don’t think you can assume anything about my relationship with a company I make purchase things from. I can make purchases without feeling respect for the company or even the product. I can make purchases without significantly furthering any agenda–either the company’s or my own. And none of this is a matter of blindness to the issues of our interconnected world. It’s a matter of hundreds of impossibly complicated scaling factors all coming together to give me different results.

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        • HothMonster says:

          You do realize that if the game gets funded they will hire a lot of those people back and if the game doesn’t get funded they will be firing more people right? Also if they had fired nobody they would have ended having to fire everybody.

          Not judging you, just kind of feel like you might be looking at this the wrong way. Seems like your making GPG’s leadership out to be bad guys or at least saying that firing people was bad and it’s not something you can support. But through that lack of support you are only damning other people.

          Obviously if you don’t want the game you shouldn’t feel guilty for not buying; obviously you alone won’t save or cost anyone a job. I just think it’s odd that you seem to think that since they fired some people they should be shunned even though that is going to end up costing more people their job.

          • Mario Figueiredo says:

            So it’s my responsibility now, by not supporting this company project, that more people can get fired? That’s rich!

          • HothMonster says:

            That was not the intent of my comment. I tried to make that obvious. I am just trying to understand your point of view. It seems backwards to me that them letting people go for financial reasons gives you a moral reason to not give them your money. I certainly didnt mean the opposite: that their poor financial state gives you some moral imparative to support them. Their financial situation is certainly not your fault or your duty to correct.

            I wasnt trying to put you on the defensive. I just dont understand where you are coming from. From my understanding their options were to lay some people off and not have to shut down the company if their KS fails or to keep everyone through the KS and shutter the company if it failed. In that situation I dont see laying people off as morally objectionable.

            But you seem to have addressed this in response to funk as best as you probably can.

          • Thermal Ions says:

            The problem is that, if I recall correctly, they let go 40 staff. Now a kickstarter of $1.1M is not enough to hire back 40 staff for the 1 year of development they were planning. So what’s the deal? Are they really only going to hire back a small minority? Are they hoping that the kickstarter convinces a publisher to back them to get the game to completion? Are they going to fold 4 months down the track?

            Based on the information being provided the figures just don’t seem to add up – that I believe is why a number of people who otherwise would back the project are sceptical.

            * I’ve not caught up on all the latest video updates having been offline – but the descriptions don’t seem like they’re likely to have addressed the above.

          • mondomau says:

            @ Mario: You know perfectly well that wasn’t Hothmonster’s meaning, he made it perfectly clear he wasn’t saying that. The fact that you chose to go with such a pissy response says a lot about the underlying weakness of your argument. Just man up and admit you might not be in the right here.

    • Xocrates says:

      That said, while Wildman’s Kickstarter doesn’t have the momentum it needs I wouldn’t say it’s going badly. They have over 350.000$ by now which is an impressive amount no matter how you put it, plenty of other industry veterans struggled to get that, and plenty of promising projects didn’t.

      Though I believe that even if GPG wasn’t in financial problems they would have problems reaching their goal. They’re quite competent, but they haven’t put out a truly remarkable or successful game in years, and asking for over 1 million for a project that not only doesn’t appeal to their strengths, but they fail to explain properly in the pitch video.

    • LintMan says:

      Check out this interview with Chris Taylor: http://www.pcgamesn.com/indie/wildman-bay-inside-chris-taylors-fight-save-gas-powered-games

      Basically, he only did the layoffs AFTER he saw the kickstarter was off to a rocky start. The first days went way below their hopes, and their projections showed the KS would fail by a lot. If he kept GPG at its current payroll and the KS failed, he wouldn’t have enough money left to pay the severance for all the employees who lost their jobs. So he opted to do right by them instead of gambling on the remote chance of the KS succeeding. It was only after all that happened that they got a surge of support as the news spread, and the KS looked like it might have some hope.

    • jalf says:

      It was the honest thing to do
      Well, no.

      The honest thing to do would be to be up front about their situation when they *launched* the Kickstarter.

      Not start the it as if all was well in the world, and then a few days later, surprise-fire nearly everyone in the company, and *then* tell your backers that “oh, by the way, do I have the wackiest update for you guys? Guess what, we’re completely broke”.

      It’s certainly more honest than saying nothing, but let’s be realistic here, saying nothing after you lay off most of your company isn’t really an option. They had two *viable* options: tell people about their situation up front, or do it as late as possible (when news broke about the layoffs). I think the former would have been “the honest thing to do”.

      And that’s one reason why I haven’t backed them (the other reason is that the game just doesn’t look all that interesting).

      • LintMan says:

        @jalf – it’s not so cut and dried as you make it sound: The plan was that if the kickstarter was successful, there would be no need for layoffs – they had enough funds left to run full staff through the end of the kickstarter, and the ks funds would carry them forward from there. And they were quite confident of success. (Could they have mentioned the KS was “do or die”? Yes, but that’s the case with a whole lot of kickstarter projects, and CT has said he doesn’t want sympathy donations).

        The problem was, the KS started slow – so slow in fact that their projections expected it to fail. So at the point, the “do or die” was looking pretty much like “die” – and CT had a decision to make. He could either use the remaining funds to carry on as originally planned – but then have nothing left to pay severance when the company collapsed if/when the KS failed. Or, he could do they layoff, pay his employees their severance, and cancel the KS. He chose the latter, (but the sudden boost in support when the news came out made their KS have a chance so he didn’t cancel it).

        There was no deliberate deception here.

  2. Bhazor says:

    THQ also lost a hundred million dollars on a dongle for console toys.

    If they’d stuck to just being a games publisher they would of been fine.

    • Brun says:

      This, really. Had the uDraw not failed miserably THQ would have been able to absorb the failures of Darksiders, RF:Armageddon, and Homefront.

      • DK says:

        It’s a tragedy that Homefront, in terms of sales, wasn’t a failure. It sold more, far more, than any of their actually good products. It still cost them money because they spent a downright ludicrous amount (so the normal AAA Publisher delusion amount) on PR and development of Homefront and even the great sales numbers couldn’t make up for that. The predictable big Publisher response of course: Spend even more money on Homefront 2 and pray it somehow sells ten times as much as the first.

    • x1501 says:

      Exactly. If not for the embarrassing uDraw fiasco, the company would still be here.

      • Shuck says:

        I’m not sure that’s actually true. Their total losses were far more than twice what they lost on unsold uDraw tablets/software (losses of $376 million over two years, of which $100M was down to the tablets). Clearly their troubles went well beyond that one device.

    • quidnunc says:

      Yeah, in what universe does the author live in that he thinks Relic games don’t make money.

    • Kaira- says:

      Well, the Wii-version was apparently fairly successful. But no idea what compelled THQ to think that what worked on Wii, which is arguably the most family-friendly and “casual”-oriented console of the three, would also work on the more “hardcore” consoles.

    • LintMan says:

      I don’t think you can reasonably come to the conclusion that “voting with your wallet” doesn’t work based on THQ’s failure. When THQ management steered their ship into the $100M rocks and sunk it, that negated a WHOLE LOT of wallet-voting. There’s not really much consumers could have done at that point.

    • mondomau says:

      *have been fine.
      Sorry.

      But yes, it really does boil down to that one simple cock-up in this case and I’m not sure what the hand-ringing in the article is in aid of. It is sad and frustrating that a publisher that takes risks with their IPs is going under, but implying that this experimenting might be the reason for the collapse is disingenuous – they had a mediocre run of success and were still adapting to the digital model, these things could likely have been weathered had it not been for some bright spark in marketing or development that decided they could poach some sales from the wii.

  3. frightlever says:

    You only have to look at the Dead Space article to see that bad management and a gross lack of understanding what gamers (on PC or console – uDraw – who thought that would be popular?) want is to blame. Big publishers swallowed up devs, take big gambles and so profitable developers end up at risk through no fault of their own.

    Will Kickstarter replace traditional publishing? Not even close. Once there have been a few high profile failures people will become much more wary.

    Smaller budgets will help. Make triple-B games instead of triple-A and they’ll find it’s more difficult to fail and the ROI can be stratospheric.

    • gwathdring says:

      People keep saying that. I don’t think it’s necessarily going to happen. More than that, I don’t think it needs to happen to explain why Kickstarter isn’t going to replace conventional publishing. It has all kinds of flaws, consumer trust completely aside.

      If anything, I think major failure within traditional publishing are much more likely to cause systemic wariness on the part of publishers and investors than major failures withing crowd-funding. I don’t see Kickstarter as some sort of unstable monolith. I see it as a steadily growing, proven alternative to publishing with it’s own risks and flaws that make it, in many ways, less ideal for both parties for products like video games. Kickstarter isn’t being used as a first-choice stop for AAA development and I don’t think it ever will be even if it never sees a catastrophic, game-changing failure.

      If nothing else, Kickstarter is used for many, many things other than games and a few high profile gaming failures aren’t going to slow Kickstarter down even if it slows the rate at which gamers contribute to game development projects. Which means the door is going to stay solidly open for a recovery even if gaming Kickstarters take a temporary hiatus from the limelight.

      • frightlever says:

        I didn’t make it clear but I was only commenting on Kickstarter as it relates to funding games. I do think they’ll have issues elsewhere as well though, I just have no interest in the non-games side of it and only a passing interest in the gaming side of it, to be honest.

        • gwathdring says:

          I guess I don’t see why. What reason does it have to steadily or unsteadily decline? It’s a new mode of distribution and development that caters quite effectively to niche products and up-and-coming designers of products. It also works brilliantly for collaborative funding of community events. Is there a particular reason you see failure written on the walls, or is it more that you think it’ll start showing signs of where simply because nothing is perfect and everything has a downside? If the later, I’d say we’re already seeing plenty of flaws and I’m not really convinced Kickstarter is still in it’s honeymoon period. Gaming Kickstarters may well be, though.

          People also talk about the death of open source for all sorts of reasons I have trouble understanding … I guess I feel like community development, community funding, community organizing … it’s all going to get bigger rather than smaller. There are simply too many people and too many markets and too much variability to reliably cater to everyone. For similar reasons, I also think we’re gradually going to see a rise in policy-making regions like Oregon’s watershed districts ( I think the EU has them too, in some places?) and all of the inter-city coalitions that are starting to gain momentum in the US and elsewhere. Localization, not superstructure, is the future of commerce and policymaking alike in my opinion.

          I’ve gone wildly off topic … sorry, my schedule radically shifted this week and I’m still getting used to it sleep-wise. The key point is that I think Kickstarter and/or it’s progeny are going to be just fine for the long haul. Do you have a particularly compelling reason for suggesting it’s going to become less successful? I guess it might become less used by designers because it’s a bad vector for major game design projects and gamers might become more jaded about gaming Kickstarters … but I guess I see enough high profile failures and mis-steps that I’m not convinced there’s a long way to go from here to something sustainable.

      • Baines says:

        The wariness caused by failure is part of the problem, as it leads publishers to chase “sure bets”. That leads to more cookie cutter games. It also leads to big budget flops that aren’t necessarily worse games than the huge successes that they were aping, which further confuses publishers on what is going wrong.

        • gwathdring says:

          I’m a bit confused, sorry. I feel like I said as much in my own post–my point was this: I would expect the discouraging effect of failures on investment prospects to be greater in the private sector than in crowd-funding. It’s easier to take a ten dollar loss casually than a million dollar loss–especially because investors are typically in for profits on top of the money back. More than that … as a customer I’m not expecting my money to come back even if the project is successful. I’m either “investing” as more of a donation to benefit the project or I’m straight-up buying a product. I’m expecting the product to get made … but not a financial return.

          There’s a fundamentally different investment dynamic at work here, and I think it’s one that withstands failure more easily than the AAA setup. If nothing else, you have more people investing so the risk is more dispersed–as it the disappointment.

  4. Brosepholis says:

    The sad truth of wallet-voting is that if you care enough about the industry to know about the latest outrage committed by EA/ActiBlizz/Whoever, you’re already in a demographic that these companies cannot responsibly care about in the long term. Look at where THQ’s PC-centrism got them; their successful games were not profitable enough to bankroll their failed adventures in hardware and IP. Say what you will about the great satans of gaming- they persist because they know when to keep the purse shut.

    • P.Funk says:

      “Say what you will about the great satans of gaming- they persist because they know when to keep the purse shut.”

      Is that really true? Look at EA’s misadventure with the $140 million Old Republic. I wouldn’t call most of what EA does conservative in terms of money, only in terms of ideas which receive financial support.

      If anything its their irrational search for another Call of Duty, another World of Warcraft, which illicits some of the most extravagant and vulgar excess in game development today. Its only because they have a handful of remarkably successful IPs that lets them make so many failures.

      Compared to THQ most triple-A publishers have considerably more commercials failures in my opinion, they just tend to be cookie cutter failures, less worthy of praise than the more ambitious failures of a THQ.

      • Bhazor says:

        It should be mentioned that one their biggest failures was a Cod Clone (Homefront) and another was a bland sequel (Red Faction:Armageddon).

        • P.Funk says:

          Fair enough, but that has no bearing on an assertion that somehow EA and other so called “triple A” publishers are somehow more conservative in their expenditures, only that its so unfortunate when one of the “good guys” falls for the same lure that an EA falls for. The real tragedy is that an EA can absorb the failure while a THQ simply cannot.

        • MSJ says:

          You calling RFA “bland” indicates a marketing failure more than anything. If anything, the game gave you destructible environments without making you drive around from one target to the other. It also gives you several very fun weapons that blow things up in the most spectacular fashion, and you get to carry 3 different ones them at a time, plus the nano device.

      • Brosepholis says:

        TOR was certainly a lost bet, although I’m sure it looked like a sure win when the project was started. WAR was perched on the edge of being a really good game, and the star wars license is still very strong with certain demographics.

        The problem with modern games development is that games are so fucking expensive to make for various reasons, and there’s so much pressure to be AAA, that you can’t make an A game or even a AA game, or the press will savage you for looking last-gen. You have to put the money in the slot if you want a chance at getting the jackpot. Perhaps next-gen will cut down these development costs a little and we’ll return to an era with more relaxed great satans.

        Regarding Activision; they are by far the most conservative publisher in the industry and they’ve done extremely well out of it. They don’t make a game unless it’s sure to make money, which currently means Cod, Skylanders and a shitload of movie tie-in shovelware. They don’t even try to appeal to the hardcore as EA so often do, which is why we so rarely see outrage articles about them on here.

        • Brun says:

          Agree. TOR probably looked like a sure thing back in 2007 when WoW’s growth was exploding and it was still young enough to be vulnerable to a competitor doing the same thing but better. You’ve got to remember that back then people thought that MMOs would be the future of gaming, and it’s hard to blame them due to WoW’s success. But realistically, having a 5+ year development time just meant that WoW had 5 years to get even further ahead, and by late 2011 TOR didn’t stand a chance. Multiple failed competitors had proved resoundingly that MMOs were *not* the future of gaming (by this point everyone was obsessed with Social), and despite EA’s optimism TOR was destined for the F2P pile basically as soon as it released. TOR would probably have been a smash hit had it *released* in 2007.

          That said, I’m fairly certain TOR held enough subscribers for long enough that it was at least able to break even. Brand recognition (Star Wars) is indeed powerful, and probably saved EA from incurring much greater losses.

        • stupid_mcgee says:

          TOR was promising when the good Dr.s from BioWare were talking about innovation, exciting, different, and action-oriented combat mechanics, and not wanting to make a WoW-clone.

          Then VG Holdings, owners of BioWare/Pandemic and formerly run by John Riccitiello, was sold to EA, which was then being currently run by Riccitiello, and TOR slide rapidly downhill into being a rote WoW-clone with Mass Effect dialog choices.

          I’m not saying it’s definitive that EA ruined BioWare, but there’s certainly enough circumstantial evidence to paint that picture. After VG Holdings (and BioWare with it) was sold to EA, you saw BioWare’s development cycle drastically shrink, Dragon Age: Origins slipped from being a PC-exclusive love letter reminiscing of Baldur’s Gate to a lackluster multi-platform release, we had the WTF!? release of Dragon Age 2—which took the entire core concept of Dragon Age: Origins and stuffed it into a locker—and TOR became exactly what the Dr.s of BioWare said they did not want to do: StarWoWs.

        • Shuck says:

          “Perhaps next-gen will cut down these development costs a little”
          Unfortunately next-gen dev costs are expected to double. Yeah, the AAA industry is screwed. Especially when you consider that the costs of playing for the jackpot are now high enough that even being top of the sales charts doesn’t guarantee enough revenue to break even.

          • enobayram says:

            I don’t understand this whole discussion about the cost of AAA development. Why don’t they then trade coding and design efforts? There’s SOOO much duplicated work between those AAA games, especially since they’re almost the same as each other…

          • frightlever says:

            ^
            I love the idea of “extras” being used and re-used in different games. One model being re-skinned into different roles for different games, until they finally get their big break and manage to headline a gig.

          • Shuck says:

            Developers owned by large publishers (e.g. EA) do reuse code and design. But it’s the assets that make up most of the costs. And asset libraries aren’t as useful as you might think – each game has it’s own requirements, assets have expiry dates due to improvements in technology, engine changes, etc., and games largely distinguish themselves through graphics anyways, diminishing the value of a library.

      • FhnuZoag says:

        Didn’t EA end up making a profit on TOR anyway?

    • monkeybars says:

      “Look at where THQ’s PC-centrism got them; their successful games were not profitable enough to bankroll their failed adventures in hardware and IP. ”

      That’s their fault for bankrolling the failed adventures. If they hadn’t bankrolled those things, would they be profitable enough?

    • Brun says:

      It was a blatant attempt to cash in on a console fad that doomed THQ in the first place, so I’m not sure why you’re blaming PC-centrism. That was simply a bad business decision, and THQ are far from the only ones to make such mistakes. Plenty of companies have lost money because, for some reason, whenever businessmen see large and rapidly-growing numbers of people in a given market, they throw everything they have into penetrating that market without any regard to how they can monetize it (if at all). Money doesn’t matter, they just have to have as many users as possible.

    • x1501 says:

      Yes. The fact that less than a handful of THQ’s PC exclusives weren’t profitable enough to absorb the $100,000,000 the company lost on uDraw—a console-only accessory—clearly shows that it was THQ’s PC-centrism that finally got them. Nothing else.

      • gwathdring says:

        As has been mentioned elsewhere, that makes up less than half of their losses over the past few years of disaster. The uDraw was a big part of matters, but it didn’t sink them.

        Furthermore, every company takes loses. You win some, you lose some. Their inability to win back those loses with major successes is as much a part of their collapse as the games that flopped. You can make more mistakes when you have a franchise like WoW or CoD under your belt.

        I don’t think it makes any sense to blame console or PC focus for THQ’s nightmare. They made games that were well loved by a too small a part of the market many of which were much more successful critically than financially. It’s entirely possible that poor money management was also at least partially at fault, though I’m not interested enough to dig up evidence one way or the other.

        Game development is getting too expensive, in any case. Games aren’t worth what they ought to cost in order to be less absurdly risky to make. That’s the key problem, industry wide. We need to solve that problem if we want to have better games. The long console cycle has been really was wonderful for me as a gamer–as have digital discounts. But if this keeps up, the gaming public is going to stop growing and maybe even start to fall out from under the industry.

      • Lemming says:

        Not only that, but RPS seem to have forgotten so soon the leaked terrible business practices of the THQ executive: How they treated staff, cut corners and were generally despicable.

        Personally, I think it explains completely why a company has gone under despite having the right IPs/Games to do well. They were corrupt at the core, and nothing can last like that.

        EDIT: Took some digging, but here is one article about it:

        http://www.joystiq.com/2012/01/25/alleged-former-thq-staffer-sends-furious-note-to-board-press/

    • Arithon says:

      “Look at where THQ’s PC-centrism got them”

      No, look where pandering to the console market got them. HomeFront – a COD clone made for console which frankly sucked on the PC. uDraw.. Well, the less said about that, the better.

      If they’d have stuck to making solid PC games and not spending Hollywood-style budgets on multi-platform mediocre games, they’d still be in business. When your successes are failures because you spend too much on marketing, then clearly somebody was on commission (or drugs).

      • gwathdring says:

        As other people have mentioned, that was in no way the only contribution to their loses and not even MOST of it. A big part … sure? I suppose? Look, there are a crap-load of successful console developers and plenty of defunct PC developers than never went to what I can only presume your perceive as the Dark Side that is console development.

        Console gaming is not our industry’s biggest problem.

    • SelfEsteemFund says:

      THQ was hardly ‘PC-centric’, all they did was the bare minimum of what the PC audience generally expect. Over the years as so many other pubs/devs have failed to support the PC (in multiple ways), THQ has simply been continuing with tradition by attempting to treat all platforms individually, that’s all.

      Do you really believe that the PC market alone from multi-platform titles should be left to recoup the hundreds of millions of dollars in debt created by failed experiments, corrupt practices & toys designed specifically for consoles?

      ugh, I don’t normally respond to trolls, well done.

  5. Xardas Kane says:

    I don’t quite get your point actually. Voting with our wallets killed THQ in the end. It was the consumers that rendered uDraw a gigantic failure, that refused to buy refurbished wrestling games, that decided Homefront was not worth their time and that the last Red Faction was a game in the series only by name. Which was what killed THQ after all, so obviously it works. Don’t be fooled by Metro, Darksiders or Company of Heroes, THQ made some absolutely terrible business decisions over the years, whether it’s that tablet thing, relying heavily on very expensive licenses or the (reportedly) dreadful management of Homefront. The sole reason why it managed to stay afloat this long was that people (again) voted with their wallets when they bought Saints Row and Darksiders.

    Similarly, the last 4 games GPG has worked on were by all means failures. Supreme Commander 2 was everything a sequel shouldn’t be, Space Siege was terrible, Demigod was not the MOBA game people wanted and Age of Empires Online died mere months after its release. Their troubles, while sad, don’t surprise me in the slightest.

    If you are talking about us, as in the core gamers, voting with our wallets, well, we are too few. But we still make a difference by pushing indie games like Torchlight and Amnesia to the (AFAIK) toward sales figures their developers didn’t fathom pre-release or making things like the Dark Souls port possible.

    So I dunno, from my POV it works. Sure, we can’t wave away bad business decisions, but in the end of the day it all comes down to this: do you buy this game or not?

    • darkChozo says:

      I think there’s a difference between “voting with your wallet” in terms of buying a bad/unneeded product and in terms of consumer activism. The former isn’t really notable, it’s just economics; people don’t buy things that don’t work or that they don’t need or that are too expensive because, well, they don’t want to. The latter is interesting because it’s attempting to use economic pressure in order to support ideals, instead of a product. In other words, people didn’t buy the uDraw because it was a dumb product that was too expensive for what it did; some people don’t buy EA/Activision products or DRMed products because they disagree with their business practices.

      This article seems to be more targeted at the consumer activism type; for example, buying a THQ game because it’s a THQ game and you want to support the company, not because it’s a good game (though it’s less binary than that, buying a good THQ over a good EA game would be the same principle). And it’s arguably right in that respect; people that care enough about game company practices or industry trends to affect their purchasing habits are vastly outnumbered by those that either know and don’t care, or don’t know (and quite possibly wouldn’t care anyway).

      • Xardas Kane says:

        Well, I find that kind of wallet voting to be rather… silly. Buying one game because I liked another from the same company and want to “support” it sounds absolutely ludicrous to me. We are talking about companies here who offer us their products. I like it, I buy it, I don’t like it, I don’t, pure and simple. Buying those stupid wrestling games or the uDraw because I liked how THQ handled Company of Heroes makes as much sense as buying a Ubi title without Uplay because I didn’t like that previous Ubi games did have Uplay. I buy the games because I like them and the few companies that I genuinely vouch for I support simply because they offer me a product I want every bloody time (whether it’s Valve, CD Project or, shoot me, Bethesda).

        You are right, few people care. Obviously neither do I.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      I agree entirely, though I will say Red Faction never had an identity as all 4 games were very different.

    • Christo4 says:

      I have to say that i agree with your post. THQ made a terrible mistake with uDraw and i don’t think that they would have made Darksiders 2 if the first one didn’t have at least some succes. And the sequel is also considered to be better than the first.

      Also about Wildman, i was considering supporting it, but really after hearing all about the lay-offs and the fact that it could not be very good even after it reached it’s kickstarter goal, I’m sorry, but i’m not going to risk my money for something that just MIGHT be good (and probably will not be since they pretty much said that). I’m better off just buying or supporting other kickstarter projects that have a very good chance of making it don’t you think?

    • Giuseppe says:

      Good comment!

  6. Cytrom says:

    This is the same for every kind of voting… it works, bot only if you got enough votes on your side. Its a bit pointless to over-rationalize it.

  7. pupsikaso says:

    I don’t understand this whole “vote with your wallet concept”. What exactly is it? If I like a particular type of game, would want to see more like it, but have no intention of playing it am I supposed to throw money at it? That makes no sense. And on the other side if I don’t like a game and just happen to want to never see that type of game ever again I’m not going to buy it anyway!
    Could someone clarify this whole thing? Vote with your wallet? Did I miss something? Did gamers suddenly grow forests of money trees to chuck at games they like/not like on a whim?

    • Xardas Kane says:

      “If I like a particular type of game, would want to see more like it, but have no intention of playing”

      I’m thinking this is why it makes no sense to you. I’m sorry, but that really doesn’t make much sense to me.

      • pupsikaso says:

        Yes, because obviously you have all the time in the world to buy and play every game that ever grabs your fancy, right?
        I dare you to look at how many games you’ve not played from the latest steam sale. I like those games, I’d like to see more of them (for a chance to play one when I get it), but I cannot buy them right now either due to lack of shinies or time. Being a sensible human being I would not throw money at a game I know I will not play, whether I like the game or not.

        • gwathdring says:

          Vote with your wallet typically means buy good products, with an awareness of what your spending habits tell the games industry. Some examples off the top of my head:

          If you think you’ll enjoy both game A and game B but you’ve got ten game like game B and you think it’s a shame more games like A don’t get made instead … don’t wait for A and B to go on sale so you can buy both! Buy A at full price instead. If you like DRM free games, consider buying fewer games and buying them retail (where relevant) or from GoG or direct from the developer, or wherever you can find DRM free versions. If you’re always saying the games industry should have more narrative focus in it’s games … don’t buy Crysis 2 the next time it goes under $10. Save up and buy The Walking Dead at the highest price you’re comfortable paying for it. Let’s say you have two games you’re considering … maybe one seems slightly better but the other is made by a company that produces more games you really love–consider buying the slightly-worse game to promote the significantly better company.

          Quite simply, it means that you should pay attention to what you buy as a gamer and think carefully about what you want out of both your games now and your games in the future.

          I don’t exactly agree with the principle as written above, but I think it accurately conveys a decently varied cross-section of the “vote with your wallet” concept. You don’t have to agree with it, either, but you seem to be arguing against a much less reasonable series of arguments that no one I’ve met actually makes. I don’t think a reasonable person would expect you to be a philanthropist unless you were wildly wealthy.

        • Xardas Kane says:

          There is a difference between wanting to play something, but not having the time, and not wanting to play something at all. Because that’s what you said in your comment – buying games you have no intention of playing makes absolutely no sense to me.

          You are right, I have not finished all the games I bought from the Steam sale. But I have, or will asap, play every one of them

  8. D3xter says:

    First, THQs decline didn’t “start with uDraw”, but a LOT earlier back in 2008/2009: http://i.imagebanana.com/img/mw9zpfa8/thq.PNG

    They had ample time to do something about it and change their course but didn’t do anything till January of 2012: http://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2012/01/15/rumor-thq-cancels-2014-game-lineup-looking-for-buyer.aspx

    • Bhazor says:

      That 2008/9 meteor of solid fuck could very well be the development costs of UDraw or any number of dumb ass business decisions (buying crap studios, ludicrously expensive ad campaigns).

      There is no way a publisher can lose nearly half a billion dollars on game design.

      • Xardas Kane says:

        Was about to say that. The uDraw came out in 2010, but I doubt they scrambled it together in a couple of months.

      • Lanfranc says:

        There is also the small detail that the entire economy and everything went belly-up during 2008/2009. Going from -$431 million to -$9 million in just one year seems like quite a remarkable turn-around, actually. And then the uDraw disaster begins to hit from 2011. At least that’s how I read those numbers.

    • D3xter says:

      Second, the “Vote with your wallet” concept is very simple. For instance I haven’t bought a single Activision Blizzard game for nearing 4-5 years and will continue to do just that as long as they continue with their business practices and contempt for their consumers: http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=128252

      The main reasons are their general business practices and views of consumers, disregard for innovation and anything new that hasn’t the “potential to be exploited every year across every platform, with clear sequel potential that can meet our objectives of, over time, becoming $100 million-plus franchises”, what they did with Battle.Net 2.0 and Blizzard in general and their late use of Always-Online DRM and RMAH.

      I also stopped buying EA games about a year ago (Battlefield 3 and SW:ToR were the last two games I bought from them). The main reasons are also their general business practices and contempt for consumers, especially when it comes to nickel-and-diming, lock of their games to Origin (whis is also a horrible platform), Day-1 DLC or more recently even “Microtransactions” in SinglePlayer games and their use of Always-Online DRM in Sim City and all that’s following: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130127/19023721799/redditor-points-out-flaws-simcitys-online-only-drm-gets-banned-ea-his-troubles.shtml

      I couldn’t care less what they release or if they go bankrupt (in fact right about now I probably would prefer a big ol’ video game crash like in the old times). I mean sure, it sucks for the people/developers that work there and are owned by them but it’s not my job or obligation to keep their company alive and as long as they continue on this path of consumer contempt and self-destruction I will withdraw my money from their disposal. Luckily there are enough alternatives out there, and I’d rather drop ~$100 on a KickStarter that might fail but seems to do neither of those things and innately appeals to me than give any money to either of those companies at this point.

      In the case of Wildman though, it doesn’t appeal. It just looks like another generic ARPG, possible with some “Strife map” elements and a “caveman” skin. I don’t see much of anything special about it.

      • Wisq says:

        Yeah, I just pulled “List of THQ games” on Wikipedia, and the 2008-to-2012 listings are pretty dire.

        What I bought:
        * Saints Row 2 (but probably at a steep Steam discount, years after the fact)
        * Red Faction Guerrilla (same)
        * Metro 2033 (never finished it)
        * Saints Row 3 (regretted it)
        * at one point, the THQ publisher pack on Steam, at a holiday discount price

        What I didn’t buy:
        * Homefront (due to dire reviews)
        * Red Faction Armageddon (same)
        * Darksiders 1/2 (never really had an interest)
        * all their console games, trivia games, pointless movie tie-in games

        So, that’s what, 4 out of 88 games? 6 or 7 if you count the THQ pack as being worth that many full-price games. And aside from the pack, I can count only two games that I bought that were actually worth buying (SR2 and RFG).

        The real tragedy here isn’t the loss of THQ — it’s that THQ was holding on to so many good (or at least decent) studios and not letting them make anything worthwhile. And yes, my focus on PC gaming would limit my THQ library somewhat. But looking at the non-PC parts of the list, I don’t think I was really missing that much.

        If I’m going to be sad about anything, it’s that there are much worse companies — like ActiBlizzard — that are still going strong while less crappy ones like THQ fall. I guess if you’re nasty and exploitative enough, it’s hard to lose.

  9. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Well, Nathan, welcome to my world; A place where turn-based strategy isn’t the most developed genre. A place where tactical combat is only now being revived (perhaps). A place where I have to put up with MMORPGs and F2Ps being massively invested on, a place where LAN-ready games are exceedingly rare. A place where always-online single-player mode is becoming a norm. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And all the time I voted with my wallet.

    But I will keep doing it. It’s really no different from that idea of “why voting if my vote counts for next to nothing?”. The principle behind me voting with my wallet was never intended as a way I have of changing an industry I cannot hope to control and a market that is becoming increasingly more distant from my expectations. It is simply a way of me sticking to my guns. I like to stick to my guns. It gives me real power because even at the face of the overwhelming force the industry and the market has over little old me, I’m still free to decide what I allow on my HDD.

    THQ on the other hand had nothing to do with this. THQ fell because of terrible management decisions. As much as I understand your argument, I cannot equate any of it to my ability to vote with my wallet. If anything, we should have more business specialized press in this industry. That’s what is lacking. RPS and many other outlets, including its readers, are in the business of saying “Like” or “don’t like”. We are not in the business of evaluating games as a business strategy for a company and come up with useful business strategy analysis.

  10. StingingVelvet says:

    Saying that voting with your wallet is flawed because others will still support “wrong” things is so elitist. They’re not wrong if people support them, if people like or want them enough to buy them. That’s the core of capitalism, basically.

    Is it unfortunate that a lot more people like Call of Duty than Risen? For my tastes, yes it is. However no one is “wrong” there, I just have more niche tastes and need to accept that. A lot of PC gamers and gamers in general need to accept that.

    We can still be catered to, as almost any indie/kickstarter/small dev team story from the last 3 years can attest. People catering to niches with smaller budgets, trying to get ahead that way. Again, capitalism at work.

    It’s the best system we have.

  11. pupsikaso says:

    The problem with Kickstarter for me (and probably quite a few number of folk) is that I’m not willing to put money on a concept/idea. I do not buy games that I cannot try first through a demo. But Kickstarter wants me to put money into something that is not even developed yet?

  12. Strangerator says:

    “On paper, Chris Taylor and co have done a lot of things we – hardcore, RTS, RPG, and depth-obsessed PC gamers – asked for with Wildman.”

    I’m not sure which, if any of those, Chris is planning on doing with Wildman. I think the kickstarter’s lackluster performance can be attributed to the lack of solid details about the actual depth we can expect from this game. When a kickstarter cites an old game, it’s not just an appeal to nostalgia, but also shorthand for what prospective consumers can expect in terms of gameplay and depth. It remains to be seen whether this will work out when the games finally release (I suspect some games will feel like a classic “bait and switch”).

    Not that CT was wrong to not cite an existing game for reference, but the fact that this is an entirely new concept and IP means he needs to start from scratch and describe every detail of the game and its depth. In the absence of a more complete description, people have come away with the idea that either a) this is going to be like Demigod or b) Chris just wants us to buy this game based on his name alone. People are asking themselves “what has GPG done for me lately?”

    A better pitch video could have catapulted Wildman past its goal, but as it stands, people don’t find it flashy enough to buy on spec. CT needs to wipe the doom and gloom face off, pull it together, and take us through what will make Wildman an awesome and unforgettable game, about which the whole team is passionate. I want to believe… give me a reason!!

    EDIT: Nevermind, I just noticed the recent updates are delving into more detail. Hopefully this will get more people excited.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      Yeah, I read the KS page and wasn’t sure what game it was going to be, whether it was for me or not and I didn’t like the aesthetic. So I ignored it.

      It was slow going before the terminations too, I think it’s just not a concept that hits with people.

  13. datom says:

    If I understand correctly, ‘vote with your wallet’ means ‘not buy products’. The article seems to be arguing that if everybody had bought THQ products, they might not have gone bust. Similarily, had everyone funded GPG’s Kickstarter, GPG’s Kickstarter would have been funded. A perilous topic indeed. It seems if you like a product and want them to make more, buying it may be the best option; meanwhile, if you don’t like it, and the rest of the world agrees with you, that may pose problems for their business.

  14. Baines says:

    “Vote with your wallet” has never really worked, at least not the way people want. It doesn’t carry enough information, and the product maker can cast the results to whatever decision they want to make.

    Buying something doesn’t mean you are completely happy with it. In extreme cases, you could even not much care about the end product much at all, and are buying it to support an idea. Comic books are a good example. People may buy a comic that they don’t like because they want to see the characters stay in print, and know if the book tanks the characters could be gone for years or may never get their own book again. But eventually you might get worn down and stop supporting it, and the publisher won’t know why you quit because they never really knew why you were supporting it in the first place. You can see this with games as well, where people will call for others to support one game that they don’t really care about in the hopes that the company will give similar treatment to the games that they *do* care about. (Like calls to support any Capcom fighters, or classic ports, or whatever.)

    Not buying something… All that means is that you aren’t buying it. Maybe you aren’t buying it because you’ve never tried it in the first place. Maybe you don’t have enough money to support all your indulgences. Maybe you don’t like the dub job. Maybe you don’t like the writing. Maybe you refuse to support the publisher for one reason or another. Maybe you think it costs too much versus what you think it is worth. Maybe you don’t like the DLC scheme of a game, or are waiting for a better collection for a TV series, or whatever.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      Buying something says “I will give you money for this,” which is all companies care about. They don’t care how happy you are.

      • Lanfranc says:

        Happy customers tend to keep buying products from the same company.

        • StingingVelvet says:

          I haven’t seen that be the case. For all the grumbling on sites like this one about which company is a better friend and whatnot it seems to me consumers largely buy products, not company promises.

      • Baines says:

        Companies care about how they will get money in the future. That’s where the ambiguity of why you buy something becomes an issue.

        This is particularly true when you have a successful franchise, something that sells on name and hype. It can take years for discontent to be reflected in sales numbers, and when the numbers do drop, the creators won’t know why.

        If you look at the world of pro-wrestling, you can see an example with the rise and fall of WCW in its nWo era. The hype and popularity took over, with numbers continuing to increase even as the quality declined. Complaints by fans increased, but were dismissed because, well, the increasing numbers showed that people wanted more of what they were getting. And then viewership and ticket sales peaked. And then they declined. And the people in charge didn’t know what was wrong. And numbers kept declining, no matter what they tried. WCW had lost a good chunk of its regular viewers, and eventually the hype driven viewers also left.

        People have wondered if this is currently happening with the Call of Duty franchise. If it does eventually collapse, it will in part be due to decisions and mistakes made with Modern Warfare 3, Black Ops 1, and Modern Warfare 2. Such hype driven franchises have inertia on their side, so barring doing something mind-numbingly stupid, it takes years to lose your audience. (Call of Duty may have been spared by its alternating developers. Even if one developer delivers a complete trainwreck, the other can keep the franchise alive long enough to get everything stable again.)

    • Johnny Go-Time says:

      Baines says:
      “Vote with your wallet” has never really worked, at least not the way people want. It doesn’t carry enough information, and the product maker can cast the results to whatever decision they want to make.

      Agreed! This is a wonderful, insightful comment.
      The idea of “voting with your wallet” persists because it lets the *voter* interpret (an endless variety of unrelated) events which occur after their vote as being a result of their vote:
      If you bought game X and the company succeeds, you get to take some credit for that.
      If you bought game X and the company fails, you get to take some credit for valiantly helping them fight against the inevitable.
      If you didn’t buy game X and the company succeeds, you get to take some credit for not being a mindless consumer-lemming who just followed everyone else.
      If you didn’t buy game X and the company fails, you get to take some credit for not being suckered-in by a poorly-run business.

      When of course (as the whole THQ thing so vividly illustrates), your purchase of X has no bearing on the success of the company.

  15. RakeShark says:

    I’ve never bought or owned a GPG product, and I don’t intend on backing Wildman because it’s not a game I’m interested in. I don’t think that makes me a horrible person. The problem big-name underdog developers are going to face is that everyone has a finite amount of charities they will give to and champion. Not to mention that the moment they ask for money, they are under a goddamned microscope for thousands of people to dismiss, not just a dozen.

  16. Michael Fogg says:

    Voting with the wallet only applies to DLC. As in: don’t buy it, folks, so maybe devs/publishers will stop bothering to make and ship it! It doen’t work for games, because most rational gamers would rather try out this idea of ‘seeing it for yourself’ rather than refraining from making a purchase because of a bad review or a reddit thread about bad consumer practice. I, for example, did buy DNF (not at launch however) out of the morbid curiosity to see that trainwreck. Can’t say that I regret it.

    • Baines says:

      DLC has such potential for “free” cash that I don’t see it going away. DLC doesn’t have to sell to everybody, it only has to sell to enough of some fraction of everybody.

      Halo 4 charges $10 for a map pack that has 3 maps. That’s $3.33 per map. The $60 game itself came with 10 multiplayer maps, along with the whole rest of the game. (And fans argue that the maps aren’t even up to the quality of previous games.)

      For fighting games, you might pay $5 for a single DLC character. (Characters, that at least in the case of Capcom, are being developed concurrently with the rest of the regular game and thus aren’t accruing any extra after-release production costs.)

      Season Passes only help publishers, giving people a “deal” for committing early. (And now we have Season Passes that don’t even cover all DLC, as well as the idea floated for multiple “seasons” of DLC for a single game.)

    • SAM-site says:

      I am voting with my wallet on DLC. I’ve probably spent as much on DLC or paid content in free to play games in the past 3 years as I have on full games and I’ve never once felt cheated, short changed or otherwise let down by the experience.

      The test I use is pretty simple – do I like this game? Would I like a little more from it? Do I want to encourage the people who made it to continue working on it?

      I’ve never seen DLC, day 1 or otherwise as anything other than optional additional bits for the game – like buying a car and opting into a satnav or tinted windows, the choice is entirely mine.

      One example from many available is Dungeon Defenders. Splendid game that I play with my kids on a regular basis and I’ve probably splashed out 3 times as much on DLC as I did on the game in the first place, and it’s worth every penny. The list of games I’ll happily continue playing after their initial interest peak is pretty small, and the cost-to-entertainment-hours ratio for DD has been exceptional.

      Refusing to buy any DLC on principle is counter productive, you should buy the content you want to see more of because you’re voting by doing so.

  17. yfrdtyid says:

    just as Patricia explained I’m impressed that anyone able to get paid $9833 in a few weeks on the internet. have you seen this web page http://www.Cloud65.com

  18. Tuor says:

    Sometimes you’re in the right place at the right time. Sometimes you’re in the right place at the wrong time. Even if you come up with a great idea for a game, have a good presentation, have everything you can do lined up correctly, there are still things outside of your control that can derail things. I don’t know much about the Wildman kickstarter, but it may well be the case of a good idea at a bad time.

    In an abstract sense, we can say that good ideas will succeed and bad ideas will fail, but that’s not how reality actually works, and if you’re one of those people who have a good idea that nevertheless fails, I do feel sorry for you, and hope you’ll try again in the future.

  19. TJ says:

    Won’t it turn out to be true that voting with your wallet is more effective the lower the cost of the game in question?

    To expect our informed niche opinions (and wallets) to make any dent in the prospects of a $10 million project is just unrealistic. To hope it will make a difference to something like FTL is quite reasonable, and makes a huge difference to the devs.

    I’m quite content to let the masses dictate what gets the massive budgets – so long as we retain control of the small stuff that’s actually being made for us.

  20. Christo4 says:

    I just want to say one thing. How come did THQ had 100 milion $ to invest in uDraw if they didn’t make a profit from all the other games they made? Just saying.

  21. Freddybear says:

    The problem with voting with my wallet is that other people also vote with their wallets, and they don’t have the same tastes as me, dammit!

  22. sinister agent says:

    Part of the problem with voting with your wallet is that the message doesn’t really get through anyway. Assuming a large number of people do so, the developer/publisher may not ever know the reason behind it.

    For an easy example, take DRM stuff – people could refuse to buy a game because it has a form of DRM they don’t like… but the developer might just take that as a sign that nobody bought it because that genre or setting or platform is unpopular. It gets even more complicated for big and/or prolific studios, who might find people refusing to buy game z because they feel they were burned by games x and y.

    More companies should do what Cliffski of Positech did, and simply ask, point blank, why didn’t you buy this game?

  23. Engonge says:

    The pitch was terrible,they asked for too much money and another moba?Really?

    Edit: I just watched the latest video update,CT says “We’ll do kings and castles if this is successful”. So he is merging 2 games on one kickstarter campaign in the hopes of achieveing the goal? I am waiting to see what else he can throw in.

  24. Navagon says:

    “How feasible is it to tell a company “Good job, you’re doing the correct thing” when it could be doing something completely incorrectly with a different product or audience, or dealing with financial strain from some other, only vaguely controllable factor entirely?”

    If nothing else it tells surviving companies that do their research where the money lies. Although, more likely than not, they won’t be looking at THQ for anything more than an understanding of where they failed. Not where they succeeded.

  25. Shooop says:

    The entire concept of “vote with your wallet” is flawed and meaningless.

    You’re not making any profound statement by not buying something, you’re just not buying it. It could be for any number of reasons as far as a publisher’s concerned.

  26. Greggh says:

    Voting with your wallet works (somewhat) because big companies have *makes rainbows with hands* ~MAR~KET~ING~ peoplez

  27. Squishpoke says:

    I hope to see less publishers and more developers in the coming years.

  28. DerekG says:

    Hi Nathan,
    I disagree that GPG came out of the gate with “details”. Aside from a few (admittedly nice looking) concept art and a hastily thrown together combat video, I still have no idea what the game is about. What is my role? What is my purpose? What is my motivation? Hell, what am I doing in the game? None of it was explained. I don’t even understand what “evolutionary action RPG” means.

    Aside from the footage showing something resembling Starcraft with cavemen, I didn’t understand what was going on so I voted as I usually do in these cases. I declined the opportunity to purchase. GPG’s (potential) failure is little more than a failure of marketing.

  29. Monkeh says:

    I haven’t backed a single game on Kickstarter, even though I’d have backed plenty by now if they’d have another method of payment (like PayPal) instead of a credit-card. Shame..

  30. justdave says:

    GPG were motivated by the prospect of easy access to capital. Perhaps if their Kickstarter campaign fails they’ll do what they should have done in the first place and seek funding from publishers or investors.

    I vote by keeping my wallet closed in their case and not supporting ethically dubious business practices. I wish other people would do the same.

    • f1x says:

      I was wondering also if asking for 1.1millions straight away isn’t a bit too much…

      its double the amount that the most ambitious kickstarter games are asking for, except maybe Obsidian with Project Eternity which asked for the same amount but then that project was much better defined, explained and the game is definitely much bigger

      What I mean is that I don’t think they have been realistical with their calculations, if the costs are really so “high” maybe they should’ve started with a smaller team for Wildman and ask for 300k or 500k and get the rest of the team working on something else, instead they are asking for too much money and firing people in the meanwhile

  31. Holdthepickle says:

    So as a consumer its my responsibility to keep companies from going under?

  32. Liudeius says:

    I really don’t get the adulation of THQ. Ok, maybe they weren’t AS bad as Ubisoft, or EA, or Activision, but they weren’t that great either. Look at the absurd SR3 DLC, Red Faction: Armageddon became a linear FPS, Homefront as you mentioned, and terrible decisions from both a business and gamer standpoint (Minimal profits or net loss from their various products).

    • f1x says:

      The DLC thing was getting annoying yes,

      but the thing with THQ is they were quite decent in terms of DRM, business practices and the pressure they put into the studios, usually it seems they let people work in their things
      and they had interesting IPs, didn’t milk the franchises too much, made something more than military FPS, had an average care for PC gaming and usually were positive about creating and supporting new “IPs”

      So yes, I prefer THQ rather than UBI, EA or Activision, even if sometimes they made some bad games

  33. LennyLeonardo says:

    Hmmm. Thing is, I really like some of the games THQ made, but I have no opinion on THQ either way. I don’t know any of their employees, I don’t know what their ideology was outside of what I can infer from their games, I never even went to their website. There was no reason for me to do anything other than what comes naturally, which is to buy games only if I think they look like my sort of thing. Is that voting with your wallet? If so I do it every time I purchase anything.

  34. Malfeas says:

    While I am very sad for most of the people that worked for THQ, I do feel the need to say something along the lines of “had it coming”.
    THQ had some of the most draconian pricing here in Germany. While they certainly aren’t alone with that attitude, they often asked for 1:1 of $ to €. And while this was quite atrocious on it’s very own, there were a few games, where they even asked for more.
    Every last THQ game I own, I had to order from the UK, since I didn’t see a reason for me to pay for poor economic decisions of the US or this publisher’s rather arrogant stance. On average ordering it from amazon.uk cost me around 4€ in delivery and I still was able to save 15-25€ per game.

    So, again, my sympathies to all the employees who never had a hand in such stupid decisions.
    I truly hope they have an easy transition to new companies, since apart from the beef I’ve written about, I enjoyed a bunch of the products.

    • f1x says:

      I’m not sure anymore if that has to do with the companys or with the taxes or whatever, because in Spain we have the same issue but not with THQ, just with every freaking company, and it extends to books, music, movies, etc

      Thats why, me too,.. I’m british when it comes to buying games ;D

  35. Radiant says:

    That’s one of things that someone like Kotick does right.
    As much as he is reviled he has saved Activision from going bankrupt more than a few times.

  36. jalf says:

    The thing about “voting with your wallet” is that you’re voting. You’re not dicator-for-life. Your “vote” is one among millions. Voting with our wallets just voted THQ off the island. It wasn’t the result you wanted, but it was the result that *a lot* of people apparently voted for.

    Saying that voting doesn’t work just because it doesn’t get the result *you* wanted seems a bit… well. Strange…

  37. SwiftRanger says:

    They’ve based a Kickstarter around a new property instead of stuffing the moldy teat of nostalgia in our mouths. They came out of the gate with details, footage of the game in action, and a willingness to communicate openly and honestly.
    The initial pitch video of Wildman is poor but GPG does have a good concept and explained it a lot more in the past week or so. Just look at the updates, it sounds more solid now imo, especially with the reveal of that modding platform.

    If there’s one point to take away from this article then it really is this though: “big names” trying to do something that’s not an almost literal remake of their older work aren’t going to cut it on KS. Even with a better starting pitch video, a lower-end financial sum and without GPG’s layoffs Wildman probably wouldn’t have made its goal either. People would simply repeat saying Chris Taylor should make Dungeon Siege 4, SupCom 3 or Kings and Castles, or at least something that resembles those games the closest. Most of us are actually condemning him and his company to make the same games again and again.

    If we want to see more original ideas than a space sim remake, a traditional adventure remake, a partybased RPG remake and a Total Annihilation remake being very successful on Kickstarter then we have to start voting with our wallet, yeah. Don’t start about the fact that these high-reaching KS titles could be more successful if they remained more modest with their financial scope because hell, we all want those games to be at least as pretty and expansive as the nostalgia we remember from the good old days and we would damn well expect those same high production values of a new concept too. In some sense we’re just as goofy/restrictive as publishers in this regard: we won’t let these familiar developers stray too far from everything we know, we still expect the same audiovisual qualities from them and if it’s not too much to ask add a couple of new features too that makes these remakes a bit different than before. Unfamiliar setting, combining genres, doing something wild? Don’t bother with a (for KS) higher-than-normal budget goal.

    As for THQ, they did a lot of great stuff but made too many business errors. I also can’t understand what kind of thought went into (the continuation of) some franchises like Homefront and Red Faction.

  38. Johnny Go-Time says:

    I just want to send a giant “Thank You!” to everyone who has commented here…I’m not sure I have ever seen such a thought-provoking set of responses to *anything* online before. I have agreed with some part of almost every comment here.

    RPS rules!

  39. Obc says:

    i have a suggestion to the RPS writers for an article that would greatly help me understand some stuff or atleast the great RPS Chums here in the comment section to provide me with some insight:

    Whats the difference between triple A games and non triple A games (what categories are there? coz to be honest i only ever read about indie or AAA games and not B games or just single A games)
    Why the hell it costs so much to produce triple A games and how advertising budget plays into it? And can the game industry even go further along with triple A titles if the costs remain so high? Why does a game that sells over 1 million copies is still not profitable? Is 1 Million not good enough? Seems pretty high to me.

  40. Wonderboy2402 says:

    To much bad ju ju around this kickstarter. Even Chris at times seems to be asking not to invest in it. If he wanted millions, he should have looked at their category of games that were popular but rare now. That is one reason project eternity and wasteland had such great kickstarters.

  41. Allenomura says:

    I took the time to watch their video, and they didn’t sell it to me. THEIR interest in this project I mean, while mine was at an ebb after watching what they presented at the time. It was so patchy.

    “Hey, player!”

    “We were making this one game, something-and-castles, didn’t work out – so, guess what?? We then set out to make an arpg crossed with strategy elements (Gauntlet came to mind from their description, though I was hoping it was something along the lines of Lionhead’s BC (Caveman, without Ninja, and that’s where the thought train tends to head! Moly-noooooooooooo :o ))…They didn’t even make it clear what the game was!) and we’d love to use your belief, and subsequent funding to try to make this sketchy caveman game. Emphasis on try, since even if we make the funding goal, conditions will be grim, and the game will be less able to be developed to potential, unless we make a lot more money” (Which you’ll come to learn in several days from now, after my workforce has been markedly reduced).

    Do they talk to all potential “investors” as insultingly? By which I mean, with as little prep as they had.
    They gambled. They wanted to spin the wheel. They expected. I genuinely think that they EXPECTED support. That’s the impression they’ve left on me, from their interactions with media. That, I…don’t know about. They’re in a state, but…The game didn’t leave much impression, the team less so. They never got the chance to express much. May just be poor recollection, but I think we got marketed at.

  42. ScorpionWasp says:

    I kept seeing these Wildman articles here on RPS, but it never caught my interest sufficiently to actually read them. The concept art on show was always such a turn off. Cluttered scenes of improbably dimensioned men in awkward, over-acted poses, swinging impractically sized weapons with arms that look like tree trunks. All the characters ooze this vague, unfocused, yet gigantic anger at… something. It certainly doesn’t strike you as the kind of game full of subtlety, nuance or intelligence, but rather the same drivel something like Marvel or DC comics would serve to the teenage hordes. Pass.

  43. Melf_Himself says:

    I don’t understand what is being claimed here. Do you want us to spend money on bad games to support those on the dev team that are talented? If I’m going to throw my money away, I’d rather give it to kids in Africa.

  44. Archonsod says:

    I don’t see a problem with the quality of the games we’re getting. I did see a problem with the quality of the games THQ was producing, which is why I rarely bought one. Now what part of my wallet wasn’t working again?

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