Edit: cos there are various theories flying around below about my perceived intent in posting this, I shall clarify my own feelings. I would really like to see contracts between publishers and developers more commonly include an arrangement whereby key (and ideally, but rather less plausibly, all) creatives on game projects continue to see some post-release royalties, as is the case in some other entertainment and publishing industries. That so many old games are being (apparently profitably) rereleased lately highlights this disparity. That is all.
There’s obviously a very good chance you already know this, but just in case: when a developer is bought out by a publisher, it’s usually the case that they then don’t see any ongoing royalties from the games they make for them, or indeed for any existing intellectual property that was swallowed up as part of the studio acquisition. It’s standard practice, knowingly agreed by both parties during the dark deal some studios made to ensure immediate financial viability and larger project budgets. But what it does mean is that a great many of the PC games we regularly celebrate around these parts are no longer bringing in any money for their creators, despite still being on sale. Whenever we excitedly see an old classic appear on Steam or GoG (such as Thief last week), chances are very high that whatever we pay for it goes purely to the publisher and the download service. And while it may well be right that these bodies profit from projects they funded and distribute, it’s sad that the men and women who toiled over that game’s creation won’t see another penny from it.
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