Way back in January, GameStop was revealed as the publisher of Insomniac Games' upcoming Song of the Deep. Seeing the retailer publishing a game was odd, but no one knew then that GameStop had larger plans. Today, GameStop announced its new publishing label, GameTrust. The label has already signed some well-known developers, including Insomniac Games (Ratchet & Clank, Sunset Overdrive), Ready at Dawn Studios (The Order 1886), Frozenbyte (Trine), and Tequila Works (Rime).
The choice of initial partner studios is not a mistake. GameTrust is hoping to draw in more developers who aren't looking to make huge AAA titles. The label wants to provide an outlet for studios that are creating more mid-range projects that can't find a home at major publishers these days.
"In-depth developer discussions began well over a year ago. More and more discussions with game developers shed light on some of the challenges that they face with publishing small-to-medium, AAA-quality independent games," GameStop vice president of Internal Development & Diversification Mark Stanley told GameSpot.
"There's a largely ignored smaller budget games market in our industry and there are a lot of developers who've expressed interest in making smaller games but they've seen challenges getting support," Stanley also told GamesIndustry.biz. "We have the flexibility of being able to either partially fund or fully fund a project for development, but also we bring in all the different aspects of promotion, marketing, merchandizing and truly developing a new IP as if it were AAA."
Stanley calls the market segment GameTrust is focused on "high-end indie games" or "Triple III", with a pricing sweet spot around $15-40. The label expects to handle 5-10 titles in its first year and has been in discussions with around 20 developers.
"Not to say that in the future we won't look at bigger games, but I think right now we're just getting started and I think we'll stick with smaller scale games because it allows us not only to take more risks but it also allows developers to try new IPs or really make some games that they always wanted to but never had an opportunity to," he added.
For developers, part of the benefit of working with GameTrust is being able to leverage placement in GameStop's 6,200 retail locations. In addition, the new label isn't looking to have any creative control; developers make the games, GameTrust publishes them. GameTrust has the resources to partially or fully-fund titles, but which model is used is dependent on the games involved.
"GameTrust is not a traditional video game publisher. We do not involve ourselves in the creative process because at the end of the day, that is what our developer partners are passionate about. By allowing developers to fully focus on their craft, GameTrust can focus on all other aspects of bringing a new IP to market, leveraging our deep expertise and retail channel leadership to support each developer and connect their games with a broader global audience," Stanley explained.
So far, GameTrust sounds like its doing the right things. There has been a sector of the game industry that's been winnowed out in the past decade. Non-AAA games made by veteran studios haven't had much of a chance in recent years, as publishers tend to want to go big, or go home. There's been the occasional break in that model, like EA publishing Unravel or Ubisoft allowing its developers to work on smaller internal projects, but for the most part the mid-range game is gone. GameTrust looks like it may provide a creative outlet for certain studios.
Song of the Deep is the first GameTrust title, coming on July 12 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.