Lanning and Molyneux Warn of the Risks of Shareholder-Led Development

Lanning and Molyneux Warn of the Risks of Shareholder-Led Development

The Oddworld and Fable creators each have a few choice words for the more shareholder-driven side of the industry.

"Why did Battlefield 4 ship?" asked Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning in a typically outspoken interview with VG247 earlier today. "You know that team was crying. You know that team knew that game wasn't ready to go."

Lanning is referring to the state in which DICE's most recent entry in the Battlefield franchise hit store shelves: a broken, buggy mess of a game that the company is still trying hard to clean up and fix today, some five months after its original release. He argues that the desire to rush Battlefield 4 out "on time" was a move to please the shareholders ahead of the people who would be actually playing the game and dealing with its various quirks.

"Someone made a decision that the shareholders are more important than the customer," he said. "And we see a lot of that. How do you blow that? How do you take that fucking jewel [Battlefield 4] and ship it with dirt all over it?"

Battlefield 4, a "jewel... with dirt all over it" according to Lanning.

Elsewhere, speaking with CVG, legendary game designer and promise-breaker Peter Molyneux said that we should enjoy the present boom in independent video games development, but not be under any illusions that it will last forever.

"Don't think we're going to be all indies for the next five years," he said. "These things go in cycles, just like in the music business. You have a time where punk is big, and then you have times like now where everything is manufactured. Enjoy this time, because inevitably it will only last a short period."

Molyneux warned the current crop of up-and-coming indies to not be blinded by the prospect of quick and easy cash injections with strings attached.

"Walk through any hotel lobby at GDC and look at people's name badges," he said. "This morning at breakfast, I saw three angel investors talking to indies. They're saying 'take my money! I want to invest in your company!' But what those indie companies don't realize is that they'll then have to have board meetings, and in those meetings they'll be told, 'no, you shouldn't do that -- look at this game that's making money.'"

Molyneux's concerns are perhaps valid; you only have to look at the trajectory of the mobile games industry over the last few years to see the risks inherent in investor- and shareholder-led development. In mobile, where many of today's most profitable developers are funded by investors, it's led to safe, unadventurous identikit development of very similar titles, all of which are monetized in the same way and very few of which exhibit any genuine creativity. Those which eschew the investor/shareholder route -- titles such as Simogo's Device 6, or Fireproof Games' The Room series -- are often celebrated by the press and attain some degree of commercial success as a result, but they're outliers; the Top Grossing charts are still dominated by the Clash of Clans and Candy Crush Sagas of the world.

It's difficult to know what the industry might look like in five years' time; do you think Molyneux is right, and that we'll see a decline from the current indie boom, or do you think the industry is now firmly on a new course?

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