Friday, January 2, 2009

Daring Deeds of Desperate Developers

So I just picked up on this story about developer Bob Pelloni, who's staging a 100-day, uh, I guess it's a sort of a cross between a sixties sit-in and a coding binge in order to convince Nintendo to give up a dev kit so he can officially 'release' his game, Bob's Game.

By day 21, as Joystiq puts it, things are getting a little weird.

So first off, my 2c about this case:

It's pretty clear by reading the text on his site that Pelloni is probably a little, er, socially challenged, but more importantly doesn't really understand everything there is to understand about the business side of what he's doing. To say there's no cost to Nintendo isn't true. Any game shipped for a console reflects to some degree on those making that console, so they need to be ok with that and put some effort into getting behind the title (even though Nintendo does notoriously little of that).

Is his game any good? No idea. However, as a developer, he really shouldn't be putting all his eggs in one basket. [He mentions doing an iPhone port among others as his backup plan, but is naive to think that just because you can get the iPhone SDK that you won't run into other 'soft censorship' issues].

But anyhow, that's not the real story here.

At the high level, the thing that's interesting about this is visibility that little guys with a bone to pick can get in today's connected world, and what that means to those that offer a platform for content.

XBLA was hailed as the indie path to the 'console big leagues', but has endured it's share of criticism from small devs,with that criticism getting some attention. Criticism for non-transparency, soft-censorship, royalty rate changes, and lengthy cert processes, to name a few reasons. Beleive me, the posts by outspoken folk like Minter or others complaining about XBLA cert process, rate changes, etc, get the attention of execs. Being perceived as the big guy that tramples the little guy isn't good PR (whether or not it may be good for business).

In the past, only the big guys (like the one at the top of this post) could speak out against The Man and get any attention. Today, anyone with a good story and/or a crafty way to tell it can be a thorn in the side of a publisher or platform owner.

So now you have an issue if you are the big guy: Deal with the bad PR, or deal with the little guy. "Ignore him" is no longer an issue. Ignoring will let you filter out those unable to figure out a unique angle, but the rest become problematic.

And the thing is with little indie guys is that people WANT them to win. One could imagine this case ending with Nintendo saying "we looked at his game and it's CRAP!", to which the Intertubes would reply "shouldn't that be for us to decide? Give him his damn dev kit!".

Now whether fans beyond the hardcore ever speak with their purchasing dollars (i.e. "I'm refusing to buy a DS because they won't help indies like Bob") is another matter, but the possibility is there, and worth thinking about.

It's like the Kryptonite problem of publishing. Fun.


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Mark DeLoura said...

Wow, thanks for the story Kim... I had totally missed this.

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