Friday, January 27

The Independent Game Developers Co-operative

Many developers are fond of excorciating the current state of the games industry, bemoaning how broken the current publisher - developer model is, and are looking for a more sane alternative that concentrates on the quality of the games themselves. At least three times in my career I've experienced the tension between the need for a publically owned company to maximise profit for its shareholders and the desire of game developers just to keep working on a game, until it reaches the quality threshold they are comfortable with putting their name to. Realistically, there is no way that this is going to get resolved in favour of the developers. I've accepted that as part of working in the industry; if you need the results for this quarter, you need the results for this quarter and that's how it is.

However, there *is* a positive alternative if there are enough people brave enough, out there. A co-operative. The whole essence of a co-operative is the opposite of a company. Members own shares, and the co-operative exists to provide services or goods to the members in the most effective possible way. For an up-to date example, see the Tech Co-op in Canada.

Off the top of my head, this is how I see it working:

I'd envisage a game developers co-op working as two-coperatives: first there would be a gamers service co-op and secondly there would be a smaller game developers workers co-op, the membership of the first driving the second. The reaons for this are that the membership of the gamers co-op would be open to anyone on the internet. Membership would get you regular mailed game CD's for at least a year, then these would be provided thereafter for a small subscription fee. The gamer as a member of the co-operative would be able to pitch ideas and designs to the developers-cooperative, get technical support, game server hosting, and other services to be identified.

The game developers co-operative would provide or sell services to the gamers co-op at a preferential rate, but would also engage in marketing and distribution efforts on behalf of it's members. This would enable an otherwise less affluent group of developers to talk directly to publishers and get access to platforms it would otherwise not have access to. Revenue would be ploughed back into the memebers projects.

These are only tentative back of the envelope thoughts; the main point is that with the reach of the internet, a co-operative has the potential be a much larger, more effective organisation than before. The inherent problems with such a proposal - no one reaching any agreement - have to be dealt with by careful sturcturing of the co-operative.

It's time for me to do more research..

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