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Leaving out publishers is great for games, Ensemble founder says

Digital distribution and mobile games could mean the end of publishers as we know them. And Tony Scott, founder of mobile developer PeopleFun and disbanded Age of Empires developer Ensemble Studios, told GamesIndustry International he will be glad to see them go.

"[L]eaving the traditional publisher out of it, it's been great for the industry," Scott said. "Even with Steam and mobile, both have caused a flurry of creative activity that's great for gaming. So I think the console is the one that's the most stagnant by far. There's just very little way for that industry to change when it's locked up by the manufacturer."

Scott said it is difficult for larger firms to compete with the amount of creativity smaller studios and open platforms can harbor. That does not mean he thinks publishers will disappear, however. He predicts their roles will change to curators who can keep a "monopoly on content," and gave the example of Zynga, which he said will likely do well after its post-IPO woes.

Though Microsoft shuttered Ensemble Studios in 2009 after it shipped Halo Wars, Scott was ultimately glad it happened. He said many members of his team went on to form their own studios and accomplish more than they could have under the constraints of Microsoft. And now they don't need to worry about their projects getting saddled with a foreign franchise halfway through development — which Scott said was the case with Halo Wars.

"[T]hose are some of the dangers of working with a publisher. It's certainly easy to understand the publisher's point of view. 'Looks like you're doing a great game, but wouldn't it be greater if it had Master Chief attached?'"

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8 comments

  • zombi3grim - October 1, 2012 6:15 a.m.

    Its just business, people.
  • bamit11 - October 1, 2012 5:24 a.m.

    It's things that happen to companies like Ensemble that make me hate publishers. They buy out a company, make them lose a year of development time to do what the publisher wants (yes, I know that's the point of publishers), and then shut 'em down. And they also made Bungie hate Ensemble for something that their fault.
  • wholemkt5 - September 30, 2012 7:35 p.m.

    Wonderful. Share a website with you , ( wholesalemkt.net ) Believe you will love it. We accept any form of payment.
  • brickman409 - September 29, 2012 9:28 a.m.

    that last line makes me wonder if halo wars was intended to be Age of Empires 4 or a console port of Age 3
  • ParagonT - September 29, 2012 2:05 p.m.

    ign.com/articles/2012/09/27/ensemble-claims-bungie-tension-over-halo-wars This is for more information on that note.
  • LordZarlon - September 28, 2012 7:32 p.m.

    I'm very happy to hear somebody in the industry say this. It's almost suicide when a small developer gets bought out by a big publisher these days.
  • Scuffles - September 28, 2012 7:02 p.m.

    Well the publishers traditional role has been to get games to market. With digital distro developers really don't need publishers to do that. Who is going to walk up to a publisher with a finished/nearly finished game and say, "Please we have done all this work take our money!"

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