Following on from Mare Sheppard’s address, Morgan Jaffit, founder of Defiant Development, spoke about the creative process and distribution methods.
Jaffit covered the gamut of the modern game development scene in Australia during his Freeplay keynote address, recalling his own history and describing the myriad of business models emerging in the market.
“When you’re owned, there’s no place for vulnerability”, Jaffit begins, talking about the major studio system.
Jaffit explains how publishers make all kinds of decisions based on market forces, on the fact that they’re publicly owned, even potentially that they have a huge QA department, and that these decisions generally filter down to the individual developer in a fashion which is completely opaque.
“Defiant has been running now for two and a half years,” he muses, moving on to the indie model, “and we’ve now just hit the point where things are going well.”
“We’re working on a kind of old-school publisher in the next year, which is what we wanted to do post-Pandemic, but a bunch of us got together and decided we didn’t need it, and now it’s come back around and there’s a really exciting project we can work on a pub with.”
“We’re in a good position – Ski Safari’s doing really well, Heroes Call is doing really well, all the wheels are turning, everybody gets paid. So it feels like we’ve hit our straps. About two years in is when it felt like we’d started to hit our straps.”
One of Jaffit’s main bugbears is the median emerging distribution models, highlighted by his earlier caution concerning the Ouya platform.
“It’s technology and the business environment that shapes the games we see around us, inasmuch as the platforms become available to us, the distribution means, the sorts of projects that succeed in certain places, the skills that are required.”
“Kickstarter’s doing great, and offering opportunities to people that didn’t exist before. I’m a little bit sad that Project Origin is doing enormously well (that being the Obsidian team pitching their new RPG) because they’ve shown nothing about the game they want to make, and I’m really a strong supporter of helping people make games, but this seems to be the turning point on Kickstarter where we admit that it’s all about marketing, and it’s all about telling you that you’ll get the game that you want, but I’m not going to show you too many details, but trust us.”
One key area for pause, Jaffit asserts, is in evaluating the eligibility of the applicants themselves.
“As a game developer, I’ve looked at a lot of budgets people have put forward, and I believe that they’re liars.”
They lie, according to Jaffit, in a couple of ways, most notably the fallacy of asking for an amount which is achievable rather than one which is a realistic full budget, or asking for a tiny amount simply because they’re too green to know how much a realistic budget should be.
The net result, Jaffit says, is the reduction of Kickstarter to a marketing platform.
“I want the market to look at an amount and say ‘Well, you’ve got to prove to me that you’re credible if you want my money’, but the market doesn’t have any idea what it costs to make a game – not even close.”
“So long as that’s the mass market attitude, we’re going to see more and more and more Kickstarter become a marketing platform, which is to say that it’s about marketing promises and about the dream.”
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