One of the reasons I write here is to share information that can prevent developers making mistakes their colleagues made, and also to illustrate to players why developers so often look like poor farmers in a rich agriculture industry. Occasionally, whenever I remember one, I’ll try to write about a situation in which the roles were reversed, and the developer actually deserves to go to the inferno (though typically with the publisher in his slipstream 🙂 )
One such story is that of a major AAA publisher refusing to pay a minimum guarantee in a finished goods deal (i.e. they guaranteed to pay a fixed amount for a certain amount of units). Sales weren’t as good as hoped for, mainly due to poor reviews. Personally, I thought the game was a piece of @@@@ but that’s beside the point , and no, it’s not one of mine 😉
Since sales weren’t good, the publisher refused to pay the minimum guarantee. They claimed that the product wasn’t up to scratch (where I have to admit they really had a point), citing meta-critic reviews which averaged exactly 60%.
The developer (who for the sake of being complete was also a publisher) was surprisingly sharp, and ultimately managed to force the publisher to pay, under the following reasoning:
a) The publisher did the QA and approved the gold master for release, so they couldn’t claim they weren’t aware of what they were going to ship
b) The average meta-critic rating of all of the publisher’s games was under 60%, which hadn’t stopped them from being succesful, so what’s their problem ?
Now, in this particular case, I would actually have sided with the publisher, but in some cases, they really are to blame, especially when it comes to rushing a game to market, and in those cases, I don’t think they should have a case.
Also, it’s worth pointing out that in this case the publisher was trying not to pay anything, even if (I think) they actually managed to collect from the market the amount they promised as minimum guarantees as well as their publishing costs.
They just didn’t feel like paying, and thought they had a pretty good case. Greed after all, always deserves a chance.
Ceterum censeo malignos editores esse delendos