Costikyan and Wilson's new venture

Tired of just complaining about the games industry, Greg Costikyan has joined with Johnny Wilson to provide an avenue for independent games to see the light of day.

It is appropriately named “Manifesto Games.”


I thought this was a great idea in 1998 when Mike Wilson and co. formed gathering of developers. Sadly it didn’t work out so well for them.

Great idea, but the website is embarassing.

Hiring a web designer would have helped send a better message.

They said at that it’s a placeholder website, and they are actively on the prowl for real web app devs/designers.

Oh come on… Costikyan has mostly made paper games and Wilson has never made any games at all. What’s this supposed to accomplish, other than an ego trip for the two figureheads?

Well, they are focusing on the publishing, publicity and distribution end instead of development so their meager computer game making resume isn’t as much of an impediment as it could be.

I’m not saying it is going to work, but at least Costikyan is doing something about it instead of just writing more screeds against the industry as he sees it.

Re Gathering of Developers, I think they should have used more strippers.


Gaming needs an indy label

No…no it doesn’t.

Well, gaming already has a couple of indie labels, including my own publisher, Shrapnel Games.

Having more would only be a good thing, though, and I look forward to that day.

I’m not sure why you have such negativity. Care to share your wisdom with us, or are you just being pointlessly contrary?

None of the current indie labels get it. Shrapnel is still selling a box.

TG.Net changed its terms, and never really had many titles. Not sure what happenned there.

Hopefully Manifesto flies. I’ve pitched and designed this product in the past and I’ve offered him whatever help I can give him.

It’s funny that Sparky says we don’t need a good indie label. I guess she expects to get picked up by EA.

It’s funny that Sparky says we don’t need a good indie label. I guess she expects to get picked up by EA.

I don’t need a label at all, thanks. Why do you think all developers need external publishers?

They don’t all need it, but improved marketing and distribution are real benefits of a good publisher.

Yeah, but that’s actually in the process of changing, and they sell some titles as download only.

Their choice is better informed than you’d think. I’ve talked it over an awful lot with them (with me pushing downloads), and they come back saying that it’s bitten them in the ass every time they’ve tried. They’ve thrown stats and reasons at me that do, actually make sense.

That said, I think their real position is that downloads generally don’t make sense quite yet. Richard Arnesson at Shrapnel has said publicly that they’re working on new download solutions. He hasn’t given a firm ETA, but I’m guessing they’ll have something running in 6 months or so.

Downloads have a huge number of drawbacks now, regardless of who’s offering them, because of issues like re-downloads, piracy, bandwidth, perception of quality, ability to get major-press reviews, etc. WildTangent gets credit for doing a remarkably good job with Fate on most of those fronts.

If it were really so easy and so right to do downloads for non-casual games, more places would be doing it…

(Edit: Added Fate reference)

Because few indie devs make their money back without a publisher, or at least a major distributor (who in many ways acts as a publisher.)

And the publisher may take enough of a cut that you still won’t make your money back.

The ideal indie scenario is to self-publish, collect all of the revenue from those who are superduper interested in your game, then find retail or distribution partners to expand its potential reach.

FWIW, when I ran the numbers, working with the publisher I chose was by far the best option for me. The vast majority of indie projects lose money when they try to go alone, and retail is completely out of reach for most indie devs. (Unless they’re unusually high-budget and high-quality.)

Online distributors could end up being a saving grace, but there’s really not too many of them. And honestly, there isn’t that much difference between online distributors and indie publishers. They’re much closer shades of gray than when you’re talking about major titles where the AAA publishers pay advances and spend millions on marketing.

Looks pretty much the same as gathering of developers to me.

When gathering started they had several real dev houses signed, a bunch others showing cautious interest, millions in funding, millions of their own money invested, and wilson evangelizing their pie in the sky philosophy for every piddlyshit gaming website out there, and there were a lot in 1998.

Oh, and they had max payne too.

Absolutely. If you want to be in a box on major store shelves – which not everyone does. And what indie publishers have the talent, connections and experience to really provide those benefits? Hell, a lot of big publishers do some really crappy marketing and distibution (see Psychonauts). I’m not saying these indie labels don’t have the best of intentions – I’m sure they do. But if you’re going to ask little developers to hand over a chunk of their measly profits, you’ve gotta provide a lot more than good intentions.

And wow, I’ve never seen Johnny Wilson without a beard before.

He didn’t have one in Ultima Online.

I suspect a few of you will know what I’m talking about. :)

I know, that was freaking me out. I fixed him up, though:

Whew, that’s better.