In a new interview on GamesIndustry.biz, Larian Studios' Swen Vincke covers a wide variety of topics related to his company and the industry as a whole, including the power of digital distribution, why he continues to feel that developers are at a disadvantage to publishers, the impressive sales numbers they've enjoyed with Divinity II, and much more. The interview requires registration, so I'll try to quote the most relevant parts:
Q: And that 10-point Metacritic difference has an impact on sales, then?
Swen Vinke: For sure. I mean, we did good sales, so we're pretty happy - otherwise we wouldn't have been able to do all this. On Steam we were number one several times, we outsold Dragon Age 2 in Russia, for instance. But I think if we'd done just Dragon Knight Saga and not Ego Draconis first, we would have had a much, much better release from day one.
In the UK and the US people expect much more polish than in other territories. Our intention was to put all the polish there, but when you have to force release it you get a situation where you are unhappy, actually, you're frustrated because you've been working on something for so many years, and you don't get the satisfaction of finishing the job.
Q: As come-backs go, that's pretty good. How are you funding Dragon Commander?
Swen Vinke: Larian has always made other games also, which are not as well known. Like in the UK we made games for the BBC and CBBC - we have properties with different broadcasters in different territories. We also have a great series of educational games called Monkey Tales, which is coming to the UK soon. We won the MEDEA award for the best educational product of the year. That all earns us money.
And since we were co-publishing on our previous games that meant we had revenue-share deals, which means we weren't depending on advance-versus-royalty deals. So we actually see money from our sales, which is very important.
Thirdly, for the publishing unit, we used investment money from VCs, so we don't have any venture capital inside the company, but for each project we set up a different company in which VCs fund part of it.
Q: There's a lot of talk around the next generation of consoles at the moment, but I'm less interested in hardware than I am in how the platform-holders will respond to the business needs of developers. So they can make a free-to-play game, or a polished RPG that sells at £25. Do you think Sony and Microsoft are thinking about that when it comes to the new hardware?
Swen Vinke: I think that if they don't, they're dead. Simply, they don't stand a chance of survival if they can't adapt as fast as the other platforms can. Imagine the moment where you have an iPad streaming to your TV and it's as powerful as a console. What's the USP of an actual console at that point? If you think of OnLive, and they solve all of their logistical problems, why do I need a console?
If I was a console manufacturer, and luckily I'm not, I would be asking myself a lot of questions of what I'm doing now, with the market still being so heavily controlled, and asking if that's really such a good idea. If you put the console growth curve next to the growth curve of what's happening at Mac, for instance, I know which side of the battle I want to be.