Wasteland 2 Dev: Working for Publishers is Like “Slave Labor”

Wasteland 2’s Brian Fargo believes that the dynamic between publishers and developers becomes too strained when large amounts of money are involved.

These comments came to light in a recent Q&A session where Fargo discussed his experiences making games and how he feels that crowdfunding could alter the current dynamic of the industry for the better.

“When things cost $300,000 – $400,000, there was a more healthy relationship, I think, between developers and publishers,” said Fargo. “When things went up and games started costing $50 or $100 million, people got crazy. Now it’s a very intense atmosphere, and life’s too short for that.”

Fargo would go on to say that working for a publisher can become “like slave labor” with developers working in an almost paycheck to paycheck manner as they try to reach milestones and benefit from the attached payoffs.

“Someone might give you $20 – $30 million to make your game, but good luck recouping that. It becomes like slave labor, and you don’t even own the intellectual property so you’re just grinding out until the next milestone. You don’t even get the big payoff — there are lots more indies that get big payoffs these days.”

In turn, Fargo described his experience with crowdfunding (Wasteland received almost $3 million on Kickstarter) being much more positive.

“Doing it this way just creates a healthier and more positive environment. There is no trust in a publisher contract, and this business is about trust,” he said. “A publishing contract has all these horrors if you’re late or you don’t make your milestones — they can take the work away from you, they can sue you…there’s a real lack of trust.”

Fargo’s comments would likely ring true for others in the game industry who have reaped the benefits of crowdfunding. Chris Roberts’ Star Citizen, for instance, has raked in tens of millions of dollars from generous fans. Countless other projects have likewise been given life by crowd funding.

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