Halo Creator Speaks on Independent Development, Prostitution Business Model

By Chris Faylor, Oct 11, 2007 7:19am PDT Speaking on the current climate of independent game development during his IndieGamesCon keynote address this year, accomplished industry veteran Alex Seropian (pictured left), who helped found Bungie and created Halo before leaving the studio to form Wideload Games, expressed his belief that now is the best time to be involved in the field and that the best business model for indie devs is akin to prostitution.

"I've been making games for about 16 years now...I would say that right now is absolutely the greatest time, ever, for being a game developer and making a game because of all the opportunities out there," he revealed. "There's this crazy upside right now. Everybody wants games, everybody wants new games. Our market is growing."

Digital distribution services such as GarageGames' web-based InstantAction platform, which Wideload just announced its first game for, and Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade play a key role in Seropian's optimistic stance. "You can sell games to a customer without a retail store," he noted. "That is a huge shift in the market. Ten years ago this was an idea...but I think Xbox Live Arcade has done such a great service to developers...just the fact that they've proven you can make money without retail in the games business is such a huge change.

"The potential for how successful a video game property can be is enormous," Seropian continued. Using the continuing success of The Sims as an example, he explained that technical and graphical prowess aren't nearly as important as having a good concept behind the game.

While Seropian and his company do not have an aversion to working with publishers--"We don't mind sucking at the teat of the publisher," he jested, "but we just want to have other food sources too. We don't want to starve when it dries up."--he lamented the heavy publisher resistance the studio encountered during attempts to bring Stubbs the Zombie (PC, Xbox) to the market. Though the subject of zombies proved successful, publishers failed to see the appeal in actually playing as a zombie. "What if instead of you being a zombie," Wideload was told, "you were a big giant dude with guns who killed the zombies.

"The moral of the story is indie game developers are guys who let you be a zombie," Seropian concluded from the experience. "So if you want to kill the zombies, you're probably a publisher. If you want to be a zombie, you're one of us. That's what I think an independent developer is."

The creator of Halo also stressed the long-term importance of creating as many original ideas as possible and retaining the intellectual property rights to those games. "If you can own your intellectual property, that's awesome," he said. "The only other business I can think of where you can sell something and still own it is prostitution. So we're in good company."

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