Head of the Larian publishing department: traditional game marketing is dying, mass layoffs could have been avoided, Larian is unlikely to enter the stock exchange

Journalist Stephen Totilo from Game File spoke with Michael Douse, head of the publishing department at Larian Studios, about the current state of the gaming industry. We chose the main thing from the interview.

Baldur’s Gate 3

  • Dawes does not agree that the gaming industry is heading for collapse. He sees many opportunities for developers, but believes that traditional marketing is dying. Standard promotion tools like showing ads for games on social networks do not work as well as before. It is much more important to have a dialogue with the audience now.
  • "People want to communicate. They don't want to be passive observers. They want to participate," Daus said.
  • According to Daus, Larian Studios was not particularly involved in marketing for Baldur's Gate 3. Even the sensational bear scene was not a marketing ploy — for Larian Studios it was part of communication. With this scene, the studio tried to show to what extremes novels in the game can go.
  • Hyper-engagement of the audience will always work well for PC games, the expert is sure. Everything is more difficult on consoles, in particular, due to the popularity of game services on consoles.
  • Daus believes that large gaming companies are as clumsy as oil tankers. They cannot adapt to changes quickly. Eventually, their slowness and greed led to mass layoffs.
  • Daus noted that sometimes it is impossible to keep all employees, and single layoffs are normal. But mass layoffs are "a fact that could have been avoided." Many companies have fired people simply because others have done so. They thought, "Well, finally. Now we can, too. We've wanted this for a long time. Everyone gets fired, so why don't we do the same?"
  • Dawes acknowledges that the industry has faced many challenges that have pushed companies to layoffs. In particular, with the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation. But he claims that not a single large company that cut people was on the verge of bankruptcy.
  • "They only risked angering shareholders. And that's okay. That's how they work. The task of a public company is to demonstrate growth to shareholders, and not to create a happy climate for employees," explained Daus.
  • Dawes doubts that Larian Studios will become a public company. Although going public would have made the studio money, it would not have made its games better. Larian Studios would have to work faster to please shareholders, and this would not benefit its projects.
  • Daus called Steam the main platform in terms of innovation. Although the store has enough disadvantages, for example, it has huge problems with the visibility of games, it offers developers many tools and features.
  •  If you make a really good game now, you will have a chance to succeed, the specialist pointed out. It wasn't like that before. In the past, studios made games primarily for retail stores, not for players. Therefore, then it was not necessary to create a good game, it was enough to have the infrastructure to sell it.
  • However, little has changed on consoles. Developers still cannot independently publish games in console stores, and platform holders use methods adopted in retail. For example, Xbox has a team that estimates the possible cost of projects and income from them.
  • Daus also said that in the gaming industry, many exaggerate the importance of genres, although this approach is outdated. Baldur's Gate 3 has become a success, despite the fact that many are skeptical about the cRPG. As another example, Daus cited Palworld, the authors of which did not bother with the genre, but took a bunch of mechanics that people like. It was a similar story with Balatro. "This is crazy. There are no more niches," Daus said.
  • "The success of a game is determined by how popular it is in society. One person cannot decide whether it will be successful or not. And it's great. It's fucking great," Daus summed up.

A source:

Game File
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