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Does Triple Town’s capitulation to Playdom mark the end of an Era?

By on January 17, 2012
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Last week, David Edery, CEO of Spry Fox, announced that the independent developers behind Triple Town had signed up with Playdom as their publisher.


David set out the reasons why in a blog post:

  • Managing the technology of scaling is hard
  • Marketing is getting very expensive
  • We want to make games, not be sales/marketing/operational experts
  • Playdom offered a range of analytics and metrics tools
  • Playdom loved the game

While I fully understand Spry Fox’s reasons, it makes me sad. I think that this marks the end of an era. While I believe that self-publishing remains a viable strategy for independent developers, Spry Fox’s decision is an indicator that the golden opportunity for indies is passing.

We have a road map for what happens next. It happened from the early days of 8-bit computers to the current days of blockbuster titles taking $1 billion at retail. Smart indies decide to outsource sales/marketing/distribution to publishers. Publishers secure the relationships with customers and distribution channels, raise the finance and take the majority of the financial return. Over time, they become progressively more risk-averse, driving costs up but innovation down and creating endless clones of genres that are proven to work.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The web has changed the power relationship between creators and publishers permanently. Creators can build their own tribes of fans and control their own destiny.

I don’t blame David and Dan at Spry Fox. I think they have made a sensible financial decision. I think they will do very well out of being one of the early studios to take this decision.

But the capitulation by the makers of one of my favourite games of 2011 to publisher economics, while rational, is depressing.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve:
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  • GUest

    I can’t help but wonder how much of a benefit the relationship has been for Spryfox. Playdom’s game page doesn’t even MENTION Triple Town!

  • I think there’s a middle model between DIY and publisher and am busy trying to prove it at the moment – specialist marketing agencies that developers can outsource this work to but which don’t act as the publisher. Developer stays in control, their brand is at the forefront but the agency brings the scale, expertise and tools that come with managing lots of games.

    I’m not 100% sure it would apply as well to facebook games, given the importance of moving players between a portfolio of games, but so far I’m getting a very strong response from mobile developers right now and I’m pretty sure it can apply work wherever the developer is able to fund the production of the game.

  • Kantzler

    There is always some era’s ending. And thats why SpryFox does not crying but instead makes things. 

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  • True. I like the idea of developers outsourcing to publishers.

    I also fear that we are seeing the end of era – although I also this “end” leading to games making more money, being more professionally marketed and so on.

    So I am feeling wistful, rather than depressed.

  • Sik

    Let’s be fair, there will always be some developers that want to outsource that kind of stuff, either to get overhead away from them or because they don’t have the required resources or skills (and there will be always developers that don’t want to do it). Though it’d be nice to have this outsourcing decentralized whenever possible so as to not give those third parties too much power (which is what happened with publishers).

    Personally I think it’s better to choose what to do in a per-case basis. Sometimes it may be a good idea to outsource some of that, sometimes it may be better to keep everything in-house. This is especially true if having different business models would suit better for each of your games.