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The other day, I was reading this excellent GI Biz interview with Oddworld Inhabitants’ Lorne Lanning. As many of you know, I’m a big fan of Lanning and his company’s games. It was great hearing him talk about games after a hiatus from the business. It was awesome to hear that he appears to be stubborn as ever and that he’s still thinking about ways to empower videogame creators. Here’s a clip from the interview:
Rather than having to have 1.5 million units in the opening week or suffer death, now if we have 50,000 sales and we’re still in business. People are still employed and we’re able to keep making content. When we released box product we would get 20 percent of the revenue. After that 20 percent paid back the entire development budget, if it was still selling at $60 we would start seeing $7 a unit. Because of the bricks and mortar, the plastic, the manufacturing, the gas involved in taking games to the store, the store itself and all those extra costs — not one of those costs makes a better game for the player.
If you’re the gamer, where do you want the money of the game you’re buying to go? I want it going to help make more games. But the majority of that money is not going to games in the boxed product market.
The tone of Lanning’s comments reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t place my finger on it right away. The feeling I got from this interview was that this is a man that loves videogames and loves the creative process, but is fed up with the videogame business. Then it hit me. Lorne Lanning is just like comic-book scribe Alan Moore! Like Lanning, Moore loves the comic-book medium and the creative process, but has often been frustrated with the business of comics. Here’s a Moore quote from Bill Baker’s Alan Moore Spells it Out:
I love the comics medium. I pretty much detest the comics industry. Give it another 15 months, I’ll probably be pulling out of mainstream, commercial comics.
Although Moore is best known for his works published by DC Comics, he had numerous conflicts with the publishing giant and found more freedom with smaller, independent publishers. Similarly, Lanning has had numerous clashes with big videogame publishers. He believes that digital distribution will give him the creative freedom he wasn’t able to enjoy with Microsoft and EA.
Lanning and Moore are both supremely creative individuals that aren’t cut out to deal with the establishments in their respective businesses. They both recognize that the suits take advantage of the creatives and that there must be a better way. Through smaller publishers, Moore found a way that allowed him to make money and create freely. Hopefully digital distribution will enable Lanning and Oddworld Inhabitants to thrive once more. The videogame business would be better and more fun with a flourishing Oddworld Inhabitants.