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Riot Games: Devs Can Get 'Terrible End' Of Publisher Deals

Riot Games, VC-funded creators of the DOTA-inspired free-to-play game League of Legends, have told Gamasutra that "publishers generally fund devel
Riot Games, creators of the DOTA-inspired free-to-play game League of Legends, said in a new Gamasutra feature interview how it feels publisher-developer deals aren't always in the dev's best interest. Riot Games founder Marc Merrill said there are other sources of funding that developers should look into outside of a traditional publishing deal -- as Riot has done in raising $8 million in venture capital for League Of Legends in its most recent funding round. "As part of going direct to consumers and owning a larger portion of the value chain, the economic equation can be vastly different than the traditional publisher developer model," he said. "Yes, publishers generally fund development, but the developers get a terrible end of the deal [in online contexts]. Developers really create all the value. Publishing is arguably a commodity where they say, 'Hey, I can market this game or do operations or customer service,' yet the splits from a revenue perspective don't necessarily match that." Merrill continued, "A lot of the developers that have created hit franchises but that don't own the IP, they don't necessarily do really well. That's something that helps drive developers to want to find additional ways of seeking funding and additional models that capture a larger percentage of the value chain." "If the only value publishers are adding to online games is funding, it's probably not worth giving up the lion's share of everything -- whether it's tech, tools, or IP -- and having them recoup all their costs and take that massive percentage of net or of gross. In good scenarios, it's just not worth it." Riot Games lead designer Shawn Carnes concurred. "Speaking as a designer, having been on sort of both sides of the fence -- working in a development house that's funded by the publisher and working in this [independent] environment -- I have to admit I really prefer doing my design work in this environment," he said. Carnes added, "I've seen far too many times, for better or for worse, the publisher exert pressure on the developer affecting both iteration and innovation when it comes to design. Here, because we have our own bankroll basically, we're able to execute what we feel is best for the product ourselves. If we're successful, that's great. If we fail, then it's our fault. " For more on Riot Games' League of Legends: Clash of Fates, the studio's thoughts on the free-to-play model, community-centric development and other topics, read the full Gamasutra feature interview, published today.

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