Consultant and experienced developer Rami Ismail has shared his thoughts on the state of the games industry, while expressing some fears and concerns. He tried to outline the issues of the existing system where funding decides what gets made.

Rami Ismail on the vicious circle of game funding: "BG3 will lead to fewer funded games in the genre"

Baldur’s Gate 3

Last week, Ismail wrote a thread about the state of the games industry after a brief conversation with IGN director of video content strategy Destin Legarie.

They had a bit of an argument about whether the market is going too far in one direction with all those microtransactions and $20 skins, and whether developers struggling to get funding could succeed in a system where players vote for titles like Genshin Impact with their wallets.

Legarie tried to say that there are still plenty of opportunities for people to start making games by “installing Unreal” or using platforms like Kickstarter. However, Ismail argued that this is not how things work in the industry.

On the one hand, people can really “install something” and make a game. On the other hand, they are usually small projects created by “solo devs in spare time that overwhelmingly aren’t made for money.”

Ismail noted that aspiring developers have to compete with $2 million indie games and $250 million AAA titles because that’s what the audience buys these days. So to enter the market with a commercial project, they must seek funding.

This creates the vicious circle where “the stuff that does get funded raises the bar, requiring more funding.” It has gotten much harder for just two creative people to make an indie game — they will most likely need a publisher, a grant, or any other source of funding. According to Ismail, he saw plenty of devs fail to get funded because they couldn’t prove that their game would recoup investment.

People may think that when a certain game becomes a huge success, it opens up new opportunities for developers of other games in that genre. But Ismail believes that, say, Baldur’s Gate 3, which is now taking the charts by storm, won’t lead to better CRPGs and won’t convince publishers to support devs who want to create their own dream game in this niche.

“It’ll lead to fewer funded games in the genre because the bar is up now & who’d fund a game less good & beloved than BG3? The risk is up again,” he said.

“We’re literally stuck in a system where funding decides what gets made, everything that’s successful tightens the noose, and everything that’s unsuccessful is used as proof that we shouldn’t make more like it,” Ismail noted.

He added that the current state of the industry is determined by market realities, including what players expect from modern titles and what they spend their money on. This results in a system where developers “need absurd amounts of money to make even an indie game.”

According to Ismail, it is also one of the reasons behind consolidation, with even top publishers like Activison Blizzard deciding to merge with even bigger corporations to “compete with the Googles & Tencents & NetEases & Apples of this world.”

Ismail noted that with indie games taking two years to make and production of AAA titles taking five years, we won’t see today’s effects until 2028, “until the whole thing implodes on itself or the F2P model collapses or the money people have a Christmas miracle & decide they care more about smiles than money.”

In this reality, developers have two options: give up on the medium they love or try their best to succeed within the existing system. According to Ismail, although devs are aware of all the issues, they can’t fix them. “We can’t replicate a Larian because to do that you need a time machine & start in a saner time,” he concluded.

Rami Ismail is best known as the co-founder of now-closed studio Vlambeer (Ridiculous Fishing, Nuclear Throne). He is also an outspoken industry ambassador, speaker, and the creator of presskit(), a free solution for creating game press kits.

Got a story you'd like to share? Reach us at [email protected]