Michael Douse, director of publishing at Larian Studios, has opened about the current state of the games industry. He touched on topics such as mass layoffs, marketing, Steam vs. consoles, and Early Access.

Larian's Michael Douse on why "marketing is dying" as players want real conversations

Baldur’s Gate 3

Douse shared his thoughts in an interview with Game File. Below are the key takeaways from the conversation:

  • Marketing is dying” — traditional marketing channels such as X and Facebook are becoming less important, while communication and real conversations with an audience are driving engagement with a game;
  • Large companies are like oil tankers (“they’re very hard to steer”) — they can only operate on predictability, but it is difficult to predict anything in video games, so their inability to react quickly leads to layoffs;
  • Layoffs are “giant operational failures” or an “avoidable f*ck-up” — companies could have been less greedy and plan better, with Douse citing Swen Vincke’s GDC acceptance speech where he called on publishers to slow down and make reserves: “The only thing that matters are the numbers, and then you fire everybody and then next year you say ‘s**t I’m out of developers’ and then you start hiring people again, and then you do acquisitions, and then you put them in the same loop again, and it’s just broken”;
  • Steam allows you to make games for players, not for store shelves — if you make a really good game, there is an opportunity for success, while on consoles, you still have to operate within a retail-based pipeline (“[Steam] gives you opportunities and tools. It doesn’t take them away. It doesn’t really gate-keep that much”);
  • Niches don’t exist anymore” — experts and analysts still rely on predictability and basic data, judging games by genres, but Douse believes the industry “should start taking more bets” because a single person can’t decide what game will be successful (in that case, no one would have bet on Baldur’s Gate 3, the most expensive ever made);
  • Larian’s next game will also probably launch in Early Access — this model suits developers who are “interested in creating a really strong core gameplay loop and then building around that, to foster a strong community”;
  • Going public won’t make Larian’s games better — it might give the studio more money, but it “would be antithetical to the quality part of what we’re trying to do” and would just make the team rushed.

More insights into Larian’s nimble approach and the opportunities that arise for game developers in today’s market environment can be found in the full interview.

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