Hi all... I wanted to start a civilized debate on a subject that has bugged me for the longest time... Especially since the "Internet Era" officially begun (i.e ~2000)...
It is no surprise that back when the software industry was consolidating, there were no precedents on anything of the like, given a number of factors, and since it was rather new, particularly in the gaming area, part of the software industry adopted a well tested business model that up to that time had proven to be "just right", the music industry's model (which in its turn shaped its model from the "editorial" industry).
This business model has lingered until today, and essentially (or to the best of my understanding, which part of why I want to start this debate, to have some facts clear[er]) you have on one hand the developers, and on the other, the publishers.
There seems to be a handful of publishers, and a bunch of "studios" (developers), and here is where the analogy to the music industry apparently ends, as it is no secret that some publishers do own studios, and yet keep the "names" separated (for brand recognition, I'd imagine, or some such). At any rate the way I understand this is as follows:
The developers (the Studios) are the real artists behind a project, a game, engine, mods, addons and what goes with it: programming, technology, artistry, management, IT, etc. The publishers on the other hand, are the ones freeing the artists of hassles such: marketing, PR, support, delivery, storage, handling, feedback, etc; logistics to get the products to the hands of the consumer, in other words... for a fee of course (which seems to be a percentage of the total revenue or per unit, or whatever their contract stipulates).
What I DO NOT understand, is up to what point does the Publisher (without it owning the studio company) has the right to nix whether a studio wants to develop their game for a given platform or another. I'm not clear on this as it has been noted by more than one studio that they would have to consult with their Publisher whether or not they can develop a certain game for Linux, case in example being two prominent companies: Epic and BioWare, who had to ask for Atari's green-light before porting their games to Linux -- in the case of Epic, IIRC they basically stated that it would have to be unsupported and that if they could get it in time for the release, they'd be willing to include the installer in the official release, which was the case for both UT2K3 and UT2K4 -- Something similar happened with BioWare and Neverwinter Nights, though I believe development of the Linux version started after the game had been released for Windows.
I do know and understand that (just like in the case with the music industry), up to what point a publisher has any power over the studio is up to the contract they sign. What I do not understand is why game studios haven't migrated to an electronic, direct delivery of their products and "cut the middle man". Of course it wouldn't be an "easy" task, but at least it would give them direct control over their products. STEAM aimed to be such a "system" but in the end it simply turned itself into another middle man, different from your traditional one, and studios use for delivering their products. In the end it seems like we all are paying more than what it supposedly cut off prices. On one hand, there's STEAM distribution, and on the other, there's the traditional retail system... Maybe I'm not too good at math, but that sums up to two publishers, and two fees rather than just one, or am I completely crazy? Some one is going to have to pay for those fees, and it ain't going to be the studios, those costs are passed directly and without scales to the consumers, i.e us.
Of course there is another "angle" to this whole mess, and one I didn't touch on purpose: The console market. The studio-publisher binomial in this market is perfectly justified, as consoles still require physical media (for the most part, of course there's a whole on-line business to consoles that is being exploited) for the bulk of the titles, and the flagship titles. I guess it would be a mess for studios to have direct delivery for PC titles and physical delivery for console titles. So having a publisher, gets it done for both markets "simultaneously"... Or is it? Still many studio companies that do not develop for consoles still stick to the traditional publishing principle, is direct delivery so much of a hassle or is it that we're simply too comfortable with the status quo of things?