Game Unionization

Every few years this topic comes up and I always have a hard time collecting my thoughts around it.  So rather than collect my thoughts I’ll just do a raw dump and see what it all comes out as:
Unionization to me is a scary topic.  Typically it happens in an environment where the workers are oppressed (gaming, check), there is an imbalance of reward (gaming, check) and they workers are easily replaced (gaming, no check).  What we are seeing is a further constriction of the console and PC gaming space.  When I started in the industry the top 200 titles a year made a decent return.  The market was smaller, but the costs were a lot lower as well.  In the last few years things have advanced very fast to the top 20-30 titles making money and the rest either breaking even or losing big.  The problem is due to a few issues:
  1. The crazy cost of development – When you have to roll $30 million into a game when you already have an engine, there isn’t a lot of room for failure
  2. The crazy cost ..  I did this already, but the freedom to innovate just got flushed down the toilet with the high cost.  VP’s of this and that don’t want to be the guy who get scapegoated and fired when a risky title tanks.  Much easier to make modern era shooter 12 and call it a day
  3. Casual games.  – Some people who used to play console and PC have given up and are just playing casual stuff.  A lot of potential new gamer blood hasn’t started on console and PC because they hit Facebook first.  I hope *.ville is the training wheels and pretty soon people will be ready for more, but the exploitative nature of these games makes me concerned we may lose potential customers as they exit gaming all together.
  4. Fat – Face it, Industries get fat over the years.  Some companies get fat, have a heart attack and just die.  Others get fat, and get into a treadmill of exploitation to survive.  Any company gains mass over the years as you add people and process.
Ok, so I’m way the hell off track here.
In my opinion, unions block the healthy cycle of creative people and replaces it with a widget fits slot methodology.  I think developers need to be better business people and we need to change the default funding model, not bring in unions.   Look at the budget of a triple A Hollywood title.  You bring unions and the overhead they bring to the gaming space and we’ll be hitting those budget levels in no time flat.  Which to me would kill any slight innovation remaining in the space.
-Trent
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