Brett Seyler of Kerosene criticizes perception of the inevitability of publisher’s roles shrinking due to the ease of self-publishing and the cost savings of internal development. Advocating the games industry’s need for a new type publisher, Brett Seyler believes the publishing industry will prosper in the future. “With the dominant business model shifting to Free-To-Play, the dynamics, skills, and tasks involved in publishing have changed dramatically,” Seyler shared. “The core idea of publishing, diversifying risk and cost across a portfolio, has not changed, but the way that is done has changed significantly.”
The result, according to Seyler, is an equally significant change in the working relationship between developer and publisher. Some companies have chosen to deal with this challenge by bringing development fully in house, rather than work with a new type of relationship. However, Seyler believes pulling all development in house is not the only path. “A new kind of publisher is needed, and the developer / publisher roles, rules and tools need to be discussed and defined for the benefit of everyone.”
Working across the value chain has been a key theme of Casual Connect, as also covered a lecture by Pascal Zuta yesterday.
Getting Started: A Love of Console Games
Unlike many game veterans, Brett Seyler did not play PC games in his early days as a gamer, preferring the simplicity and addictive nature of console games. Those he played to death, owning everything from an Atari 2600 to an Xbox 360 and all the boxes in between. He remembers gravitating to fighting games like Street Fighter 2, and Tekken 3, racing games like the original Gran Turismo, and control classics like Metroid and Metal Gear Solid thrown in the mix.
His path into the video game business was also unconventional – born and raised in Oregon, he headed to Colorado for his freshman university year to focus on mathematics. He later returned to Oregon, and completed his studies at the University of Oregon in applied mathematics while researching and developing securities models outside of school for local finance firms.
Great Technology For Better Games
Fate pulled him into games when he met GarageGames’ founders, got swept away in the entrepreneurial thrill, and was convinced to join GarageGames in 2007. Although at the time he knew little about game engines, he took on the game engine licensing business, and within a few months was fully running that portion of the business. While GarageGames had established a vibrant and broad-reaching game developer community, maintaining focus on the engine business was a challenge. “Game developers are always seeking better tools and improved workflows that offer more accessibility and rapid iteration,” Seyler shares. “If you’re in this space, you can never be content with what you’ve built, and you must have a detailed vision for what solutions will look like in the future–this can be incredibly hard in the fast-moving games industry.”
Seyler continued at GarageGames for three years as VP Business Development, as the company grew to 250 employees and was acquired by IAC (IACI), handling engine licensing, online and offline sales, developer support and community support. By this time he was well and truly hooked on the games biz, and followed up GarageGames with a move to San Francisco as VP of Strategy for Unity Technologies. At Unity one of the many projects he spearheaded was the move to support deployment to Flash. Crossing a rivalrous divide between the companies, he managed to create an engineering collaboration and partnership from what one would expect to be a major potential threat to Unity in Stage3D. The technical effort prevailed, and although Adobe shocked its developer ecosystem with a radical change in their licensing model initially, this change has since been reverted. Today, reaching an audience of nearly 1BN users in the browser with easy-to-author hardware accelerated 3D content is a reality, and Seyler’s work with Unity Technologies helped make this possible.
Helping Developers Succeed With Support
Now Seyler is aiming Kerosene at becoming a new kind of publishing company, hoping to help the developers create new kinds of gaming experiences and thrive in an increasingly competitive landscape. Seyler and his partners believe Kerosene is uniquely important in the games industry ecosystem because it is the only company providing full service third party publishing opportunities for developers in free-to-play gaming. Large publishers are abandoning third party publishing by bringing development inhouse. Kerosene means to fill the gap with promotion and marketing services, production and design consultation, analytics and design ops infrastructure and tools, and, most importantly, the expertise to use these services. By publishing only a few mid-core games each year and focusing on mobile platforms, Seyler is focusing on quality. Speaking from experience, Seyler believes “a strong rapport with partners which emphasize trust, collaboration and long term working relationships is key to success for everyone.”
For the future, Seyler sees opportunity in middleware and the support of the tricky post-launch phase. “Good tools, both for authoring and post-authoring , will be necessary for meeting the challenges of operating games as a service,” predicts Seyler. By 2015, Seyler believes we will see at least one mobile game with a $20 million+ development budget, and predicts that Nintendo, of all companies, will ship a Mario game on an Android device! Those are some wild predictions.