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Games industry pioneer Mark Jacobs: small studios "have it much easier" now

Published: 15:43, 12 September 2020
Camelot Unchained

Creator of groundbreaking Realm vs Realm MMO Dark Age of Camelot Mark Jacobs says smaller studios get a much better deal than they did 20 years ago when "everyone" took a cut of their earnings.

Smash hit titles in the past few years have seen some smaller game developers hit the big time really fast, with established industry players forced to catch up with a newly created genre, emulate new thinking or even just have to buy the upstart teams out.

AltChar recently spoke to industry veteran Mark Jacobs, pioneer of MMO "Realm vs Realm" mass PvP in Dark Age of Camelot and former CEO of Mythic Entertainment, which was of course itself eventually acquired by EA., with Jacobs exiting EA himself in 2009. 

He's been working for the past seven years on Camelot Unchained , a project designed to bring the experience of truly large scale PvP to a new generation of gamers.

Game developer Mark Jacobs Camelot Unchained: Mark Jacobs

Jacobs didn't hold back when asked to compare the gaming market from 20 years ago with the current situation, telling AltChar that smaller developers and studios have it better in many ways then he did when starting out and in the only place that really counts when you're trying to run a games business - money.

AC: What's the biggest difference in gaming between 1999 (when work on Dark Age of Camelot started) and now?

MJ: Distribution and money. Back in those days you would only get a small piece of the [financial] action. So that if you were selling a game for $40, the distributor took its cut, stores took their cut, big time. The publisher took a big cut. And so you, as the developer, were left with a piece of a piece of a piece of a piece. I mean, it wasn't like it was zero. But it wasn't the majority. And now, when you're selling it yourself, whether you're on the Epic store, or on Steam or no matter where you sell your game, you keep the majority. You know you don't see this talked about enough in interviews, when people talk about how game prices need to be higher, because games have gotten so much more expensive to make. Now that's true, games have gotten way more expensive to produce. But the difference for developers is that we have never been able to keep as much of the pie as we are now. And that's a really big deal. It's one reason why a bunch of smaller developers who get a hit, are all of a sudden doing really, really well. Back in the old days they would have again gotten a piece of a piece of a piece of a piece.

To read more about Jacob's latest project, why he thinks Star Citizen needs to succeed and the challenges of creating your own game engine from scratch, read here.

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