Not that I would ever be narcissistic enough to sit around and read my own press, BUT last night while I was reading up on my favorite brewchef, I accidentally stumbled upon a headline that said, roughly, “Tim Schafer Says you Shouldn’t Worry Your Pretty Little Head About Sales.”
And I was like, man, that brewchef sounds a little patronizing. But I also realized that some people might think that post was about me! So just to be safe I thought I would clarify my position on the matter.
I think games sales matter a lot. I just think that the people who should worry about sales are the people who have vested financial interest in a game. If your money or livelihood is dependent on a game, then you should concern yourself with its sales. But if it isn’t, then you should try to relax and just enjoy playing them.
“But,” you say, “If people don’t buy the game I love, then there won’t be any more games like it!”
I’m saying that’s just not true. You’re not hoping for some game that’s superficially like the one you just played, right? What you want is another great game. If a game is a huge hit, yes, there will be a lot of imitators. And those imitators will get green-lit quickly. But those kinds of games are rarely great. So who cares? Who wants that? Great games don’t come from that sort of imitation. They come from people working on an idea they care about.
Another thing that brewchef must have said was that all you have to do is make a cool game. What I hope I would have said is that as long as you make a GREAT game, people will want to talk to you. That doesn’t mean people will automatically want to publish you. Just that they’ll talk to you.
Around 1992, I felt like SCUMM games were getting the short end of the stick at LucasArts in many ways. Management didn’t seem to like them, and in fact seemed to want to sweep them out the door. So I went into the General Manager’s office in my flannel shirt and Eddie Vedder hair and I asked him, “Are you trying to shut down SCUMM games?”
He was surprised enough to put down the tiny kitten he was strangling and look me in the eyes. “Listen,” he said, “As long as there are people at this company who want to make SCUMM games, we’ll make them.”
I was totally surprised, and a little suspicious. Could it really be up to the developers to pick what games get made? Do they really have that much power? I think the Sam and Max 2 team might take issue with what he was saying. But then again, getting cancelled didn’t stop that team. They left to start their own company and made their game in the end. So I think a more true version of that statement would be, “As long as there are people who want to make that kind of game, that kind of game will be made.”
And that’s why, unless it’s your money on the line, game sales don’t need to keep you up at night. The market and game executives do not dictate what games get made—They just dictate what gets made easily. They affect what can be made without a fight. As long as there are creative people out there willing to fight for ideas they care about, then there is nothing that the market or anyone else can do to stop them.
Now please enjoy my recipe for North Carolina Style Pulled Pork.