When companies act against the interests of consumers, it makes sense for consumers to boycott those companies. The same is true when companies decide to take anti-developer positions. It only makes sense for developers to avoid those companies as partners, publishers and platforms.
Zenimax, the parent company of Bethesda (who make Fallout, Elder Scrolls, Dishonoured and more), has been engaged in a half billion dollar lawsuit with Facebook over the origins of the Oculus technology. There’s some details about it here, but suffice to say it’s all been ugly and unreasonable to date.
In the latest stage, Zenimax has sought an injunction as part of their ongoing lawsuit and in the process has gone from being simply a company that developers should avoid working with to actively acting against the interests of indie devs. That injunction would effectively shut down the Oculus store for the Rift and Gear VR. That would, in turn, deprive developers of the revenue they would expect from their VR titles.
The lengthy legal battle between Oculus and Zenimax just wrapped up. A Dallas, Texas jury has awarded half a billion dollars to Zenimax.
That, along with the way they’ve treated John Carmack during the litigation, is a strong signal that Zenimax does not care about developers or creatives in any way.
We have a Gear VR title currently in the Oculus store (Atop the Wizards Tower) so I’m not an objective observer in this case. Regardless we’re in no way dependant on those revenues to run our studio. In this fashion, we’re lucky. Many developers are not lucky in the same way, and many developers are 100% dependant on the revenue their titles raise in order to pay their staff and their bills.
For developers that have invested heavily in VR, Gear VR represents one of the best available platforms for actually getting content to the masses. Losing that avenue is a huge blow.
Zenimax is well known in the games industry for being litigious, but in this case they’re putting forward litigation which indicates they’re happy to attack and harm thousands of indie developers in order to try and hurt Facebook. No matter how this case ends, neither Facebook/Oculus or Bethesda/Zenimax will be changed substantially by the quantities of money involved. Indie developers will go out of business.
We (indie developers, solo developers, small studios, etc) have very little power when it comes to the actions of billion dollar businesses but the one thing we can do is refuse to deal with them. I don’t believe it is fair to destroy the businesses of small indies in order to attempt to make a point, especially when there are substantial other avenues available.
If Zenimax intends to treat indies with contempt, then I can only suggest we return the favour. I’m done with Bethesda games and with Bethesda as a company. I won’t be publishing with them in the future, and given the ways they’ve treated their talent, it’s hard to recommend anyone deal with them in any situation.
Look briefly at the situation with John Carmack — they bought iD software for $US100 million and they’ve tried to turn their ownership of that studio into half billion dollar lawsuit. Zenimax is a company that sees the people it works with as tools for litigation and exploitation. That’s an untenable relationship for any developer, and it’s also an untenable relationship for me as a consumer.
Anyone would be furious if they were on the wrong side of a $US500 million lawsuit. But while losing is bad enough, that's not as annoying as an expert witness who misrepresents the facts.
It’s a shame, I really want to play Prey. But I’d rather take a stand against the businesses that prey upon us, as developers and creators.
Morgan Jaffit is the founder of Defiant Development, makers of Hand of Fate and the upcoming Hand of Fate 2. This story was reproduced from Medium with Morgan's blessing.