It was the late 1970s when a group of developers dissatisfied with the salary reserved for them by the then all-powerful Atari he decided to leave the company to form another one dedicated only to video game development. Activision was founded in 1979 by David Crane, Alan Miller, Bob Whitehead, Larry Kaplan and Jim Levy, a group of young creative geniuses who immediately started doing what they did best: great video games for Atari VCS.
Atari didn’t take it well and decided to sue Activision. The result was one of the most important legal disputes in the history of video games, which established the freedom for Activision, and therefore for all third parties, to publish their works on the Atari console in total autonomy. The result was greater freedom for everyone, but also a saturation of the market that led to the collapse of 1983 in the USA. After that billionaire crash, the shops where video games were traditionally sold no longer wanted to buy them and many producers born in the wake of the Atari’s success they withdrew from the market, vanishing into thin air. That was when it came Nintendo.
Usually the intervention of Mario’s house is hailed as essentially salvific. This is largely true: Nintendo re-established the market by repositioning video games as products for children so they could be sold in toy stores, and implemented a series of policies that prevented the causes of the 1983 crash from re-manifesting. Of course, the story also has a ‘other side of the coin, less told but still important: the above policies were so restrictive and so favorable to Nintendo, that they caused many stomach aches in the industry, creating quarrels that remained historic, such as the one with Trip Hawkins, the then head of Electronic Arts, who wanted more freedom in publishing games.
Nintendo’s solution to the problems of the video game market was clear, but decidedly disadvantageous for third parties, who had to overcome immense limits. Each publisher could in fact publish a maximum of five games a year for the NES and to produce the cartridges had to turn to Nintendo itself, buying a certain amount from its factories. In fact, the Japanese company controlled the entire supply chain, making a lot of money before the games even hit the market. The essence is that to publish on his platform you had to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars per game, then still give 30% on sales to Nintendo, which moreover did very little to promote games that weren’t his own.
Today the situation has improved a lot. Over the years the console market has opened up, devkits have become much cheaper to obtain and, theoretically, a developer can be able to publish his game on Ps Store, eShop or Microsoft Store with very low costs, in some cases just null and void. The royalties on sales remain, but between Epic Games Store and Microsoft Store, something is also moving from that point of view. Honestly, therefore, we do not understand the amazement in learning that Sony, but certainly also Microsoft and Nintendo, charge large amounts to get the privileged slots of their stores. Why shouldn’t that be the case? Exposure in physical stores, especially in large chains, has always been the subject of commercial agreements and sponsorships, because consumers are known to be idiotic monkeys who tend to buy more willingly what they find in front of their eyes. Why would digital stores give up on these deals? We do not understand why we are constantly looking for goodness and altruism where there is only business and we fall out of the clouds every time when companies do companies. Could the problem be those who continue to tell this world with an all too romantic vein, without considering its real dynamics? Do you really believe that there is the good multinational and the bad one?