Adult Swim Games to delist 16 titles, causing trouble for developers - The UpStream

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Adult Swim Games to delist 16 titles, causing trouble for developers

posted Saturday Mar 16, 2024 by Scott Ertz

The reality of the modern gaming industry is one of constant change with ups and downs. Many of those downs come about when a game, which many people poured their hearts and souls into while designing, developing, and playing, is shut down. Everyone in that chain is affected in some way - some more than others. This week, developers and players alike were left disappointed to discover that Adult Swim Games, under the leadership of Warner Bros. Discovery, was planning to delist 16 games from marketplaces in the coming weeks.

The problem with modern gaming

One of the biggest problems with modern gaming comes about because of digital distribution. Digital distribution of games, while convenient and efficient, does come with its own set of challenges. One of the primary issues is the lack of ownership rights. Once you purchase a game, you essentially acquire a license to play it rather than owning the game outright. This means the distributor can potentially revoke access or shut down servers, rendering the game unplayable.

In addition, the shutdown of connected games, particularly those that rely on online servers, poses a significant problem for players. When these games are discontinued, players lose access to the game entirely, regardless of how much time or money they've invested into it. This is especially problematic for games with a strong multiplayer component or those that are entirely online-based.

Additionally, the shutdown often means the loss of community and social connections that players have built within the game. It can also lead to the loss of unique in-game items or achievements that players have earned over time.

When a publisher discontinues a game, it can pose several challenges for the developers. Most notably, developers often invest significant time and resources into creating and maintaining these games, and a discontinuation can mean that this effort goes unrewarded. It can also be demoralizing for the development team to see their work discontinued, potentially impacting morale and productivity. Additionally, the discontinuation can damage the reputation of the developers, making it harder for them to attract players to their future games. Additionally, it can lead to a loss of community trust, especially if the game has a dedicated player base who feel let down by the discontinuation. Lastly, it can also cause distrust between the developer and the publisher for future titles.

Warner Bros. Discovery breaks the trust

Many, if not all, of the problems above have been surfaced by the latest move from Adult Swim Games. The company, which is a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Discovery, has contact developers of at least 16 titles to inform them that their games will be delisted from digital marketplaces. While this is not a unique situation, it is unfortunate. And, for some, it creates some new and challenging dilemmas.

Some of the games will be delisted and retired from public life entirely because the rights to the games themselves are owned by Adult Swim Games. This means that the games are gone and potentially lost to history. For others, the rights will revert back to the developers. However, it won't be easy to decide what to do next because, while the games might revert, the game listings will not. This means that, if the developers want to keep the games online, they will have to relist them in the stores.

This might not sound like a big deal, but think about what will be lost. Matt Kain, developer of Fist Puncher for Adult Swim Games, said in a comment on an article,

I'm one of the creators and developers of Fist Puncher which was also published by Adult Swim on Steam. We received the same notice from Warner Bros. that Fist Puncher would be retired. When we requested that Warner Bros simply transfer the game over to our studio's Steam publisher account so that the game could stay active, they said no. The transfer process literally takes a minute to initiate (look up "Transferring Applications" in the Steamworks documentation), but their rep claimed they have simply made the universal decision not to transfer the games to the original creators.

This is incredibly disappointing. It makes me sad to think that purchased games will presumably be removed from users' libraries. Our community and our players have 10+ years of discussions, screenshots, gameplay footage, leaderboards, player progress, unlocked characters, Steam achievements, Steam cards, etc. which will all be lost. We have Kickstarter backers who helped fund Fist Puncher (even some who have cameo appearances in the game) who will eventually no longer be able to play it. We could just rerelease Fist Puncher from our account, but we would likely receive significant backlash for relaunching a game and forcing users to "double dip" and purchase the game again (unless we just made it free).

Again, this is really just disappointing. It seems like more and more the videogame industry is filled with people that don't like and don't care about videogames. All that to say, buy physical games, make back-ups, help preserve our awesome industry and art form.

When the game is delisted, if ownership is not transferred, that is a lot of data and a lot of history being lost, both for the community and the developer. It's a disappointment to many, but it is one of the unfortunate side effects of working with a third-party publisher. You give up a lot of autonomy and ownership over your work in order to get more exposure and distribution. But, if the developers can leverage things right, they can take the notoriety and repair the situation for their next endeavor.


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