In the early years of the game industry, corporations were afraid to give programmers credit for their work to avoid quality programmers being poached by other companies, or demanding too much money for their skills. In 1979 a programmer named Warren Robinett snuck an “easter egg” (a secret that players can discover) into an Atari 2600 game he was assigned to. When the player carried a specific object to a specific location, a screen appeared with “created by Warren Robinett” on it.
Even back then, game developers were breaking corporate rules and trying to express their creative freedom.
In the 80s, free games were released in computer magazines as pages and pages of BASIC code that a customer would type for hours into his computer, compiling it to play the game. When programmers realized they could sell these games, many of them created games out of their basements and sold them by themselves, packaging and mailing the games by hand. In the early 90s, independent developers spread their games via Bulletin Board Systems, an early form of the Internet on a much more local level using phone lines connected to modems.
The seeds of digital distribution were slowly being sewn here.
In the late 90s, as games and their budgets became larger, publishers took over and getting a game onto store shelves, advertised and reviewed in gaming magazines, on TV, etc. required the help of a publisher which often cost a significant portion of the game’s profits…if a game didn’t sell, the developer would be financially crippled. Without a publisher however, a developer’s game would get no exposure.
Publishers became an unfortunate requirement instead of a valuable asset.
It’s now the late 2000s and digital distribution has taken over. The traditional publishing structure is becoming obsolete. Digital distribution cancels out the need for physical game boxes on store shelves, and the Internet allows us a ton of instant free marketing and easy access to free game reviews and promotion. Every new gaming platform that comes out will have Internet access, and with it, some form of digital App Store.
A new era has begun. From a certain perspective the game industry has actually come back around full-circle to it’s original “one programmer in a basement” roots, where a small team with good ideas and an overabundance of enthusiasm can become the next big success story.
Bulletproof Outlaws is a small independent game studio that’s pouncing on the opportunity to finally live out a dream!