Thanks to our sponsors

Indy Gaming: Why Publishers Must Evolve or Die

#sxsw #indygame

The video game business is currently undergoing an upheaval similar to the one that shook the movie business in the 1970s. Enabled by new technologies and new platforms, independently produced and distributed games are no longer just a sideshow to the main attraction coming from the incumbent console publishers; rather, these indy games are competing directly and successfully with mainstream games for audience and dollars, and they are putting tremendous pressure on the incumbent publishers to evolve or die. This session will examine the rise of the new independent game paradigm and focus on the central problem facing the business: what is the nature of publishing in a highly-distributed, low-friction online gaming world?




Ben Cousins is a games industry veteran with more than 13 years of experience and in 2013 he started developing his ninth free-to-play game. At DeNA’s Stockholm-based Scattered Entertainment studio he is leading a team developing freemium mobile games aimed at core console and PC gamers. Most recently, he oversaw the development of the highly anticipated free-to-play mobile first person shooter The Drowning, a console-quality experience custom built for mobile devices that features intense action, high-definition graphics, a unique storyline, and an intuitive control scheme. Prior to joining DeNA, Ben was General Manager of Easy, an Electronic Arts studio overseeing a portfolio of free-to-play PC games including the groundbreaking BATTLEFIELD HEROES.

Currently, Ben is the GM of DeNA’s Scattered Entertainment studio and head of DeNA’s European studio operations.

Jenova Chen Founder thatgamecompany

a.k.a. Xinghan Chen or 陈星汉

is the visionary designer of the award-winning games Cloud, Flow, Flower, and most recently Journey. After earning a bachelor's degree for computer science in his hometown of Shanghai, Chen moved to Los Angeles, where he got a master's degree in the founding class of University of Southern California's Interactive Media Division. Following school, he founded thatgamecompany with fellow graduates, where he remains its Founder and Creative Director.

thatgamecompany’s titles have garnered a multitude of honors over the years. Flower was awarded the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) for Artistic Achievement, was named the Best Downloadable Game of the Year at the Game Developers Choice Awards as well as Best Independent Game at the Spike TV Video Game awards among many others. Their most recent title Journey, launched in March 2012, has achieved vast critical acclaim. To date it has the highest historical aggregate rating on Metacritic of any exclusive PlayStation Network title and had Entertainment Weekly call the game “A glorious, thoughtful, moving masterpiece”.

Personally, Jenova was named one of Variety’s 10 Innovators to Watch in 2008, was selected as one of the Most Creative Entrepreneurs in Business in both 2009 and 2010 by Fast Company and was given the prestigious honor of being named to the MIT Technology Review Magazine’s TR35 list, naming the World’s Top Innovators under the Age of 35 in 2008.

Mitch Lasky General Partner Benchmark

Mitch Lasky has spent more than two decades in the mobile gaming, new media and interactive entertainment business. Prior to joining Benchmark, Mitch served as executive vice president of Mobile and Online at Electronic Arts. Previously, he was chairman and chief executive officer of JAMDAT Mobile, Inc (NASDAQ: JMDT), the leading global publisher of wireless entertainment applications, which he joined as a startup in 2000, took public in 2004, and sold to EA in 2006.

Prior to JAMDAT, Mitch served as general manager of eCompanies Wireless LLC, a startup incubator. He also spent five years at Activision, the world's largest game publisher, most recently as executive vice president of Worldwide Studios. Earlier in his career, Mitch practiced intellectual property law, worked at the Walt Disney Company and started a massively multiplayer online game company.

Roy Bahat General Manager IGN Entertainment

Working on a new thing. OUYA backer zero and, now, chairman. Ran IGN Entertainment at News Corporation for five years. Teaching the media course at Berkeley (Haas and Information School).

Loves: people who make games, learning to code, unpredictability. New York native (Stuyvesant High School!), now living in exile in San Francisco with banker-turned-entrepreneur wife Sara (check out Hi, I Love You in the App Store) and mini-Bahats.