Dunkey, as the creator is best known, announced the news on his YouTube channel on Wednesday. In a video, Gastrow opened up about his own career as a content creator dedicated to highlighting “truly inspired artwork” in video games while angering titles he described as “soulless money-grabbing.” Gastrow said he was inspired to start Bigmode because he wanted to help make good indie games in a market he described as “a sea of mediocrity” where quality titles are buried by underperforming releases.
“I’m not looking for creative control over your games, but I want to be there,” Gastrow said in his video as a pitch to potential clients. “Bigmode is all about building the games and the developers. We put a lot of effort into creating the most developer-friendly contracts. I think we’re going to bring insane value to the table[.]”
In the announcement, Gastrow said he’s a good publisher because of his decades of experience as a games critic. He also assured his audience that his content would remain unchanged going forward.
If video games are the rock and roll music of today, Videogamedunkey could be Lester Bangs
Gastrow is the latest in a wave of influencers who have dipped their toes into game development. Gaming collective One True King invested a minority stake in Notorious Studios, which is working on a fantasy RPG. The esports organization 100 Thieves is developing its own shooter title. Controversial streamer Guy “Dr Disrespect” Beahm co-founded studio Midnight Society to create a game with blockchain capabilities. (Prior to streaming, Beahm worked as a community manager and level designer for Sledgehammer Games).
However, not many influencers have founded publishing houses. Gastrow joins the Game Grumps (a YouTube collective that published “Dream Daddy” and “Soviet Jump Game”) as one of the few developers involved in shipping titles.
As a prominent figure in the gaming industry – Gastrow has 7.2 million subscribers and 3.5 billion views on YouTube alone – Gastrow’s reveal of Bigmode drew an immediate mix of reactions. Most discussions revolved around Gastrow’s lack of experience in game development: he had never developed or published a game before.
“It’s exciting to have more publishers targeting new audiences – friendly competition between publishers is excellent for developers, potentially signals better conditions for teams and creates a hopeful future for a more inclusive creative economy – especially when stakeholders are involved in the co-creative process are,” wrote Evva Karr, founder and CEO of video game consultancy Glitch, in an email to The Washington Post. In the past, Karr worked on strategic partnerships at Activision Blizzard and as a publishing consultant at Riot Games.
Still, Karr wrote, “It can be challenging to balance a hands-off approach while still having enough creative control to give players the best possible play. It’s difficult shipping games, selling games, marketing games, negotiating with platforms, navigating distribution channels and advocating for the teams that make them, and doing the right thing until you’re in the thick of it.”
Games journalist Danny O’Dwyer, founder of video game documentary channel Noclip, expressed concerns about Gastrow’s new venture while wishing him well. O’Dwyer tweeted that game criticism does not translate into development skills and that indie developers are unlikely to work with an untested publisher.
“Just saying, I don’t know many indies who want a dedicated publisher with no experience or industry representatives.” wrote O’Dwyer. “To me, his value lies in selling presence on his channel. Should be interesting to watch.”
Indie game designer Dave Hoffman, creator of the musical puzzle title Mixolumia, echoed O’Dwyers in a more critical tone.
“Dunkey starts a publishing company with an ethos of ‘I’ve played so many games I know what makes them good and bad, so I’ll only release good ones’ to learn some things the hard way.” tweeted Hoffman.
The video game review process is suspended. It’s bad for readers, authors and games.
Josh Sawyer, design director at Obsidian Entertainment studio written down This lack of experience hasn’t stopped many other publishers and developers. Jason Schreier, journalist and author of the books Blood, Sweat, and Pixels (about the difficulties of game development) and Press Reset (about the volatile corporate environment of the video game industry), quipped that Bigmode is no exception among games publishers.
“I can’t believe Dunkey started a video game publisher with no experience, instead of taking the normal approach: get a Harvard MBA, work at McKinsey for five years, and then tumble up between the C-suites for the rest of his life .” wrote Schreier on Twitter.
Both Jason and Leah Gastrow tweeted their thanks to supporters who praised Bigmode’s reveal.
“The response to Bigmode has been amazing!” tweeted Dunkey. “Thank you everyone, we can’t wait to bring you awesome stuff.”
Bigmode website is live and receiving applications from developers. Interested particles can specify release requirements such as porting, marketing, localization, public relations, and funding requirements. In particular, Bigmode opposes any projects using non-fungible tokens (NFTs), cryptocurrencies or any other form of blockchain technology.