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Oddworld's Lorne Lanning on the benefits of self-publishing

Lorne Lanning on how being a self-publisher has benefited Oddworld Inhabitants.
Lorne Lanning on how being a self-publisher has benefited Oddworld Inhabitants.
Photo courtesy of Oddworld Inhabitants, used with permission.

Game designer Lorne Lanning, best known for the "Oddworld" games, explained Tuesday why he abandoned the gaming scene in 2005 after the release of "Stranger's Wrath," why he came back, and how he and Oddworld Inhabitants found success as an independent publisher.

In an informative interview conducted by Metro, Lanning was asked a variety of questions regarding his company and its upcoming July release of "Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty" for the PlayStation 4. As Metro writer David Jenkins noted, his interview with Lanning became more than a preview for the high-definition remake of the 1997 PS1 game. The meat of the discussion centered on major video game publishers, small game developers, and the rise of developments costs. Lanning explained what pushed him out of game development was rising game budgets following the original PlayStation and the decrease of royalties from game sales by the publishers, which weren't lucrative to begin with. As Lanning stated in the interview, developers were doing a lot more work for little rewards.

Another aspect touched upon in the Metro interview was big publishers being only interested in intellectual properties they can own and how some would find ways to devalue game studios, so they could be acquired at a lower cost. Interviewer Jenkins brought up the rumor of Bethesda's parent company, ZeniMax, trying to acquire former "Prey 2" developer Human Head by falsely stating the studio missed milestones and refusing to pay, so Human Head could be cheaper to acquire. However, Human Head went on strike and developer Arkane Studios took over "Prey 2." It was also suggested Arkane Studios were purposefully being put in debt by ZeniMax, before it was acquired by the publisher. Lanning responded to the rumor by saying tactics like that weren't unheard back then or now, but couldn't say with certainty if ZeniMaz were indeed guilty of it.

Biggest takeaway from the Metro interview was how much successful Lanning and Oddworld Inhabitants are as an independent publisher, than they were relying on big publishers to sell and market their games. "Oddword: Stranger's Wrath," formerly published by EA in 2005, has sold more now than its original release. "With self-publishing I've sold more copies of 'Stranger’s Wrath' than the publisher did originally," Lanning said. On the hopeful success of "New 'n' Tasty," Lanning said if the remake moves 250,000 units, "Abe's Exoddus" could receive a similar HD treatment by developer Just Add Water.