The quality and success of some independent games have motivated that there are companies interested in launching special editions in physical format for the niche market that wants those titles. However, after a time of publishing physical titles, indies studios and specialized companies faced since August a new regulation that requires the presence of the ESRB classification and goes through the due process of publication, something that has a cost and it has altered the work and business model, according to a Kotaku report.
For a long time, indie developers and companies that ventured to launch a limited edition of a game in physical version operated in a gray legal zone. That is, legally, digital games do not require paying for the ESRB classification or going through the process that those who publish a title in a traditional way experience; these editions were managed under the idea that the content was a physical impression of the digital game and also did not go on sale in any store, because those who were interested in the game had to buy it on the online sites of companies like Limited Run Games.
According to the Kotaku report, this model came to an end last August as Sony and the ESRB decided that the process should be carried out in equal conditions for all and that included those who are responsible for publishing these special editions.
The report indicates that the decision of Sony and the ESRB has begun to affect small studies because now they not only have to comply with the publication protocol required by the agency and the company, they must also contemplate the payment of a fee of $3,000 USD to obtain the classification, as long as the game has not required more than $1 million for its development.
Regarding this situation, the case of Ruiner is cited, cyberpunk game developed by Reikon Games, published in digital format by Devolver Digital and whose physical edition was planned to go to market thanks to Special Reserve Games.
However, the company reported that due to the costs and the complexity of the publication process under the new standard, they decided to cancel the edition because it would not be profitable because it would increase the cost by 35%. As a prevention to this situation, the ESRB offers discounts to small studios but they consider that the decision still altered all their plans.
Finally, the report also refers to positions in favor of this standard, such as Iam8bit, who considers it a good thing as many of the companies not only dedicate themselves to publishing and selling those special editions, they also present them at events and conventions where they attend people of all ages. In this way, Iam8bit thinks that the fact that the classification is mandatory will avoid complicated scenarios in the future.
In September Limited Run Games reported that it will delay the launch of its next titles until next year as the rules of Sony and the ESRB came as a surprise and in the middle of the production process.