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Value capture and control in digital games

Thompson, Paul (2012) Value capture and control in digital games. In: SASE 24th Annual Conference: Global Shifts - Implications for Business, Government and Labour, 2012-06-28 - 2012-06-30. (Unpublished)

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Digital games is now a multi-billion dollar industry in an established mainstream entertainment market. There is complex competition for value capture between console manufacturers, publishers, development studios and retailers (Johns 2006). Traditionally, buyer-driven global commodity chains, in which asset specificity can co-exist with fragmented production markets and buyers coordinate production across a group of firms without direct ownership, has been a dominant form. A major problem for small content providers is how to capture value in such markets. Extensive case studies from the industry in Australia are presented, with a focus on the evolution of dominant business models typically followed by independent development companies; contrasting dependence on powerful actors within global value chains for access to the consumer with emergent models that facilitate direct access. Firms are constantly pitching for new work and trying to build reputation and trust with buyers. Yet games and other entertainment industries are characterized by a high degree of uncertainty of how the potential product will evolve during the course of development and on managing contract variation. This puts a premium on processes such as budgeting and time scheduling. Yet, what has often been neglected is the ways in which those issues of costs and risks are reflected and reproduced in the management of work and employment relations within and across firms. This paper adds something new by linking the dynamics of ‘winning work’ with the dynamics within the work process.