Dunkey, as the creator is known, announced the news Wednesday on his YouTube channel. In a video, Gastrow recounted his career as a content creator dedicated to highlighting “truly inspired works of art” in video games, while critiquing titles he described as “soulless capture”. Gastrow said he was inspired to start Bigmode out of a desire to help create good indie games in a market he called “a sea of mediocrity”, where quality titles are buried by shoddy releases.
“I’m not looking for creative control over your games, but I want to get involved,” Gastrow said in his video as a presentation to potential customers. “Bigmode will be about the creation of the games and the developers. We have put a lot of effort into making the most developer friendly contracts possible. I think we will bring insane value to the table[.]”
In the announcement, Gastrow said he would make a good editor thanks to his decades of experience as a game critic. He also assured his audience that his content would remain unchanged moving forward.
If video games are today’s rock-and-roll music, Videogamedunkey could be his Lester Bangs
Gastrow is the latest in a wave of influencers who have immersed themselves in the development of the game. Gaming collective One True King has 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 the Midnight Society studio to develop a game with blockchain functionality. (Prior to streaming, Beahm worked as a community manager and level designer for Sledgehammer Games).
However, not many influencers have started publishing companies. Gastrow joins Game Grumps (a YouTube collective that released “Dream Daddy” and “Soviet Jump Game”) as one of the few creators involved in shipping titles.
As a leading figure in the gaming industry – Gastrow has 7.2 million subscribers and 3.5 billion views on YouTube alone – Gastrow’s presentation of Bigmode immediately sparked a mix of responses. Most of the discussion centered on Gastrow’s lack of experience in game development – he had never made or released a game before.
Game reporter Danny O’Dwyer, founder of the video game documentary channel Noclip, has expressed concern over Gastrow’s new venture, wishing him the best as well. O’Dwyer tweeted that criticism of games does not translate into development skills and that independent developers are unlikely to work with an untested publisher.
“I’ll just say that I don’t know many indies who want a publisher involved with no experience or industry representative”, he wrote O’Dwyer. “For me, his value lies in selling exposure on his channel. It should be interesting to watch.
Indie game designer Dave Hoffman, creator of the musical puzzle titled Mixolumia, echoed O’Dwyer’s in a more critical tone.
“Dunkey has started a publishing house with the ethics ‘I’ve played so many games I know what makes them good and bad, so I’ll only publish the good ones’ who are going to learn a few things the hard way.” tweeted Hoffman
The game review process is interrupted. It’s bad for readers, writers, and games.
Some were more confident about the news. Johan Toresson, talent scout for the independent publisher Raw Fury, tweeted that having more publishers is always good because it means developers will have more resources.
Josh Sawyer, design director at Obsidian Entertainment noticed that lack of experience hasn’t stopped many other publishers and developers. Jason Schreier, journalist and author of the books “Blood, Sweat, and Pixels” (about game development difficulties) and “Press Reset” (about the volatile business environment of the video game industry) joked that Bigmode is not great among games publishers.
“I can’t believe Dunkey started an inexperienced game publisher instead of taking the normal approach: getting an MBA from Harvard, working at McKinsey for five years, and then failing C-suites for the rest of your life.” , he wrote Schreier on Twitter.
Both Jason and Leah Gastrow tweeted their thanks to supporters who praised Bigmode’s presentation.
“The response to Bigmode was incredible!” tweeted Dunkey. “Thank you very much everyone, we can’t wait to bring you some great things.”
Bigmode’s website is live and receives applications from developers. Interested parties can specify publishing needs such as porting, marketing, localization, public relations, and funding requirements. In particular, Bigmode rejects any project that makes use of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), cryptocurrency or any other form of blockchain technology.