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Popular content creator Jason Gastrow, better known as ‘Videogamedunkey’ or just ‘Dunkey’, has announced that he’s launching a game publisher called Bigmode.
Speaking in an announcement video, Gastrow said he was “sick of watching from the sidelines” and believes he’ll be able to use his reach and experience critiquing video games to help bring promising indie titles to market.
However, many industry pundits and developers have questioned his qualifications for running a game development company, and suggested that Dunkey’s announcement is reductive to the work that goes into a modern publishing business.
Gastrow, who founded Bigmode with his wife Leah, has over seven million subscribers to his YouTube channel Videogamedunkey and more than 1.3 million Twitter followers.
“I’ve been on YouTube for 11 years now, and one of the core themes of my channel has always been to slam dunk soulless cash grabs into the garbage can and lift up and praise the truly inspired works of art in this medium,” he said.
“For years and years and years, I have always sought out the very best Indie games out there and have tried to do them justice, putting millions of eyes on the games that actually deserve attention.”
He added: “A lot of games out there understand how to emulate the look of your favourite games but don’t deliver where it actually counts. Many of the true games out there are being drowned out in a sea of mediocrity. You need someone who can help you be seen.
“I want Bigmode to act as my seal of approval, which is something that I do not apply lightly. I am not looking for creative control over your games, but I do want to be involved. I’m sick of sitting on the sidelines waiting for great games to appear. Now I want to get in there and help make it happen.”
Gastrow claimed his company had put a lot of effort into making “the most developer-friendly” contracts possible, and argued that he would “bring insane value to the table”.
Following Bigmode’s announcement, some reacted with scepticism and questioned whether Dunkey had the right credentials to lead a video games publisher. Some even questioned whether the announcement itself was a joke.
Danny O’Dwyer, the founder of video game documentary production company Noclip, commented: “We gotta drop the naive shtick that having opinions on games is a qualification for understanding just about anything about development”.
He added: “It also raises many ethics questions but I’ll give em the benefit of the doubt for now. I’ll just say I don’t know many indies who want an involved publisher with no experience or industry rep.”
Vlambeer developer Rami Ismail wrote that he was happy to see a new publisher emerge, but urged any developers considering signing with Bigmode to heed caution.
“Listen, I’ll support anyone who wants to publish throw money at indie games, but indies, if you’re going to take a deal from someone whose publishing qualifications are “I played lots of games” make sure your upfront is 130%+ of a well-paid, comfortable budget.
“Good publishing is a relatively complex organisation: selection, branding, marketing, production support, platform contacts, localisation connections, QA connections, release management – and to take pressure off of the dev those all need to fire correctly at the correct time.”
However, Noel Berry, a programmer behind indie hit Celeste, said he believed Dunkey might surprise with his eye for fun design.
“I genuinely think Dunkey has a good eye for fun design, and if he wants to throw money at indie devs, why not? sure they might hit some hard realities of making games but like… that’s how you learn,” he wrote.
“I can’t speak for the other games he mentions in his video, but he also found Celeste way before it came out, followed it for a year after, and made a day-1 video on it because he liked our demo… i didn’t think it was weird he used it as an example.”