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On Truth and Transparency

On Truth and Transparency
By Todd Mitchell • Issue #9 • View online
Hi again creators,
Hope no one minds me picking back up where we left off before things got busy. I’ve had the chance to speak with a lot of really awesome folks over the last few weeks, and I’ve covered a little news that took some interesting turns. This reminded me I put it out there to the universe (or at least the podcast) that I was going to be trying to share more about the importance of responsible journalism at all levels of the trade and what that actually looks like in practice. I may not get to make a big series out of it anytime soon, but recent experiences got me thinking about the essence of the matter from which nearly all other answers flow: the pursuit of the truth.
Beyond that, I’ve enjoyed chats on several other podcasts about the book and the state of the game industry and welcomed about as many guests on to GameDev Breakdown. This issue should get you caught up on everything!
What a Tangled Web We’ve Woven
During the week of May 18th, the Buildbox community started buzzing fairly loudly on social at the announcement of a pricing overhaul that had the potential to cost some developers up to 70% of the revenue from their published games. This complaint sounded too dramatic to be the full story, so I spent a little time trying to uncover what was going on. Not only was the claim entirely accurate, the longer I looked, the worse it got–and no outlets were talking about it (yet). This led to my first article about what’s going on at Buildbox.

Buildbox to Claim up to 70% Of User Revenue Soon – CodeWritePlay
I’ve been around the industry for quite a while now, and I absolutely started this investigation wondering what in the world was actually going on here. I knew less-experienced folks were grasping for answers about this wherever they could find them, and no one seemed to be making an effort to compile objective answers for the good of the community. The post on CodeWritePlay (unsurprisingly) performed very well on Twitter and Reddit.
When I reposted to LinkedIn–the industry is active there, kind of–Jonathan Zweig reached out directly. The conversation was upbeat. He offered his direct contact information and welcomed a conversation about the issue. I expressed my desire to be perfectly fair in my coverage and allow him to offer up comments and answers to questions I felt hadn’t been adequately answered. Later that night, I forwarded five topics–each a main question with smaller or follow-up questions–and reaffirmed my intent to incorporate his answers into my news coverage, either in the existing post or a new one, depending on what he sent back. He confirmed receipt and promised answers were forthcoming.
Five days later, I wrote a follow-up story.
Our 5 Unanswered Questions for Buildbox – CodeWritePlay
Reaction to these posts have been almost universally positive (even from Zweig), and several big social accounts went out of their way to put eyes on them. With that attention has come the high-running emotions of the community. I put this content out there, so I’m happy to hear what’s on people’s minds, but this experience has reminded me about the importance of our quest for the truth–especially when we’re emotional. One Redditor had an elaborate theory about how Buildbox was almost certainly going to collect their cut from a game’s total revenue–not your “take-home pay”–and after a platform like Steam’s 30% cut, leave developers with nothing, or even negative revenue! When I asked for any indication that this had ever been done or was likely to occur in the future, this individual replied to the effect of (and they’ve edited the initial post, so I’m paraphrasing), “they want 70% of your revenue. Does it matter what the truth is?”
I tried to give a measured response, but yes. The truth is everything. Buildbox has made a change most folks believe will ultimately prove unpopular. That’s not why I felt it was worth writing about. Buildbox can freely make whatever mistakes it wants, but the company published a pricing chart that doesn’t show 70% or the $5 threshold after which it applies at all. There’s a transparency issue.
To me, a transparency issue is an honesty issue. I’m definitely curious why Jonathan Zweig no longer considers Buildbox’s popular software a game engine, if there is a reason not involving price and royalty comparison. I’d like to know where I can find a YouTube creator program comparable to what Buildbox intends to do, which is something he’s brought up several times. I want to know more about the $20 million funding round Buildbox closed in January of this year, only to tell users in May that this was a necessary step if Buildbox was going to stay available to creators long-term. But ultimately, Buildbox has a right to do all of these things. I got involved because I felt creators need more information than they’re getting from Buildbox to make an informed decision. I think a lot of young people on TikTok–seemingly Buildbox’s leading platform for visibility–risk signing up and using Buildbox’s software without ever seeing the specific terms they’re agreeing to.
Complete truth requires transparency. Uncovering it requires objectivity. Those pursuits often require us to put our feelings on hold and shine a light into a dark corner. Sometimes we find the monster we were afraid of, and sometimes we have to admit it was just our imagination. More than ever, in a world where everyone has a camera and a microphone and the integrity of professional-level news gathering is called into question with increasing frequency, the ability to stay objective despite the biases every one of us maintains is of the utmost importance for all of us. This is why I would encourage everyone who hasn’t already to get familiar with common journalistic standards and strive to hold yourself to them even when others do not.
Virtual Book Tour: The Zero to Play Podcast
Virtual Book Tour: Podcast vs Player
Interview: AEXLAB CEO Jonathan Ovadia
Turns Out 90s Nickelodeon Star Lori Beth Denberg Worked on a Cancelled Marketing Campaign for PlanetSide 2 – CodeWritePlay
Interview - Christopher Arnold of Crowned Daemon Studios
An extra special thank you to anyone who gets this far in an issue many weeks in the making. Your support and engagement is as appreciated as ever. Inside Video Game Creation has now enjoyed two separate runs on Amazon’s bestseller charts (in April and May), and it’s all thanks to this fantastic community of creators, players, and enthusiasts.
As always, reach out any time with feedback, topics, and stories that catch your eye. More great podcast guests and video shows on the podcast’s YouTube channel! Make something awesome this week!
Thanks all.
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Todd Mitchell

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