Making a game and publishing a game is not the same thing. Yes publishing seems simpler than doing the game and we at Frogwares create between 1 to 3 games a year with nearly one hundred people, our publisher can have 40 people and publish 10-15 titles a year. But on the other hand it's a lot of money on their side, console manufacturing, international marketing, business development and a lot of travels, printing and setup demos, press event in at least 6 countries, web site development, now on many OS and so on...
It's not that we don't care about selling the game (it's true too, but read more), if you have a full team to sell one game, business development, console relation manager with stinky multinational companies, printing team, production team, localization team, accounting team and reporting team, you cannot recoup, it's too expensive, thus the publisher necessity.
There is an illusion that implies that as soon as a game is available it will find its audience, that's just not true. We experienced it, many times, however good can be the product, you need a good seller, but you probably know more than me about this.
Believe me, there is no nice story and ideal way of working as soon as you have to pay someone else than yourself, specially when it is a permanent staff of programmers, 3D artists, 2D artists, animators, motion capture specialist, concept artist, video artists, sound engineer and management, it's just like any other company competing with the world, you'd better concentrate on what you do best and do it the best possible.
What changed with publishers and digital downloads, and changed for the best, is that we, as developer, we are not forced anymore to make a stupid standard adventure game, because any creativity a few years back would disqualify the game for the so called "publishers"(dead companies will recognize themselves) and prevent them to even sell it, because it was too expensive for them to take the risk of publishing and selling boxes to Walmart. Today we are free to invent and do more things than ever before, because the publishing cost decreased. Digital sales allow this, not box sales.