By Joe Martin
Publishers are one of the most misunderstood and reviled parts of the games industry and there are corners of this planet where even muttering the name of a game publisher will see you being stoned to death with mice trackballs.
Yet, for many developers, publishers are an important side of the industry and are able to bring financial support and considerable resources to a project. With the right backer and marketing campaign behind it a game can go from zero to hero in a very short time indeed.
That sword does cut both ways though and publishers can demand your life, soul and creative spirit in return if you aren’t careful. Ownership of your idea can be stripped from you and creative control will be left little more than a myth as a suit in a big chair starts telling you that the guns in your game aren’t big enough and there needs to be more nudity involved. You won’t dare tell him that you’re actually trying to make a chess game, because then he’ll cancel the project; nobody plays chess any more.
Below, as part of a his continuing series of articles, Introversion’s Mark Morris goes over some of the different pros and cons of signing a deal with a publisher and talks about what role publishers might be able to play in the creation of your very own game. We’ll let him get on with it.
To Publish or Go Indie
By Mark Morris
The goal of this series of articles is to help budding game developers to grow a successful studio based on new and novel designs. For those of you that have been reading my previous pieces, you should now have a good idea about what makes a good game concept, and also have a reasonable grasp of how to create a prototype.
Now it’s decision time. On the one hand you can sell the idea to a blood thirsty corporate monolith, sent straight from hell to cleanse the world of creativity and crush the souls of any who dare do something new or… you can try and sell the game yourself.
Perhaps that sounds like a simple decision. There is possibly no doubt in your mind that you want to fight the good fight for indie developers, and you have so much faith in your game that there is absolutely no way that you are going to hugely undervalue a massive percentage of your company by looking elsewhere for help. Maybe you haven’t thought enough about the alternatives.
Publishers offer developers a number of services though, and you need to be confident that you can find replacements for all of these services before you opt to go it alone. You will need to handle:
QA (usability testing, functionality testing, play testing, etc)
Launch planning - When will you launch? Which other games are launching at the same time? What time of year is best for your game?
Marketing - How will the public hear about your game? What will make them care about it? What will make them remember it?
Localisation - What about the millions of gamers in France, Germany, Spain, Japan etc.? Are you going to deny them the chance to play your game in their native language? How will this affect your sales?)
PR - What will the press think of your game? Why should they give you a break?
Retail Channels - Where will your customers buy your game? What return do you expect? How will you handle charge backs? What about faulty stock?
Customer Service - Who’s going to explain to the Mum who’s just bought your game, that she needs to buy a new computer because the old one isn’t powerful enough?
Money - How are you going to eat while you write your game?
That last one is important. No really. How are you going to eat during development?