Here we are again, with the latest installment of our guide on how to start your own games studio, as written by one of the lead designers at the independent developer Introversion - perhaps the last in the long British tradition of bedroom-coders-done-good.
Mark has done a lot to share the knowledge he and the rest of the Introversion team have gathered over the last few years, which can't have been easy since experience is, as has often been said, one of those things you always need until you finally have it.
So far in this series of articles Mark has guided us on the early stages of game design theory and talked about the difficult relationship that developers and publishers have to go through. Now, he takes us one more step along the journey by outlining how to negotiate with a publisher once you've found one who seems interested - how do you know when a good deal is actually a bad deal in disguise?
These articles are primarily going to be of use to developers who want to try and make a go of it and make a game for the world to enjoy, but that isn't totally what these articles are about. They also provide a stage-by-stage look at the games industry and outline just what the challenges are that face new developers trying to make it big - which makes them interesting to anybody who has an interest in games and how they are made.
Crucially, as the examples from this installment also go towards showing, they outline just how business orientated the games industry has become and point to how this might have had an effect on the decline of the bedroom coder. Still, as budgets sky rocket and publishers dominate, indie wannabes need not despair totally. Mark himself is proof that there's hope for those who want to succeed without surrendering their vision - you just have to know what you're doing...
The reality is though that even if you go the Introversion way and spend much of your time being mean and spitting at publishers as they go past, you would be a complete idiot if you didn’t spend time talking to them, pitching your idea in an attempt to convert their hard earned cash into your hard and fast Bentley.
The only reason that Introversion hammers publishers though is because the traditional deal they’ve offered developers like us has been so bad as to be insulting.
Publishers are about turning ideas into money, and developers are about turning ideas into wonderful games. Sometimes there’s a divide there and unfortunately this “symbiotic” relationship has often proved to be less symbiotic and more carnivorous, with creativity and independent ideas being slain by a culture of corporate risk management and quarterly profit margins.
Despite all that though, some publishers are better than others. Some offer services that you may be interested in. Some act in good faith and help you to grow your business. For us, Pinnacle, Ambrosia and Valve have been instrumental in our growth and have always been willing to negotiate contracts that work for both parties.
Forging and securing these relationships has not been easy though, so this month I want to talk a little about how to negotiate good deals.
Now as always, there is a wealth of information available on good negotiation skills and many of them contradict, so I’m only going to focus on a few concrete techniques. In part I am doing this, because a good friend of mine – Caspar Grey – has already produced an excellent guide on pitching to publishers which he has kindly allowed me to host here.
Go, download. Read, digest and understand what Caspar has to say and you will increase your chances of an offer, but remember that sometimes what is on offer is a poisoned chalice, and you must consider carefully the value of a deal against what it will cost you. In any event, good business is about developing options and when you combine what Caspar has to say with the following top three Introversion techniques you are guaranteed to come out on top.