"Time to turn development thinking on its head"

By Nicholas Lovell

August 11th 2010 at 12:15PM

Nicholas Lovell on why developers should begin self-publishing

It would have been my first column, but the breaking news about the closure of Street Racing by Zynga trumped it last week.

This is the real start of my series, and for as long as Develop will let me, I want to talk about self-publishing. Not platitudes about how itís the future of indie development, but real, practical advice.

Letís start by changing your perspective
The first place I want to start is to challenge the traditional assumption about how developers get their game published.

In the old way of thinking, developers were outsourced work-for-hire game makers. You made games that other people paid for, distributed and made money from.

Just think about that for a moment.

You made a game. That game was your baby. Your creative vision. Your excitement, your passion, your blood, sweet, toil and tears.

So why on earth were you prepared to abdicate responsibility for it?

What if I were to tell you that you didnít have to. For all of these years, by a simple trick of perspective, you could have kept control.

Time to make that switch.

Developers outsource publishing to publishers
It ís time you changed your perspective. Publishers donít outsource development to you; you outsource publishing to them.

At one level, that changes nothing. Your contractual relationships remain the same. Publishers are often still the ultimate paymasters. But it is the start of a journey. One that will see you take more control. And it is an incredibly important statement because it changes the way you think.

You start to think about every stage of the journey from concept to the code playing on a userís processor. You start to understand all of the key tasks that get completed before the game is profitable. And with that understanding comes opportunities: opportunities to do it yourself.

Opportunities to hire freelancers and contractors to do it. Or even to continue to outsource the publishing function to a publisher, but with a much better understanding of what that entails.

Iím going to focus on four core commercial roles of a publisher: sales, marketing, distribution and finance. These are the practical elements of being a publisher that developers need to understand. Over the next few weeks, Iíll explain what these mean for self-publishing developers.

The new world of self-publishing is so exciting because developers can now choose what elements of bringing a game to market they are going to outsource and which ones they are going to find external experts to do instead.

The key shift - the massive fundamental shift that is fantastic for game designers and gamers alike - is that publishers are no longer in control.

Developers are.

So now itís time to work out what, exactly, being in charge means.

Nicholas Lovell writes a blog on the business of games at www.gamesbrief.com. He is the author of How to Publish a Game and teaches masterclasses on making social games.