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Ok, Before I start another rant about the difficulties of publishing comercially, I''d like to propose the following situation: After a year of development, a group of graduates enter a playable game demo into a unsigned game competition at a game conference. They happen to win the competition, and receive a copy of 3ds max as the prize. The game is a 3D RTS genre. They now want to take the game further: They spend the next three months polishing the game, creating the levels, and generating a website. After which, they raise $7000 US (Friends and family) in capital, and a further $7000 from government grants. With this capital, they go out, and rent office space, hire a lawyer and incorporate a business, along with getting a number of experienced business leaders to act as consultants for the studio (friends and family who will work voluntarily). What is their next phase? Should they do either of the following, neither of the following, or something entirely different: a) Approach a commercial publisher and propose the game as a new venture. b) Approach a budget publisher and propose the game as a new venture. c) Approach a shareware publisher and propose the game as a new venture. Also, what aspects of the game should the team be leveraging: 1) A complete game, utlising x,y,z technology. 2) A development team that has worked together for over twelve months successfully. 3) A relatively cheap development venture (doesn''t require any further coding, unless asked for specifically). 4) Winners of a game development competition at a recognised industry exhibition. I''d like you to all bear in mind, that in previous years, a winner of the competition has pitched their demo to budget publishers and gained somewhat positive leads. thanks for your advice and feedback. regards Matt

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First off, I think the ''group of graduates'' should be complimented for coming as far as they have.

Where would I go from here?

Next Phase is all three in the order you listed. Go out and sell your game as a game to large publishers first, because this is the market where you will get the most help, and not have to expense for marketing, or write a marketing plan because it is done in house, and the distribution channels are in place.

Phase 1, letter b, you will probably have to come up with some marketing help and a marketing plan subject to modification by the publisher and/or you because that publisher may or may not have that in house, and may only have so much pull in the distribution channels compared to the big boys.

Phase 1, letter c, I''d wonder how much help they would be to you considering they amount of distribution influence they have, but some are quite considerable, and warrant further exploration.

Also, marshall your forces. You have a number of experienced business leaders who are, or in addition to these leaders, you have, friends and family who will work voluntarily.

By marshalling your forces, I mean the rarest and most powerful thing that you will ever have is human resources capital.

What is the best thing the human resource capital was ever designed for? The big push.

What I mean by the big push must be prefaced by two marketing axioms of mine: fortune favors the bold, and in any given market, at any given time, only one bold stroke will work.

I am assuming that you have done what you have said, and that the game is polished, has all the levels for a good gameplay experience, and is on gold master ready for duplication, distribution and sales.

If this is correct, put all you forces focused on the one main thing that you are really selling. What is that? You have made a game to play, therefore, you are selling fun. Go out and market it that way.

How? In unorthodox, geurilla ways. Put together ten computer systems, a bunch of comfortable tables and chairs, a play area diagram of tables, chairs, systems and tentage. Take your game on the road. Start with the local radio stations by boldly walking in with a laptop loaded and the demo running. Smile at the DJ and the people at the counter and say, "This is for you and it''s free to play. Give me some airtime saying "Insert here the local mall where we will be having a gameplayathon onthisdate fromthentothen and x percent of the proceeds from the sale of the game will go to y charity, and the jock from insertstationname will be there live to play the hits you love, and come and see the uberhotties dressed as bosses from the game."

In other words, blast into the mind of the audience, tie their expense (your sales income)
to the premarketing costs of marketing plan, make some income for the game, use your human capital wisely and funly, support a charity that the locals care about and will give towards, move several hundred units, and reinvigorate your marketing war chest, and go out and do it on the road. Reality game publishing.

You don''t really have to do this, but, you get the idea, creativity and boldness are your ally at this point, as are the people you package, color, promote and demonstrate other forms of business capability besides programming and art and animation, and maybe somebody will have you dev a new title, or, take on the existing title because you have proven it sells, and you will be on your way.

HTH

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Pursue all three (a, b & c) because if one market wont open for you there is a chance one of the others will. Assume that the big guys are going to take longer to decide (typically a publisher will take three to six months from the date you first show them your game) so start with (a) first, then once that process is in place move on to (b) and (c).

When pitching make sure you have all the right paperwork in place. Even if your game is great, sending it in on its own will at best extend the process or at worse get you rejected.

Also make sure you have enough money to survive to the end of the process (the three to six months mentioned above).

What aspects to emphasis? 1 & 4.
Complete game is very good (low risk).
The competition is a nice marketing touch. It shows that at least someone out there thinks your game is good.
Forget 2 & 3.
12 months working together wont be considered any sort of proven track record. When your game has actually shipped.... then you are a real developer (at least that is how publishers see it).
As for cheap, stear clear of that. If its cheap it probably isn''t quality. Focus on the fact that it is finished and as such a low risk.

One last word (of warning). Don''t starve to death waiting for a publisher who once said your game was nice.
That''s nice = but not nice enough to publish.
I like it = but i don''t decide so it wont get signed.
I like it(2) = I want to get out of here without upsetting you.
We want to sign it/publish it = we want to but probably never will.

If a publisher wants your game they will actually give you a contract. If you don''t have a signed contract you don''t have anything.

Dan Marchant
Obscure Productions
Game Development & Design consultant

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Also make sure you look like a business to anyone you are pitching this game to. It looks like you have gone a long way to doing that, but readthis article to make sure you haven''t overlooked anything.



First make it work,
then make it fast.

--Brian Kernighan

"I’m happy to share what I can, because I’m in it for the love of programming. The Ferraris are just gravy, honest!" --John Carmack: Forward to Graphics Programming Black Book

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Thankyou all,

A very good set of responses. I appreciate all of your feedback. I would assume that if we were to pursue a parallel push down all three publishing channels, that if we sign with a shareware first (assuming this is likely to be the quickest turnaround), we need a none-binding contract, in that, we can still pull out should a better opportunity arise?

Does anyone have opinions on Xtreme games LLC (by the well known game programming author) as a shareware publisher? Or any alternatives who have respected distribution channels and a bit of online / magazine marketing clout?

cheers

Matt

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quote:
Original post by ironballs
I would assume that if we were to pursue a parallel push down all three publishing channels, that if we sign with a shareware first (assuming this is likely to be the quickest turnaround), we need a none-binding contract, in that, we can still pull out should a better opportunity arise?

A non-binding contract is something of an oxymoron. The whole point is to legally bind the parties in an agreement.

This timing issue is why I said that you should start with the mainsteam publishers first. So they have more time to process the submission and make a decision. No publisher will sign a contract that allows you to walk away. To publish a game they need to do work and spend money and they wont do that for a game they might lose.

When (if) you get an offer you have to decide. Do you stall them (to allow time for other offers) and risk them losing interest. Do you reject the offer hoping for a better one or do you accept the offer because (as any good accountant will tell you) cash now is better than the possibility of more cash later.

Dan Marchant
Obscure Productions
Game Development & Design consultant

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What I was suggesting was getting the process started with a Commercial publisher, and in the meantime, work with a shareware publisher who is prepared to ''let you out'' at any point with a given amount of notice, and I know such publishers exist, because I''ve seen them in the past.

The whole strategic positioning of the development studio interests me, and the interaction between the two entities (the publisher and developer), it must be an area where specific strategies are much more effective than others.

Matt

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quote:
Original post by ironballs
What I was suggesting was getting the process started with a Commercial publisher, and in the meantime, work with a shareware publisher who is prepared to ''let you out'' at any point with a given amount of notice, and I know such publishers exist, because I''ve seen them in the past.

Can you provide a link please as I would certainly like to investigate these companies. I do know of shareware publishers that will sign a non-exclusive deal. They publish the game but you are free to have it published elsewhere as well (in parallel). I have never encountered a company that would be willing to stop selling a game because you have found a better deal elsewhere.

quote:
The whole strategic positioning of the development studio interests me, and the interaction between the two entities (the publisher and developer), it must be an area where specific strategies are much more effective than others.

Planning your project properly, reviewing progress honestly, understanding how the publisher works (and what they want) and then working out how you can benefit from providing it. Be proactive and manage the publisher relationship, instead of being reactive and fighting against them.



Dan Marchant
Obscure Productions
Game Development & Design consultant

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I found it a while back, it looked fairly legit, unfortunately I''ve been unable to remember where I found it for a while, big shame!

I''ll keep on looking, as far as I am aware, the ''contract'' allowed you to pull out at a given amount of notice.

Regards

Matt

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