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Getting your game design to publishers.

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Hi I am curious about the process of moving from a hobbiest game developer into professional game development. That is starting a company and producing AAA games. Once you have your "perfect" game in a demo form and a well described design document, how do you make contact with game publishers? Are there set ways that you would go about this, or do you just cold call them? Any advise would be very interesting.

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I'm not sure if this is best for the Game Design forum; it might be better placed in the Business forum. Anyway, I haven't had much experience in the "starting a company" side of things, but I'm interested in this prospect myself, so I'll give you my opinion based on what I know.

I'm not sure on what the best way would be to contact publishers, although I'd recommend something more formal than a casual e-mail [smile]. However, from what I know about how publishers work, if you want to get given some development money the key aspect is to minimise the appearance of risk from their point of view. You need to assure them that your project will make them money. A good way to do that is to have a proven track record of successful games yourself, or have a team with a track record. Another good way is to have the game nearly finished when you contact them. You'll need a solid business plan (which is different from the design document) and be able to convince them you have what it takes to manage a team of developers (which you'll also need as well [smile]).

However, it's highly unlikely that without experience you can get the funding for a AAA game. If you are already a hobby developer, I'd consider either going the indie route to start with, or going with one of the smaller more flexible publishers. That way you are more able to work on what game you want to do, rather than what the publisher forces you to work on. If you actually get a contract with a publisher without a big track record, your company is likely to be given whatever spare IP licence the publisher has lying around to develop into a game, and unless you don't mind making games based on "Bratz" dolls (for example) it mightn't be the job you expect [smile].

That's pretty much all I've got for your question; I'm probably not the most expert on this area of things myself. Personally I'm inclined to try the indie route first, but that's me. As for contacting publishers, personally I'd go with a phone call for basic information, or a letter. However, there's also the trade shows if you want to meet publishers face to face - the Australian Game Developers Conference is usually around the end-of-November/start-of-December every year in Melbourne. You could talk to a few publishers there, or talk to a few developers about how they started up.

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The previous poster had a pretty good description. If you want more info, I'd recommend this website:

http://www.obscure.co.uk/faq.shtml

It's run by Dan Merchant (Obscure, the mod at Biz of Game Dev, here at gamedev.net)

If your *end goal* is AAA titles, I'd recommend finding a job at one of the big PC or console developers, pay your dues, then work towards starting your own place in 4-5 years, when you have experience, connections, and friends in the industry you can work with.

Otherwise, the Indie route is becomming more attractive; in addition to casual games, there's also a significant push towards hardcore independent titles such as Darwinia.

Best of luck either path;

Allan

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There are two ways to get where you want to go and neither of them includes showing a demo to a publisher. Triple A publishers won't fund your game, regardless of how good the demo is, unless your team already has proven experience making Triple A games. Indie game development isn't considered relevant experience due to the difference in scale so they won't fund you.

Route one - Start up:
As Allan said, get a job at an established developer. Spend a few years working on other people's games, working your way up the ladder, learning how the business works and making contacts. Once you have shipped a couple of hit titles you leave and set up your own studio, funding the start-up phase with all the cash you (and your partners) have saved over the years and secure a publishing contract to fund development via the publisher contacts you made.

Route two - Upstart:
Do what you are already doing. Make indie games. Do it well and use the money you make to do better and better games. Learn how to market your games as well as you can with virtually zero budget and if your games are great and you have a bit of luck you may manage what Introversion (http://www.introversion.co.uk/) did with Uplink - get the mainstream press to notice your game. They have slowly built on their success, selling a lot less than a retail game but (due to the fact that they keep most of the proceeeds) enough each time to take a step forward. Their current game Darwinia is now available on Steam and maybe one of their future games will get a retail release via a publisher - although Introversion may well feel that they don't need a publisher taking a slice if they have a direct link to a viable customer base.

[Edited by - Obscure on January 29, 2006 6:05:26 AM]

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jyujinkai wrote:

>I am curious about the process of moving ... into professional game development. That is starting a company and producing AAA games.

That's Frequently Asked Question #29. Go to http://www.Sloperama.com/advice.html and click FAQ 29.

>Once you have your "perfect" game in a demo form and a well described design document, how do you make contact with game publishers?

You got excellent advice above on how to proceed from where you are now. Dan's article on what to do with your game ideas is one of the three best such articles on the internet. (~_^)

Tom

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