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Some Questions About the Business Side of Things.

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I'm a college student that will be heading to business school in the Fall to get my MBA. I'm interested in getting in on the business side of game development once I'm done. I have no programing skills, but I am good at time tabling, budgeting business plans and similar documents. I also write Speculative Fiction. I have two questions. Firstly, how does one get into the the business side of working with a team? Surely independent developers need someone who knows how to form a corporation and write a business plan or comprehensive GDD. Secondly, I wanted to know how much it would cost to put a team to create a working demo of a game. I have a design document for a game I'd love to see made (which makes me like everyone else here I'm sure) but have no idea how much it would cost to have a demo made. What would it cost to put together an open Cinematic and Demo to see if I could get a publisher to pick up the game? Ideally I'd like to form a corporation and offer stock options to the development team instead of cash, but I'm sure there would still be expenses like licensing software. I know that there won't be a hard number, but I'm curious for a range. Thanks for your time

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I'm making a complete guess here - so take this with many a grain of salt:
6-man team salaried for 12 months = $300,000
Business expenses for 12 months = $50,000
Technology purchases = $100,000

It really depends on the type of game. A live-arcade game is going to be a lot cheaper than an MMO, or a multi-platform FPS.

If you can work out of a spare-bedroom/garage, convince people to work for something other than money, and go cheap on the technology you could probably drive costs down to as little as a few thousand.

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I doubt many indie teams would want to hire a business expert full-time. Indies work on shoestring budgets, and that typically means a lot of multiskilling. Usually the person running the business side of things is also a programmer or artist. You might be able to be just a business expert if you were also in charge of shipping and customer service, but I'd think most teams would wait until after they're up and running before needing someone with that skillset.

However, you might have some luck as an indie business contractor. I'm considering going down the indie path but I don't have much experience in business skills, so I'd be interested in hiring someone to set things up right, or periodically check over the business side of things much like you'd contact out an accountant or a lawyer every quarter to ensure things are going smoothly.

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"tale" asked:

>how does one get into the the business side of working with a team?

Usually by first having experience in the business of making games. Read these:
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson7.htm
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson10.htm
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson16.htm
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson29.htm
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson42.htm
http://www.igda.org/columns/gamesgame/gamesgame_Feb04.php
http://www.igda.org/columns/gamesgame/gamesgame_Mar03.php

>Surely independent developers need someone who knows how to form a corporation and write a [1] business plan or [2] comprehensive GDD.

I added the bracketed numbers.
[1] Sure, they need that when they're sure they've got their stuff together.
[2] We just had this conversation. Save us the trouble of repeating it all again so soon, all right? Go to the "Game Design" forum and read the thread entitled "Can you lead an amateur/hobby/independent game as JUST the designer & PM?"

>Secondly, I wanted to know how much it would cost to put a team to create a working demo of a game.

Read article 29 (linked above).

>I have a design document for a game I'd love to see made (which makes me like everyone else here I'm sure)

Yes, please do read that thread in Game Design.

>but have no idea how much it would cost to have a demo made.

I don't either. How much do your people get paid? What tools do you have to buy?

>if I could get a publisher to pick up the game?

Read these too, then:
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson11.htm
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson21.htm
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson35.htm
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/finances.htm
http://www.obscure.co.uk/articles-2/

>Ideally I'd like to form a corporation and offer stock options to the development team instead of cash

Oh, that'll work! :rolleyes:

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Quote:
Original post by Talespinner
I have two questions. Firstly, how does one get into the the business side of working with a team? Surely independent developers need someone who knows how to form a corporation and write a business plan or comprehensive GDD.
The best entry would be to get a business development job in a publisher or in a large company in another media industry. Small indie devs don't usually have the bandwidth for a dedicated business person and would almost certainly want someone they know who has the experience to hit the ground running.

Quote:
Secondly, I wanted to know how much it would cost to put a team to create a working demo of a game. I have a design document....
Not gonna happen I'm afraid... not until you have years of industry experience.
1. Publishers don't fund companies unless the management/team members have proven industry experience. Read this game pitching and pay particular attention to item 7. An experienced team is essential if you want publisher funding.
2. Experienced staff aren't going to work on your demo for stock instead of cash. If they could afford to work unpaid you can bet they would be working on their own ideas. An indie team might do that but as no publisher will fund such a team there is no point in going that route.
3. No one needs your idea (see Game ideas) because they have more ideas of their own than they will ever get to make. So, unless you have some proven skill that you can contribute you will have a hard time convincing anyone to make you game.... unless you pay them.


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Quote:
Original post by Tom Sloper

I added the bracketed numbers.
[1] Sure, they need that when they're sure they've got their stuff together.
[2] We just had this conversation. Save us the trouble of repeating it all again so soon, all right? Go to the "Game Design" forum and read the thread entitled "Can you lead an amateur/hobby/independent game as JUST the designer & PM?"



While I'd love to run a team, I realize that I don't have anywhere near the experience to see that one happen. When I asked if teams could use someone to write a GDD I didn't mean based on my idea. I mentioned having a GDD for my own game for the same reasons people buy lottery tickets.

A lot of businesses hire people to create business plans and write resumes. That, with copy writing, is what I do to pay rent. I didn't mean that I would lead the team. What I wanted to know was if teams would take on a member to take the group's ideas and formalize them into a document. Sure, I'd want some say in the creative side of things but I'm sure everyone on an Indie team does.

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Quote:
Original post by Talespinner
What I wanted to know was if teams would take on a member to take the group's ideas and formalize them into a document. Sure, I'd want some say in the creative side of things but I'm sure everyone on an Indie team does.

Yes I do know of developers hiring MBA grads to work on documentation but they are bigger developers (and it seldom includes any creative input). Small indie devs however are much less likely as they work on smaller games with a lower communications overhead (less need for docs) and a much lower budget (so no money to pay for that sort of thing). Lastly it is very unlikely that anyone would hire you into a roll with creative input unless you had some proven experience.

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"tal" wrote:
>When I asked if teams could use someone to write a GDD I didn't mean based on my idea.

That sounds very realistic of you. I hope you did read all those articles I linked you to? Because they all apply to the question you posed.

>I mentioned having a GDD for my own game for the same reasons people buy lottery tickets.

There's that, and there are additional other great reasons for writing one's own game concepts and even a GDD or two.

>A lot of businesses hire people to [1] create business plans and [2] write resumes.

[Brackets added by me.] [1] The MBA will give you a start at writing business plans - as will getting some actual game business experience.
[2] I think you're mistaken in regards to this one. It doesn't make any sense at all for a business to employ someone to write resumes! (^_^)

>That, with copy writing, is what I do to pay rent.

What, write business plans and resumes?

> What I wanted to know was if teams would take on a member to take the group's ideas and formalize them into a document.

It's possible that some might. It's called "technical writing." I briefly discussed that in article 32 on my site.

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A few somewhat related comments...
Quote:
Original post by Trapper Zoid
I doubt many indie teams would want to hire a business expert full-time.
Regardless of what they want, this business definitely needs more people versed in business topics, even if "more people" means only hiring them on a contract basis.
Quote:
Usually the person running the business side of things is also a programmer or artist.
John Baez, president at The Behemoth (Alien Hominid, Castle Crashers), was previously an artist. At When Worlds Collide (video), John talked about how The Behemoth's inexperience on the business side both hindered their growth and helped them succeed.
Quote:
Original post by Obscure
3. No one needs your idea (see Game ideas) because they have more ideas of their own than they will ever get to make.
I think there's more to that than the abundance of ideas. Most game ideas are not practical, or otherwise supported by solid business planning and forethought. Many of these ideas are approached as though they were arts-and-crafts projects: "I, personally, think this game's going to be so much fun!" Despite bright eyes and bushy tails, games should be treated as products, at least where business is a concern: "What sort of consumers would be interested? What rates of adoption and diffusion would be ideal? How do we make those rates happen?"
Quote:
Original post by Tom Sloper
The MBA will give you a start at writing business plans - as will getting some actual game business experience.
You don't need an MBA to write business plans though. (I wrote my first comprehensive business plan, for my first college business course, at age 16, and received the top score. Still no MBA today.) Moreover, the plan isn't as important as the planning. If an organization hires someone to write the plan, they definitely shouldn't assume that's where their participation stops, and the contractor should know enough to involve them in the process.
Quote:
It's called "technical writing."
If the op is interested in technical writing, which is dissimilar from copywriting, the op should look into the Society for Technical Communicators. They offer plenty of resources, as well as an academic programs database.

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> I'm a college student that will be heading to business school
> in the Fall to get my MBA.
> {...}
> What I wanted to know was if teams would take on a
> member to take the group's ideas and formalize them
> into a document.

The skillset you will learn during the MBA program differs from what game designer positions require. If you are looking for ways to get into game design, then the MBA is probably not a good choice.


> I have no programing skills, but I am good at time tabling,
> budgeting business plans and similar documents.

That, coupled with an MBA, is an interesting skillset for someone who would like to analyze the gaming industry inside out and make money out of that knowledge. At least as an entry position. Take a look at Jon Peddie Research as an example. It's a not a games publisher, but they provide business reports the whole industry consumes.


> I also write Speculative Fiction.

It also goes under the names "Marketing Research" and "Industry Trend Analysis" ... |8-} Again, an interesting skillset match.


-cb

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