Creating a video game and bringing it to market is often a long, complicated endeavor—but it doesn’t have to be. Yes, there are many hurdles to clear before you’ll see your video game online or in stores, but it’s possible to streamline the process. By being quick and nimble in our decision-making, we craft higher-quality games while fostering better relationships with our developers. This approach results in a positive experience for both developers and their fans.
We’ve seen many publisher-developer relationships breakdown before anyone signs a contract. Other publishers will often take a slow, domineering approach with the developer early on, reviewing the game and its concepts, then immediately pushing for a long list of changes in order to do business together. Although the publisher wants these changes to make the game more commercially viable, not every change is absolutely necessary. Worse, a laundry list of alterations forces the developer to sacrifice part of their vision.
In our experience, developers do their best work when they can demonstrate their artistry. Trampling over the vision for a game in early meetings negatively impacts the relationship. Instead of delivering a list of requirements, publishers should hold conversations explaining why they’re pushing for specific changes while focusing only on the alterations that will significantly impact the player experience. When both sides respectfully discuss the project, we can make thoughtful improvements that everyone is happy with and gamers will love.
Unfortunately, stubborn publishers often delay start dates with these early negotiations, pushing back both the game’s development and publishing. By accelerating the collaboration process, publishers can offer balanced, developer-friendly contracts sooner. When a publisher simplifies the beginning stages of the relationship, the developer becomes more excited to work together.
Once the contract is signed and both parties agree upon a roadmap of deadlines, both parties should retain that same flexibility moving forward. In some cases, missing a deadline may even mean greater potential wins for the game in the future.
At this year’s PAX West, we wanted to showcase Days of War from Driven Arts in order to demo the game’s new content for the first time. This created a few technical issues. After reviewing the milestone schedule, we determined that it was more important to have a solid build for PAX than to have Driven Arts hit our previously agreed-upon milestones.
We revisited the game’s schedule together. The deadlines overlapping with PAX weren’t mission-critical, so we agreed on a revised schedule that allowed Driven Arts to hit the deadlines without missing PAX or pushing back other important dates.
Flexibility around both goals and deadlines is a form of mutual respect and trust. By offering developers more opportunities to explore their creative side with the right business guidance, they can design beautiful, intriguing games that are also commercially viable. More importantly, the developers receive a positive publishing experience, one they’ll want to repeat with the publisher in the future. We’re happy to say that even though we’re a young publisher, we’re already seeing our developers returning to work with us.