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Self-publishing lessons learned from Dan Marshall of Zombie Cow

By on July 1, 2010
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Welcome to the sixth in a series of 12 posts from games developers who have taken the brave step into self-publishing. They have all contributed to How to Publish a Game, and you can get the first two chapters absolutely free here.

Dan Marshall founded Zombie Cow in 2008 (or, as Dan puts it, “Zombie Cow Studios was rather inventively set up at the very peak of the Global Economic Meltdown”) after writing a game called Gibbage and learning to code at the same time.

Since then, he has released Time Gentlemen, Please!, Ben There, Done That and is working on Privates for Channel 4.

What’s been the best thing about self-publishing your game?

I guess it’s that you’re free of restrictions in everything you do – no one’s making requests for changes, or telling you you can’t do this, that or the other. Everything’s off your own back so creatively you’re free to express yourself without having to run it past other people.

What’s been the worst thing?

Waking up with a start occasionally and thinking “Where the hell is all the money going to come from that pays for my dinner and all the wine and trickets?”

What would you do differently if you did it again?

I hate releasing screens, videos or information before it’s ‘done’, and even then I’m worried about spoilers and stuff. Traditionally I’ve kept very quiet until release, bu I think you need to realise that people are grown up enough to make their own decisions about not spoiling things for themselves. So for future games once the end’s in sight I’m going to start publishing information and getting word out about the games.

What advice would you give someone thinking about self-publishing for the first time?

Writing the game and going gold needs to feel like 50% of the work. You can’t expect to put it out there and assume word of mouth will carry it, you need to pester people and send out a billion emails and work full-time at getting reviews and coverage and everything you possibly can.

You can find out more about Dan at www.zombie-cow.com.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: thecurveonline.com