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Self-publishing lessons learned from Paul Farley of Tag Games

By on August 12, 2010
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Welcome to the last 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.

Paul Farley is the CEO of mobile developer and publisher TAG Games.

He played a key role in the development of the Grand Theft Auto series at DMA Design and State of Emergency at Vis Entertainment. He joined I-play in 2000 as Head of Design before founding TAG in 2006.

TAG Games has self-published Car Jack Streets and Astro Ranch on iPhone.

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

There are so many positives from moving into self-publishing it’s almost impossible to select one. If pushed I would say being in a position to have a direct relationship with your end user is the best.

It allows us to bring the players of the game much closer to the creative process. Our players have been involved in suggesting and even creating content for updates and sequels. They have a closeness and sense of ownership with our games as they feel, quite rightly, they are part of the development team. As a side effect, they become the strongest promoters and evangelists for your game.

Having that direct relationship is important in marketing your other products to your target market. Previously this was a relationship that the game publisher would have held, now much of that value can be transferred to the content creator!

What’s been the worst thing?

The biggest challenge is operating as a publisher, but without the scale and capital required to take a portfolio approach to product investment. The only way we’ve been able to cross this barrier is to ensure that the company can survive total failure of all our self-published titles. We do this by having a mix of revenue streams and finding ways to supplement working capital investment in self-publishing through private and public funding. 

What would you do differently if you did it again?

We would have adopted the ‘free to play’ model much earlier and been more confident about integrating the monetisation model into the game design from day one.

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

Speak to as many companies that are doing it as possible. You need to build up a realistic set of expectations of what can be achieved and the cost of those achievements. Just because you can self-publish doesn’t meant you should! If your passion is making games and you have no interest in marketing games or dealing with large amounts of administration then self-publishing is probably not right for you. However, if you get just as big a kick from making that funding deal as you do releasing a new game, then perhaps you have what it takes to make a success out of self-publishing. It’s as much a question of attitude as skills.

You can find out more about Tag Games at www.tag-games.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