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The end of the game developer

By on September 20, 2010
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I’m calling it today.

The end of the game developer.

It’s an anachronistic term, and I’m going to try to stop using it. (I’m bound to fail – I spent ten years trying to teach anyone who would listen the difference between a developer and a publisher. It used to annoy me so much when investors called Argonaut a publisher or Eidos a games developer.)

But those days are gone. It’s time to end the distinction.

From now on, we’re all game-makers.

All of us. The business types and the creatives. The coders and the artists. The community managers and the business development executives.

We’re involved in this great endeavour we call making games.

I made an impassioned plea for an ending to the fighting, rivalry and distrust between management and developers in response to Jimmy Mulville’s lecture at the Edinburgh TV festival. Luke Halliwell has laid at least some of the blame for RealTime World’s failure at the door of a “silo” mentality. And I’ve lost track of how many coders pretend that business doesn’t matter, or managers that pretend the game artistry and craftsmanship doesn’t matter.

Sometimes words matter. The names we use and call ourselves. So I’m going to try to stop talking about publishers and developers, and talk about game makers instead.

Am I mad?

(and is there a better term? I’m not sure game-maker is the best, but it’s all I can come up with right now.)

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:
  • In that case, TV is doomed (see my critique of Jimmy Mulville’s lecture at the Edinburgh TV festival

  • Allan

    To use the film industry as an analogy, I think there’s a considerable gulf between “film makers” and the “film business”, and not necessarily that much respect. Similar stories abound in music.

    If a gap in job title is the root cause of our internal antipathy we might as well give up, frankly I think any business riven by that mentality will seal their own fate.

  • if we can’t be all under the same title (and I do see your issues) how do we build mutual respect? Because that’s what we all need.

  • Allan

    “Game maker” while not inaccurate is too generic.

    Further I think a divide between responsibility for production and monetisation is valid.

    The same people can have an eye on both objectives but, much like a Marketing Director and Sales Director for any business, there should also still be a healthy tension betweeen the functions while both still have the same overall goal of profitability.

    So yes, we can all be game makers, but some of us will still be “developers” and others “publishers”.

  • I think that the irony is that making games is exactly the model you are proving wrong. I mean; in the traditional model, developers pitched games to publishers and then made the game.
    If you now don’t need/want a publishers and ‘just’ make games, who is making money for you?

    I think this is not so much silos but more about defining functions. In the end its for (most) developers not about making games itself; but about making money with making games?
    So then you still need to add these functions & skills.

  • Umm, I like the idea, but I’m not sure it will work. The media/consumers still want to know who “made” the game. I think the Game designer god complex will get worse before it gets better

  • I have faith in both. But I think that there will be fewer companies making bigger projects in the AAA market, and many more bodies employed in social/online and, for want of a better term, indie games.

  • I think it is a transition, but I think that all media is going through a transition when the distinction between the business and the craft is falling away. This is generally great news, but a few “creatives” who fear they’ll be sullied by dealing with the grubby issue of money will be in for a shock.

  • Anonymous

    I applaud your rhetoric, but I don’t see “game makers” taking off as a term. But then, unlike you I don’t believe the publisher-developer divide is gone. You have a lot more faith in the lower market than I do – probably because I’ve been burned too many times in it, and now make most of my money consulting in the upper market. The funding gap for me is still crucial. I don’t see this problem disappearing any time soon.

    All the best!

  • I can very much see this too. The kind of projects we do at Mudlark are something that simply wouldn’t have been feasible a decade back, and some of the guys working with us have moved on from pure PC or console dev. Similarly, I started with level design for Unreal, but what I do now is probably closer to interaction design.

    The question that preys on me most is, is this an interim state during a turbulent transition, or is this state where things will largely settle?

  • Everyone seems to get very precious about their role.

    I’m all for ‘Credits Pages’ being made for games by simply having a raffle to decide whose name goes at the top. Don’t even put anyones role in there.

    And whenever a company does PR, spin a bottle to work out who gets to go to the trade shows…

    It’ll get rid of the ‘Game designer god complex’ overnight.