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Self-publishing lessons learned from James Brown of Ancient Workshop

By on May 27, 2010

Welcome to the first 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.

James Brown spent ten years working for various British game companies before moving to New Zealand in search of a better life. He found it in Wellington.

His first game was Ancient Frog, a puzzle game for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. It was designed, coded and arted as a one-man project.

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

I love the creative freedom, the ability to make whatever sort of game takes my fancy. I also love the breadth of abilities you have to call upon as a small outfit – there’s none of the narrow pigeonholing of artists, programmers, designers and so on that you see in the traditional publisher-funded development house. But probably the best thing is getting to keep all the money.

What’s been the worst thing?

Marketing is the hardest thing. I don’t have the money or the contacts that a publisher has, so it’s a real battle to get seen. I’ve done what I can by way of turning that to my advantage – the Lone Developer is still a curious object, albeit increasingly common in the post- iPhone world.

What would you do differently if you did it again?

I’d have done it all much sooner. It seems slightly incomprehensible, looking back, how long I spent working on other people’s games when I could have been creating my own.

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

The most important thing is getting your game noticed. The first thing you should be worrying about is what will make your game stand out – what will it do that is completely unique? Why would someone want to rave about it to everyone they know, write articles about it, ask questions in the House about it?

You can find James at

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: