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Developers: stop trying to be like publishers

By on July 26, 2010

I am a strong proponent of self-publishing for developers (and any content creators in fact).

So I keep getting asked “why do you hate publishers so much”.

And the straight-forward answer is that I don’t.

Publishers are still the best way of getting your creative content into retail stores. They are the best way to create global blockbuster content with high production values and the budget to match. If you want to create AAA games, or a blockbuster movie, or be the next Dan Brown, a publisher will add massive value.

But when you are trying to make a living doing cool and interesting creative work, publishers generally get in the way. They need massive games to make their economics work, not games that are creatively brilliant but commercially only so-so, or niche products, or even games that champion innovation. So they say “Can we have more monkeys” or focus-group your creative idea to destruction because, in the end, when you have $100 million or more on the line, you want to be in total control of your risks.

Developers don’t have to do that. They can start small and iterate, iterate, iterate. They have to, because they don’t have the balance sheet to absorb the flops and failures that a publisher can.

So developers, self-publish all you like. Really, do lots of it.

But don’t try to be like a publisher. You just don’t have the money.

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: