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From concept to launch and beyond

By on July 16, 2019

There are many different stages of game development. Here’s my favourite:

The phases of creative development

For me, there are five major phases: concept, production, launch, live and sunset. These can be broken down further like this:

The five phases of game development

Phase 1: Concept

Phase 1 is concept, which encompasses the idea, pitching and prototyping. This phase may be long if you need to demonstrate significant development progress or produce lots of pitch material to earn funding for your project. It may be short, if you are an indie developer who can greenlight projects on your own.

Phase 2: Production

Phase 2 is production, split between pre-production and production. Service games tend to have longer pre-production cycles, relative to the production cycle, than product games because there is more that is unknown. Some elements of the game, such as level design, art creation and audio, may enter production before the rest of the game has exited pre-production. This is fine, but problems emerge if you go too far down the production roadmap with major unknowns still outstanding in the design track.

Phase 3: Launch

Phase 3 is launch, consisting of the quality assurance and submission phase, soft-launch, hard launch and initial post-launch activities. In a service game, this phase is often much longer than phases 2 and 3.

Phase 4: Live Agency

Phase 4 is the Live Agency phase, a concept I explore in detail in Chapter 12 of The Pyramid. The launch phase and live phase sometimes overlap, as the development team transitions from creating the game to operating it.

Phase 5: Sunset

Phase 5 is the sunset phase, which is not discussed in this book. The sunset phase occurs when the game is longer developed, but is operated with a skeleton crew to keep the players satisfied and to keep earning money.

This is an extract from Nicholas’s new book, The Pyramid of Game Design – get your copy here!

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: