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GDC - The Importance of Self-Publishing 34

Eric Zimmerman, head of the Gamelab development project, has announced on the eve of the Game Developer's Conference that they're moving to a self-published format. From the article: "I think we have something else to offer ... and we've decided that it's hard finding partners that share this kind of vision and that want to take the risks that we're talking about to really create new sorts of games. And additionally we're working in a field right now of online games with a downloadable distribution model, which means that we can self-publish. It's relatively straightforward for a small company to publish."
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GDC - The Importance of Self-Publishing

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  • well, it seems to be working pretty well for valve. best of lucks guys!
    • Re:valve (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ZephyrXero ( 750822 )
      Self-publishing really is the only way to go if you're an independent developer and you'd actually like to make a sizable percentage of the profits. Although I hate to use the term publish, as it has become so ambiguous in the game industry. The common perception of a "publisher" is the company who pays for the development and marketing of the game, as while the industry would be much better off if publishers just published, ie...print and distribute the physical media the games are stored on.

      As for Valv
  • What good is self-publishing when EA will just buy you in a couple years if you get big/good enough?
    • Two possibilities to avoid buyout.

      #1 : Dont go public. This does deprive you of initial startup money, but leaves you free to do whatever you want.

      #2 : Go public, but dont relinquish the majority of shares. You lose some initial revenue, but you are safe from buyout.

      I prefer 1, personally.
      • Another approach (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @05:11PM (#14960319)
        Go public, rake in every kind of startup money, shell out some mainstream games and wait for the buy out. Sell them the brand and head off with the dough.

        Then take the buy out money and go for #1. And THEN start to make the games you like!
        • Ahhh....wouldn't the world be so much better off without publicly traded companies? [thecorporation.com]

          OK, so here's another idea. When creating your games, make sure to contract everything where the rights to any franchises and whatnot go back to the original employee who came up with them in the event that your company goes out of business or is bought by another one ;)
          • Re:Another approach (Score:3, Interesting)

            by ZephyrXero ( 750822 )
            PS. Just to elaborate a little more on my idea. By restricting the copyrights like that, all a buyout would accomplish is the big company obtaining the name of your company pretty much, thus making a buyout unattractive and most likely, fairly unprofittable to anyone trying to bully you through your shares.

            If "publishers" want to make money off the games you make, then they should invest in funding particular those particular games, not gobbling up your whole studio... Diversity in the game industry is d
            • Diversity in the game industry is dying out while the EA's and Microsoft's of the world are killing it with their boring in-bred sequels :(

              When was there really a significant amount of diversity from mainstream publishers? Innovation has long been the realm of shareware/freeware.
            • Poaching employees is much easier than buying a company out, they'd just offer your franchise owners better conditions and pay and some of them may defect.
        • In the ideal world, this would have been perfect, but I suspect most people either:

          1. Go public and mainstream, and keep on going not knowing when (or wanting) to stop.

          2. Go public and mainstream, sell out and stop.
          • Well, 1 will certainly be stopped by one of the big players sooner or later. If you have THE killer game that sells without having to sell it, you'll get bought. See "The Sims". A self-selling game where you can spew out a billion add-ons and all of them will be bought. EA just had to scoop it up.

            2 depends on you. If you make games to make money, don't even start. The market's saturated by the big players. Your chances as an independent to land a smash hit are so tiny that you're usually better off playing
  • The promise of the internet is that we all become publishers (if we choose)...from news, blogs, games, music, and movies....this is the "New Economy". The "Old Economy" is dominated by the gatekeepers, the middlemen--the ones that own the means of distribution, starting with railroads.

    Let freedom ring!
  • by spidweb ( 134146 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @05:18PM (#14960367) Homepage
    For the last over a decade, my company has done quite well for itself self-publishing our role-playing games. (Spiderweb Software, http://www.spiderwebsoftware.com/ [spiderwebsoftware.com] If you can pull it off, it's a great way to make a living. With electronic distribution and a huge profit margin, you don't have to sell too too many copies of your game to buy a house.

    The problem is getting off the ground. Once you write your great game (oh, and it does have to be great), you have to get that first group of people to notice you. Then, hopefully, this core group will turn, through word-of-mouth, into an actual audience.

    Once that very difficult thing is accomplished, you, like me, can live your basement-dwelling dream life.

    Best of luck to Gamelab!
    • Holy crap, I used to love your games. I must have wasted more time playing Exile back on my old Mac IIfx that any all the other games I had put together. Since I was unable to buy a copy back then (I was somewhere around 12), I think I'll be putting an order when i get home.
    • For the last over a decade, my company has done quite well for itself self-publishing our role-playing games. (Spiderweb Software, http://www.spiderwebsoftware.com/ [spiderwebsoftware.com] If you can pull it off, it's a great way to make a living. With electronic distribution and a huge profit margin, you don't have to sell too too many copies of your game to buy a house.

      The only problem is that you have to make sure that your interface is "bullet-proof". If a person plays Exile for a while, moves onto a competing product (e.g.

    • I think the difference is that you wrote original games. Anyone who reads the article and reckons that 'diner dash' is an original game, should downlaod and play "wild west wendy" written a short while beforehand. DD looks to be just a reskin of a great game by a genuinely independent 1 man developer (cant remember the name).
      These days, if you write a successfull small indie game, some bigger VC-funded company comes along and clones it instantly, and its their game, not yours, that gets the publicity.
  • Self Publishing isn't always easy, but Garage Games seems to have hit upon a good balance. They release game engines as a sandbox for developers, let them create great games, and then help the developers distribute the game. Some of the top developers are showing up on Xbox Live, and before that were quite successive. (Marble Blast, Dark Horizons: Lore, Tube Twist, Orbz are a few)
  • My two cents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Teppy ( 105859 ) * on Monday March 20, 2006 @07:16PM (#14961052) Homepage
    We almost had a major publisher for A Tale in the Desert [atitd.com]. They projected around 30,000 subscribers. Now, 3 years after release, the actual amount of money we put in our pockets each month is just a bit less with ~1300 subscribers than we would have made with a large publisher at 30,000.

    And, no bureaucracy, no suits second-guessing me, and I can try any crazy thing in the game that I want. My advice: If you can self-publish, do it. If you can't, find a way that you can ;)

  • At Mekensleep [mekensleep.com]we're thinking exactly the same way. We wanted to work on persistent, social, online games. And we wanted to release it all as Free Software [mekensleep.org]. Unsurprisingly, publishers were not in a hurry to follow us there (not that I cared) and, from my previous experience, I had learned about the dangers of vulture capital.
    So we decided that working on a small scale product [pok3d.com] was the way to go. With a little luck, it will provide a sustainable stream of revenues and at a minimum, it got us further along on th

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