Game Development Reference
Not having to ship a boxed product simplifies everything
Have you ever waited with your fingers crossed while someone on your team
boarded a plane with a physical copy of a “gold master” DVD? Have you been
the one on that plane, hoping that you land in time to get to the manufacturing
plant and hand off the disc for printing? Ever had to deal with creating box art
for a dozen different territories, each with their own sales reps and laws about
what can (and must) be on the cover of a product sold in stores? For many with
a stake in the retail sales game, these sorts of problems were commonplace.
But you won't have to deal with them when building social games. And more
importantly, you won't have COGS (cost of goods and services) to worry about
in your P&L (profit and loss) calculations for the game. No need to budget for
fuel to power delivery trucks sent to drop off your product; no paying FedEx to
ship your game to hundreds of different retail outlets in a desperate attempt to
honor a street date. Digitally sold and released games bypass a thousand com-
plications of a physical supply chain and can allow you to save a great deal of
money when it comes time to get your game into the hands of your customer.
And because social games are almost always digitally distributed, they benefit
from this far simplified process. (However, as you'll see, updating “live” games
that have active users 24 hours a day presents its own set of difficulties.)
You can be your own publisher!
Ask a thousand game developers who've worked in the industry for fewer than
five years what the worst part of making games is (aside from the hours), and
they'll likely start complaining about their publisher: their seemingly arbitrary
deadlines, the endless stream of know-nothing production types showing up
from L.A. or London to tell you what you already know how to do, marketing
d-bags with unreasonable feature requests and a job description that sounds a
lot like a party … milestone failures … predatory contracts … cancelled projects …
withheld royalties … and so on.
Those who have been around a bit longer may still smile wryly when asked
about the relationship between developers and publishers; they might even
point you to a picture of one of those birds that lives in the mouths of croco-
diles, feeding on the rotten meat stuck between the predator's giant teeth. Sure,
those birds eat well, but they earn their grey feathers—that kind of power dif-
ferential is never stress free.
So congratulations. Building social games could free you from the tyranny of
the powerful publisher/developer relationship by letting you take on the role of
the publisher yourself. All it takes is: money, a skilled staff, facilities, a testing
mechanism, a marketing department, partnerships, a recruiting team, strong
game development skills, and the stamina to stay in the ring until the revenue
starts rolling in.