Game Development Reference
Developers and publishers
In its simplest terms, developers create the games and publishers publish,
manufacture and distribute them to the retailers. The reality is, of course, a
little more complicated than that.
Many development studios cannot fund their own development because
the costs are too great and increasing continually - budgets of more than £1
million ($2 million) are becoming ever more commonplace. The publisher,
knowing that they need a regular stream of games to publish, steps in to fund
a game's development if they believe that the concept is something they will
be able to sell to market.
What this means for the studio is that the development of the game is paid
for, with the costs set against the royalties the studio would expect to earn
from the sale of the game to the public. It also means that the publishers,
wanting to keep an eye on their investment, are much more involved in the
development process, sometimes reducing some of the creative freedom of
The publisher will work with the development studio to define the
schedule, the budget, milestone deliverables and to define the target market
the game is aimed at.The publisher has to be sure they can supply a product
that has an expected customer base. If the perceived market is unlikely to
exist or is expected to be unreceptive to the game, the publisher may ask the
developer to make changes to the concept and design or, at the very worst,
may cancel the project after an initial pre-production period.
This can mean that writers may find themselves working with both the
developer and the publisher, particularly in the early stages when the concept
of the game is being thrashed out.
Many publishers also have their own, internal development teams. This
allows them much more control over the creative process, particularly when
they are dealing with licensed titles, for which they will likely have paid a lot
of money.Though there are those who bemoan the demise of the independent
studios, the opportunities for professional writers to work on big budget games
are increasing. As potentially big money earners publishers need to ensure
that all aspects of the title's development are handled as skilfully as possible.
Increasingly, a good story, strong characters and well-written dialogue are
becoming integral to the development of a good game. With game reviews
picking up on these aspects more frequently, we are at the point where a
studio or publisher would be taking a big risk if they did not hire a
professional and dedicated game writer.