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The Game Production Handbook, 2nd Edition by Heather Maxwell Chandler

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DEVELOPER
AND PUBLISHER
R
ELATIONSHIPS
In This Chapter
Pitching a Game to a Publisher
Managing the Developer-Publisher Relationship
• Third-Party Manufacturers
5.1 I
NTRODUCTION
D
evelopers must have open communication with their publisher, as the
publisher is ultimately responsible for creating the final packaged prod-
uct and marketing it to potential buyers. Publishers must work well
with developers, because without the developers, there are no products to sell.
These relationships can get very complex, especially if an independent devel-
oper and publisher are working together. More complexity is added if they are
working on a console or cell phone title that is submitted to a third-party con-
sole manufacturer for approval. This chapter discusses the major aspects of the
developer-publisher relationship, from pitching a game to a publisher to manag-
ing the developer-publisher relationship.
5.2 PITCHING A GAME TO A PUBLISHER
As games get more expensive to make and require larger teams, publishers are
very selective about which developers they work with. Wholly owned developers
usually have direct access to the people making decisions about which games to
Chapter 5Chapter 5
74 THE GAME PRODUCTION HANDBOOK, 2/E
develop and, thus, are not under as much pressure to create and pitch a game
idea. If a wholly owned developer does not have an idea for a game, it is likely
that the publisher will have a game in mind for the developer.
Independent developers, on the other hand, must find a publishing partner to
help them get the game finished and on the store shelves. The developer might
have a great game idea and already be in pre-production on it, but unless they can
find a publisher, it is unlikely the game will be released or turn a profit. In order to
find a partner, the developers must pitch their games to potential publishers.
Pitching games is not an easy task, as the developer must be able to suc-
cessfully communicate the full game experience for the player, even though the
game is still not completed—in fact, the game might only be in the concept
phase and have no tangible assets. The publisher must get a clear understanding
from the pitch on whether the game will deliver on this proposed experience and
be profitable.
PITCHING TO A PUBLISHER
Don Daglow, President and CEO
Stormfront Studios
Almost every developer pitches to publishers. Earlier in industry history the
process was much less formal. Long-term developer-publisher relationships played
a big part in developing new games, and ideas would be brainstormed jointly and
then greenlighted. Over the last decade the game industry has changed its focus to
internal creative teams. Like other entertainment media, game publishers now ag-
gressively seek outside developer pitches as a check-and-balance in addition to their
internal creative efforts.
The good thing about this highly evolved pitch process is that an established de-
veloper can readily get a meeting with key decision makers. However, if you waste
people’s time, you can lose that “open door, call us any time” status. So be sure to
make good use of publishers’ time when you pitch. You may not get a deal, but make
sure you leave the room with your reputation enhanced by what went on during the
meeting. The publishers will take your call again the next time you’re ready to pitch
an opportunity.
Because publishers are pitched several hundred games a year, most of them
have some type of pitch process in place, which allows them to quickly under-
stand the game’s potential. It helps them to decide which games are not suitable

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