Keep your dream Game Developers: Don’t sell out to a publisher

You’re a developer, or would-be developer, with a great idea for a game. Now comes the hard part, realizing your dream project. Can you make this yourself, or do you need to find someone else to pay you to do it? For too many developers with a dream and not much else, there’s only one option: get a big publisher to pay you to do the work.

For lots of developers I talk to, selling their intellectual property, their dream project is the only way to get it made. I’m here to say there’s another way. First we’ll look at why devs sell off their dreams; why my company, SyncBuildRun, isn’t; and how you can try this other way, too.

Developers tell me there’s several reasons why they sell off their IP:
1. Don’t have enough money
2. Don’t know how to do marketing
3. Don’t know how to do distribution
4. Don’t have the nerve to go outside what they know

All those are legitimate issues, but they shouldn’t be dream-killers (or –sellers). There’s too much emphasis and advice on ‘how can I get a publisher for my game.’ A decade ago, having a publisher to back your game was pretty much the only option available to someone with a great idea. Studios routinely did deals with a publisher, or even the company behind a particular console. But in 2015, the ability to develop, market, distribute and finance a game doesn’t just belong to big companies:

Development: The tools are cheaper and more powerful than ever to create games on big platforms such as mobile/tablets, PC, even the indie-game initiatives by Sony and Microsoft. For mobile, for instance, the time and expense it takes to create a title can be incredibly modest compared to building a AAA console title that might cost $40 million and three years to produce.

Distribution: Big publishers still dominate the big platforms, but companies such as Zynga, SGN Games and others came out of nowhere to create major presences online and on mobile. Valve, the company behind Half Life and Steam, went from being a game studio that didn’t own its own game to reclaiming the franchise and building the dominant online-distribution platform for PCs and Macs (SyncBuildRun plans release V.Next, our upcoming game, through Steam).

Marketing: Big publishers have battalions of PR reps, veteran marketing executives, eye-popping cinematic video trailers and so much else. But now, a smart startup can make a splash with the right audience just by being smart about how they leverage highly targeted PR, blogs and social media from the very start of their project’s existence. By the time the game debuts, these smart, small developers can have an outsized footprint, and an outsized market for their game.

Funding: Financing is the scariest thing for most small developers, and making sure that cash flow continues long enough to get the product out the door. In an era when Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other crowdfunding platforms have become the place to both raise money and test audience interest, the little guy doesn’t need to depend so much on Big Brother to get through. And the recent S.E.C. approval of rules for selling equity stakes through online sites provides another option for raising money that doesn’t require a company to sell off its entire IP simply to finish a project. Again, you have options. Think bigger.

SyncBuildRun CEO Paul Furio is building V.Next, his first game since leaving Amazon, as indie publisher. We’ll be doing a Kickstarter campaign to help finance the project. And I’ve been building our social-media, blog and social-media presence as we prepare to launch later this year. SyncBuildRun’s game is using all those tools that now dramatically reduce development costs, and we’ll be leveraging Steam for our initial distribution.

Paul tells me he’s taking this route because he has a great story he wants to tell, and because he wants to make that story gets told right. He wants to create something of value, and maintain control over all the possible spinoffs, licensing, merchandise and everything that can come with that. It can work for you too as a developer, if you put together the right team and strategy, and use all the tools available to us now as indie game creators.

Keep up with the latest on what we are doing by connecting with SyncBuildRun thru social media on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/syncbuildrun and Facebook http://www.facebook.com/syncbuildrun and sign-up to get exclusive game updates for V.Next at http://www.vnext-game.com

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