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Thoughts On Independent Game Development

Some thoughts about independent game development from a small game development company from germany.

This is my first blog entry here on Gamasutra. I am going to tell you about our small game development studio in Dortmund, Germany and what we do. Perhaps I can help some people to avoid mistakes which we have done in the past.

About me, I started developing freeware games during my school days in the year 2000. In the same time I helped a small indie developer in Germany testing some commercial casual games. My first complete game production I worked on was a space shooter which was released in 2008. In the same year we founded “Z-Software GmbH” (a kind of limited company in Germany).

After that we started working on a sport simulation game. January 2010 “Handball Simulator 2010 – European Tournament” , our sport simulation game, released. During the two years we were also do some work as an outsourcing service for other game developers. We make some motion capture, programming and graphic.

In the past we were only working at retail PC games together with publishing companies, but in the meantime we noticed the possibilities of self-publishing. We don’t know yet if it will work, but after some experience with developing games for publishers on the PC platform, I am dying to try self-publishing out.

Here is a table, where you can see, our thoughts of advantages and disadvantages of working with publisher and self-publishing. I don’t know yet if we are right or we make a failure, but I am going to write in my blog here on Gamasutra what went good and what not.  

working with publishers

self-publishing

+ your projects are fully financed
(in terms of cost recovery)

+ you have minimal risk

+ you don’t have to care about marketing

+ you don’t have to care about distribution

+ publishers take care of the localization

+ publishers have a lot of press relationships

+ you can decide what kind of games you make

+ you can focus on your project

+ you can develop small games with small teams

+ you have your own fan community (makes it easier to publish new games)

+ some games (on some platforms e.g. PC) allow second-cycle exploitation on the retail market (e.g. Torchlight)

+ marketing can be done very specifically

+ you break even with lower sales figures

+ online you have a big community of gamers worldwide who can buy your game

- you can’t care about marketing

- you have to steer your game designs into the publishers direction

- it takes longer to break even

- you need to have a follow-up project or you might run out of money when the first project is finished

- publisher always try to keep developing budget as low as possible (also if it doesn’t make sense)

- you have to market the game by yourself or pay for services

- you HAVE TO build up your own community

- you have to bear the risk for developing and publishing your game (If a game fails your game studio can get into trouble)

- you have to care about your community: your facebook page, your twitter account, your website etc  

- managing all this stuff takes a lot of time

 

One more thing is that if you want to make a game and self-publish it, you have to look who wants to or can buy your game, what should it cost etc. But I think that most of you know how to manage a company and how the games market works.

My opinion is built on experience with small publishers. And we have a small team and no big track record. I think we are not alone in this situation. So if bigger companies disagree, I can understand it. Also I can understand that it is possible to become rich with working with publishers. (I know some examples.)

I am going to write here on Gamasutra every once in a while and keep you up-to-date about our experiences with self-publishing.

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