Developers should develop themselves

Wasn’t there a time when the UK used to be a hot bed of development talent? In some respects it’s easy to see what’s happening. A small team comes up with a great idea but lacks funding.

They turn to a publisher to finance their project and, to everyone’s relief, the game sells well. The publisher is happy but they would have been even happier if the development had cost them less and the royalty payments weren’t eroding their margin even further. So we cut to the almost weekly MCV headline whereby another British code shop has been bought by one of the big publishing giants.

That wouldn’t be so bad but, as almost all the major publishers are from overseas, the UK ends up losing yet another potential hotbed of homegrown talent. It’s like the collapse of the British car industry, but without the Austin Maestro. Be thankful for small mercies.

The real losers in the development car-boot sale are the smaller teams who struggle to find that elusive benefactor.

Trying to heave their heads above the trench to be even noticed by the increasingly huge publishing monoliths that dominate the sector can be a real struggle. And that’s without competition from the new-tech world of cheaper East European or Asian code factories, and teams reaping the rewards of mammoth tax benefits from studios in countries like Canada.

So why don’t the smaller teams shout louder? It seems like an obvious solution. If you want to get heard then you need to shout. ‘But publishers don’t want our company name on their press releases’ is a phrase that I hear all too often.

I’m not overly surprised by that sentiment when the inclusion of your little development team name doesn’t offer any value to the story or, more-importantly, make the game more attractive to their retail customers or shareholders. So it’s a chicken and egg situation. Right? Well no, not really.

Boosting your company profile in a very competitive market is the first thing you should do and it doesn’t have to be that hard. Focus on telling the world what you’re good at and, more importantly, believe in it yourself. Keep pushing key points of your business to the industry and look for trends. How can your company lock into the current ‘flavour of the week’ story?

Don’t let an opportunity for self-promotion pass you by. Look for opportunities to pop up and say ‘We’re good at that. In fact, we’re the best’. And you know what? It just might stick and your self-belief will become someone else’s belief in what you do.

The video games industry is blessed with a wealth of press support, and the development community gets more air-time than many other industries put together. What a small developer needs is a PR strategy. One day, when Charlie Bigwig from Ivory Tower Games Inc types your name into Google, he might be bowled over enough by what you’ve done to get his cheque book out. Just make sure he doesn’t drive a Maestro.

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