When most people talk about the skills gap in the UK games development scene, they’re talking about a lack of developers with the necessary knowledge within the industry.
Thankfully, that skills gap is being addressed by a number of development and design courses across the country. But there is another area in which games developers remain largely hopelessly ignorant: business.
“Traditionally, if you are a developer you wouldn’t have too much knowledge of the business side of things,” Pollen VC’s marketing communications manager Tamsin Henry says.
“This is where there is the skills gap. A lot of people are having to learn this from scratch. Getting your head around all the digital marketing terminology is quite a stretch. Obviously a lot of people are now picking this stuff up. That’s the key reason – it’s essential if you are going to be an independent developer to have these skills. And if you are working for a larger corporation, you’ll probably be expected to know how all these things fit together – how marketing fits into the overall scheme of the games market.”
She continues: “There are a lot of steps that developers can take to do these things, even if it’s at quite a small level. People have the idea that PR and marketing is a black box – that it’s large scale and all about putting out press releases and big campaigns – when actually there’s a lot that indie developers can be doing, even from a long time before launch, to build their community.
“A lot of people just think it’s scary, but there’s a lot you can pick up by experimenting with doing stuff on Twitter and asking people what they’d like to see in your game. You’re doing marketing there.”
It’s not just PR and marketing that developers need to be up to speed on. There’s a wide array of areas that they either need to learn for themselves or, at the very least, seek outside help with.
“Most developers need an understanding of legal documentation and getting help with that,” Henry explains.
“Think about getting help from legal or financial professionals, but also be quite careful about that. Devs need to do their research and go to organisations like UKIE or the press to see what they should be judging those professionals on.
“At the end of the day, you need some financial software, some accountancy – you need to be able to judge that the person you have brought on to do that is the right person to work with.
“If you actually find you need a lawyer for some reason – say, to help you with patents – do the research around that to ensure you get the advice when you seek professional help. Getting a basic understanding of what your contract with a publisher means and how that limits you in terms of your IP, what you can do with it afterwards and how much of your revenue they are going to take ownership of – that’s something that indie developers also need to be aware of.”
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