Publisher/Developer relationship

I am constantly having to re-evaluate what I know to be true about the game industry. Most of what I knew was gleaned from web forums or found off of various websites. Now that I am a part of the industry all of that knowledge has gone out the window and I am having to forget what I knew to learn what things are really like (sounded almost yodaish in my head).  The relationship between a publisher and developer is a shining example of that.

When a game developer (like GPG) has a game they want to make they need money to do it, unless they are lucky enough to be able to self-publish their games. In order to acquire this money they find a publisher willing to invest in the project and fund some or all of it. Depending on who the publisher is it can have a huge impact on the game or none at all. It's like borrowing money from a family member. If they give you the loan they will either do it and keep quiet or they will lend you the money and take the opportunity to throw in some free advice to go along with it. Publishers are the same way, they will either lend the money and let the developer make the game or they will want changes made.

It actually makes sense to a point. I mean, these publishers are making a very large investment and they want a return on that. If they decide changes need to be made to see that return they will say so. Whether those changes are a good idea or not is definitely up to debate.

The publisher is also a determining factor for post launch support as well, because that requires money as well. No matter how much the fans want a patch or how badly the developer wants to release a patch, the publisher is the one that ultimately determines what gets patched and when, especially if the publisher owns the IP to the game. The publisher is also the one that influences, or outright determines, the milestone, beta, and release schedule.

This is why self-publishing is such a nice bonus. The developer gets to make the game they want, on the time line they want, and gets to provide post launch support how they want. Unfortunately, it also very expensive and very risky.


olivier said... / November 25, 2009 at 10:57 PM sounds like you're not very happy with S.E. milestones and decisions about supcom 2 :)

Sorian said... / November 25, 2009 at 11:08 PM  

Not in the least. Square has let us make the game we want, just on a tight schedule.

Dunbar said... / November 25, 2009 at 11:58 PM  

Do you think it will have proper balancing testing?

Tobias Fong C.W. said... / November 26, 2009 at 12:26 AM  

What is the point you're trying to make with the post? At first, I thought the same as Oliver, but when you replied, "Not in the least. Square has let us make the game we want, just on a tight schedule", I was left scratching my head.

So you mean what you're unhappy about is the tight schedule and deadlines they put for you?

Well, cheer up! There's something called negotiation. If you want to extend the deadline, negotiate with them and convince them why it's better not to set the date on 2nd March.

All the best!

Sorian said... / November 26, 2009 at 12:34 AM  

The point of the post was to explain the publisher/developer relationship for anyone that was unaware of how it works.

Christian said... / November 26, 2009 at 1:03 AM  

so no negative connotation intended? It really sounded negative either about S.E. or FA and THQ^^

Fingolfin said... / November 26, 2009 at 1:41 AM  
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Fingolfin said... / November 26, 2009 at 1:44 AM  

Sometimes I don't know how you find the patience with some of these nitpicky comments, Sorian :)

Good on you! Thanks for the excellent insights into the Dev/Pub relationship.

Michael said... / November 26, 2009 at 6:21 AM  

Yes. I agree with Fingolfin. It is a good idea to educate fans on how it works. While most have a general sense, it is helpful to fill it in a bit.
An important distinction is the self-publishing thing. Many fans who compare GPG and most other developers to Blizzard don't understand that distinction. Blizzard has a luxury of taking their time that most others do not. So that is never a fair comparison because who else has a cash cow like WOW there to fund everything?

I would also assume that there is always at least a little bit of healthy tension between publisher and developer. So I didn't read too much into your post although I could see how others might take it that way. But it was general enough to be unclear whether twas Squeenix, Stardock, or THQ that may have been the "inspiration" for the post.

olivier said... / November 26, 2009 at 11:41 AM  

Sorian don't get us wrong, we're following you, we know about this post you did S.E was not happy about, we know that you have short deadlines for supcom 2, we know that you would have liked to put additional features in the game, so this last Post could be misinterpreted. Last but not least, i do appreciate a lot your posts, probably even much more than any standard news about supcom 2 ... It's really cool to learn a little about the other side ;-)

Sorian said... / November 26, 2009 at 12:13 PM  

I totally understand the confusion.

Tobias Fong C.W. said... / November 26, 2009 at 11:14 PM  

Sorry for being confused and misinterpreting your post. I guess I read too much into it.

And I like both GPG and Blizzard, I don't usually compare them. Starcraft is totally different from Supreme Commander, same with GPG and Blizzard, each has their respective strengths and weaknesses. While I do make the occassional joke about GPG being better than Blizzard (because of the latter's delays in Starcraft 2), the reality is that I like both developers and their sci-fi RTS games. It doesn't matter if Blizzard is richer and has more resources or if GPG had to depend on Square-Enix. Both games will be awesome.

That said, I thank you for providing this information on how the relationship between developers and publishers work. It was very enlightening.

To Fingoffin, we didn't intend our comments to be nitpicky. Everyone will interpret what they read differently. You can't exactly expect everyone to have identical interpretations (that's how all the disuptes come about, for example: over treaties, different Christian denominations, etc) but sorry for posting such comments. We didn't mean it, really.

EdWood said... / November 26, 2009 at 11:24 PM  

Thx Sorian for the insight.

Thats exacly what I was thinking most of the time, when people were moaning about the new FA patch.
I think most people don't know how difficult the situation can be and also about contracts. GPG cannot simply ignore THQ (just for example) and do whatever the fans want. The truth is, its sometimes very complicated so some people should be happy at all to get a patch in the end.
Thats for me the perfect example that goes with your article. :)

Rock on, Ed

mocafrost said... / November 27, 2009 at 1:44 AM  

Thanks for the insight. I had been considering asking you about the Publisher/Developer relationship.

DGo said... / November 27, 2009 at 5:11 AM  

It is very true that switching from one perspective to another greatly impacts your view and understanding on things. It's not just the gaming industry, but everything from say Wall Street and bonuses, to Union operations. Being part of or working with these industries can and will change your perspective on things.

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