Publishing & Marketing 101: What Do Publishers Do?

As much as we may wish, being a successful indie developer isn't just about having the best art, music, or even design. To make a living at games (the DREAM right?), you need to understand at least a little bit of the business of games.

Maria and I recently gave a talk to the Interactive Game Development class at the University of Houston where we shared some insights into how publishing & marketing work for games (with a bit of player psychology thrown in for good measure).

What do publishers do?

Video Game publishers help to release games. A lot of times this means funding development, setting milestones for the dev team, and other oversight, but it can also mean a lot more. Here are a few of the services publishers provide:

  • Setup store pages/storefronts

  • Provide testing & QA

  • Market research

  • Physical retail manufacturing & shipping

  • and of course, fund development

Generally, publishers make their money from sales of a game. But wait! Doesn't the developer get paid from selling their game? Well, it depends.

If a publisher provides funding to a developer to make the game, then most often, the developer doesn't see any residuals from game sales until the publisher recovers the money they game to the developer (and marketing, packaging, manufacturing, etc) and makes a comfortable profit. Often the only money the developer actually sees is the funding from the publisher during development, leaving developers searching for the next contract.

-Chris M

Watch the full video below and stay tuned for more post excerpts from our talk. Click here for the full slide deck.

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