Indie Game Developers Need To Think Globally
One evening last week, representatives from the United States Department of Commerce met with myself and other Los Angeles chapter board members of the International Game Developers Association to discuss policies to promotes economic growth, technological competitiveness, and sustainable development of the game industry. I kicked off the conversation by saying that the big game publishers already have a voice in Washington through the Entertainment Software Association, but who really needs a voice are the indie developers, and what they most need is funding for doing development. We talked a bit about different sources of funding, but what seemed to really perk their interest was funding from other countries.
As it so happens, two days later I met with a representative from a Shanghai-based game publisher who told me that there is indeed a lot of money in Shanghai for funding game development. What they lack are creative ideas for games, and they are looking to the United States for development teams with proposals and even individual American game designers to lead teams.
Now, both these conversations are just in their infancy stages, and I will share more when and if anything develops, but what last week confirmed for me is that indie developers need to look beyond their own borders. There is a whole world out there that has an interest in games, and here are some things you can do right now to take advantage of a world-wide audience.
One decision impacting your ability to reach a worldwide audience is your selection of a publisher, assuming you are not publishing the game yourself. While there are many advantages of going with a worldwide publisher like Activision or Electronic Arts, ironically, they may not have distribution in some territories.
One alternative to consider is to use smaller publishers that each focus on one of the counties in which you want to distribute your game. You may find that these smaller publishers may give more individual focus to your game than the big publishers do, and you can probably negotiate a higher royalty rate too. However, the big publishers dominate the U.S. and U.K. markets, and it may be difficult to get physical distribution in these countries if you take the country-by-country route for distribution.
You selection of which countries in which to distribute your game will require you to do a little homework on each country. Some questions to ask yourself include:
- Is there an emerging game market in that country? If there is a growing interest in games that isn’t already saturated with product, your game could be one to satisfy the country’s desire for interactive entertainment.
- Does the country have any prohibitions on marketing or data collection? If you can’t promote your game or use metrics for measuring the effectiveness of your marketing campaign, you’re going to have a hard time getting potential customers in that country to find out about your game.
- Does the country have access to digital stores? If you plan to distribute your game digitally instead of physically, you’ll need to be sure there’s a way for the country’s citizens to actually download your game.
However, if you can jump over some of these hurdles, you may be able to tap into markets that are not as crowded as the U.S. market currently is. Of course, you have to develop your game first, and that requires money. Hopefully, in the coming months, I’ll have some information to share about obtaining foreign funding.
Mingling with the International Game Developers Association
In March I and six other candidates were elected to the Board of Directors of the International Game Developers’ Los Angeles Chapter, and last Wednesday we held our first event, a meet-and-greet held in conjunction with Recess LA at Rush Street in Culver City, California. Recess LA is a free-to-attend art, board game and play event that bringing creatives, gamers and spectators together for a night of mingling, chatter, music, activities and games. The event was a big success: everyone had a good time in addition to an opportunity to share ideas for additional events with the new IGDA-LA Board. So, I’d like to take this opportunity to tell those of you who are unfamiliar with the International Game Developers Association, a little bit about the organization.
The IGDA is a U.S.-based 501(c)6 non-profit professional association that exists as a global network of collaborative projects and communities comprised of over 12,000 individuals from all fields of game development – from programmers and producers to designers, writers, artists, and testers.
Our mission statement is “To advance the careers and enhance the lives of game developers by connecting members with their peers, promoting professional development, and advocating on issues that affect the developer community.”
We bring together developers at key industry conferences, in over 90 chapters around the world and in Special Interest Groups (SIGs) to improve their lives and their craft. We advocate on behalf of our membership to ensure quality of life, perpetuation of our craft and preparing the next generation of developers.
Aside from bringing game developers together, the IGDA focuses on the following issues present in the game development industry:
- Quality of life: making the process of game development easier and more pleasant for everyone.
- Diversity: ensuring that people from a wide range of backgrounds and their needs are represented in the game development industry
- Anti-Censorship: recognizing games as an art form, and as a medium of expression
- Business and Legal Issues: empowering the development community with business knowledge and advocating for developers
- Student and Academic Relations: setting curriculum guidelines, enhancing collaboration between industry and academia and providing guidance to students wanting a career in games
The IGDA was founded in 1994 by game designer Ernest W. Adams and was initially known as the Computer Game Developers Association (CGDA). Modeled after the Association for Computing Machinery, Ernest envisioned the organization to support the careers and interests of individual developers, as opposed to being a trade organization, or an advocacy group for companies.
Kate Edwards is the current Executive Director of the IGDA, and she has focused especially on diversity and inclusion issues, such as working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to deal with the on-line harassment of developers. Another of her areas of focus has been in welcoming new IGDA chapters in cities around the globe. Chapters are intended to provide an informal way to connect game developers within local communities. They provide forums, for example, for discussions on current issues in the computer gaming industry and demos of the latest games.