[Mr. Jas’ lecture] Game Publisher and Developer

Have you ever bought a game? Try to check the package box. Usually in the cover box there is a company logo, sometimes it’s only one or even more. Those company logos can be the developers logo of the game, who is usually called as developer or logo from the game publisher, often called publisher. What is game developer? What is the difference with game publisher? This time, Mr. Jas will discuss about game publisher and developer, so we won’t be confused again when we hear these terms and understand about how the game industry moves.

A game is usually created through the cooperation two separated companies which are called developer and publisher. Developer is a party who creates a game, publisher promotes and trades that game, also provides customer service or service for the gamers.

Often times, publisher is needed to manufacture and distribute the developed game by the independent game studio or only focused to create game. Without publisher, many game studios are difficult to release the games. As a book author, they are not surely printing the books in thousands exemplar, market and distribute it alone. Therefore, the book author needs book publisher to do all the stuffs.

We take example of BioWare, that studio is only focused to create game and all everything supports the game to be played. So afterwards they bring the finished game they create to the publisher. Publisher will record the name in the game credits then prepare the right marketing planning for the game together with the developer, then start to distribute the game so that BioWare and all people in it starts to get profit sharing from the game sales with the publisher, meanwhile publisher works in marketing their game, they are concentrating in creating new game.

Developer itself is categorized as four types, what are they? Let’s discuss it one by one.

1. First Party Developer

The developer in this category is in the publisher company so both development and marketing are done fully by the same company or studio. So it can be said that developer has double roles also as publisher but in big scale. The advantage form this developer model is that every game created will be distributed and marketed well because it’s still in the same company but different division. Usually the scale of this kind of company must be really large and established.

For example is Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda are created by Nintendo, published by Nintendo and also only appear in Nintendo console. We will be difficult in playing both games in other devices except if we use emulator.

2. Second Party Developer

This developer type is separated from publisher, but they have signed contract for only producing for one publisher, who usually holds a certain console or platform. The advantage of this type of developer is that there is an assurance about the release and distribution for a publisher for various games will be created. However it is clear if we want to move to other publisher is not easy and needs to get through long process.

For example Naughty Dog who produces Crash Bandicoot and The Last of Us had signed contract with Sony, so we will not find the Crash Bandicoot of The Last of US (at least in early release) in PC, Xbox 360 or Nintendo console. One day Naughty Dog sign contract with other party so all upcoming games from Naughty Dog will be published on platform where the publisher is.

3. Third Party Developer

Mostly developer has this type. They make contract with publisher per one game and is usually free to be published in various platform. With this type, developers are free to put game in many platforms. That freedom becomes target for the developer with this type, it makes the game isn’t exclusive for one platform.

For example is Warthog creates Harry Potter game to various consoles, for this title, Warthog collaborates with Electronic Arts who is popular with the reliance in distribute this game to available platform/consoles.

4. Independent Game Developer

Independent Game Developer is a relatively small game studio and not owned by certain publisher. Usually the marketing is done alone by using social media or viral marketing. However it’s still possible to cooperate with one publisher to publish the game. The main power of this developer type is that the freedom in creating and expressing, unfortunately sometimes there is uncertainty in releasing or marketing because the developer hasn’t found the suitable publisher for the game or hasn’t been able to market it.

Example: many Indonesian game developers who still use this system. So every finished game later is marketed with different model and ways. Journey The Game is one of the indie developers’ creations.

After following this lecture, Mr. Jas hopes that we understand more about distribution process in a game so we can determine when we will become someone involve in game industry, what type of game developers that suits us or maybe we are suitable to be game publisher. Hopefully, this lecture is beneficial and improves our knowledge, wait for next lecture from Mr. Jas.


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Saya adalah seorang penggemar game sekaligus pembuat game. Sehari-hari bekerja sebagai dosen konsentrasi Pengembangan Game, Program Studi Desain Komunikasi Visual, Fakultas Teknologi Informasi di Universitas Kristen Satya Wacana. Saat ini mendirikan sebuah studio game indie yang bernama Enthrean. Karena saya penggemar JRPG, impian saya adalah membuat studio game yang bisa menyaingi ketenaran Square Enix.