Ngmoco's Alan Yu has spoken at Develop about the the importance of knowing your audience, claiming that it represents the biggest skill gap between what's necessary for self-distribution and self-publication.
Speaking as part of a panel entitled Throw Away Your Office at the Brighton event, Yu made clear that believing that distribution and publishing are the same can prove a costly error, and that proper research into your target market is key to success.
"Running a business is a lot like running a restaurant," said Yu. "When they open the doors, you'd better know their name, what they want to drink, what their regular order is. You want to make sure that their food is good quality, because other wise they're going to go to that restaurant down the road."
When asked how that affects companies who intend to retain control by self-publishing their work, Yu argued that self-publishing is a term which is often misapplied.
"I think that's a misnomer," said of self-publication on iOS. "You can self distribute, but everyone else can too, right? That's like saying that if you get the key to Walmart then you can get in and put your product on the shelf with everyone else.
"Whether or not you work with a publisher or you do it yourself, I think you have to have competence in differentiating your product, knowing your audience, learning how to speak to them and getting the word out – whether that's a publisher or you doing it yourself. Self distribution doesn't mean self-publishing – they're two different things."
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz after the panel, Yu reiterated his point.
"The number one thing where everyone has to start is really understand your audience, to know who you're making your game for. Once you figure that out, you have to work out how to communicate with them, build a zeitgeist around the experience you're trying to create. It's very obvious but you have to start there."
That process, says Yu, is possible even for the smallest team, with limited access to media and feedback.
"I have two ex-colleagues that used to work with me at EA L.A. They're actually very newsworthy right now, one is Greg Kasavin, he's released Bastion today, and another colleague if mine called Jake Kazdal who's making Skulls of the Shogun which just got signed to Microsoft. These are teams of five or six guys. They've built tremendous buzz for their games – I think they know who their audience is. "