Why developers need to stop the "us and them" attitude

David Braben, Miles Jacobson and Chris Lee urge devs to work closely with publishers for better games

Some of the UK's leading games developers have urged the creative community to work closely with publishers rather than consider the relationship with an "us and them" attitude.

Speaking at the Develop Conference in Brighton this week, Sports Interactive's Mile Jacobson, founder of FreeStyleGames Chris Lee and Frontier Developments' David Braben all agreed that better relationships will lead to stronger, more successful product.

"When you find the right publisher the power thing doesn't matter because you work together as a team and different people have different skills to bring to the table," Miles Jacobson of sports Interactive told an audience at Develop in Brighton this week.

"We're more involved on the publishing element of our games than any other studios. Even though we're owned by Sega I still have global sign-off on every single marketing and PR asset. We work together on release dates to try to find a date that works best. We fight from time to time but we get on pretty well.

It's often been far too easy for developers to think that their life is hard and the publishers have got it easy

Chris Lee, FreeStyleGames

Speaking of a previous publisher relationship, he added: "The 'us and them' relationship was horrible for both sides, absolutely horrible. We'd just shout at each other all the time. If you're in that relationship get out, go and be with someone that you do work better with, it's not good for your mental health."

While the industry has changed with more developers self-publishing, FreeStyleGames and Media Molecule co-founder Chris Lee said that in the past it was common for developers to think they had a harder job than publishers when bringing games to market.

"In the past ten years it's often been far too easy for developers to think that their life is hard and the publishers have got it easy. Look at the problems that developers have with changing platforms and business models - the developers have got a tough time trying to wrestle that."

"I'm very much on the development side but the reason publishers are trying to strike a deal with developers is not through anything other than trying to create a structure and an ecosystem that works for them as well.

Approach that relationship by trying to understand what the publisher is trying to achieve. I've been on that side of the table with Media Molecule and trying to understand what Sony wanted to achieve what the platform and the business needed to do by the time the game [LittleBigPlanet] was ready, and that helped us build a relationship with them.

David Braben added that developers shouldn't just be considering the financial aspects of a partnership, because the real value lies in the intellectual property being created.

"It's not 'them and us', that's divisive. It's hard bringing a game to market. The whole marketing side of that is very important and it's becoming more and more of a challenge. With the proliferation of platforms its much less obvious where the market is.

"From a development point of view you've got to be supportive of the publisher there are details of negotiation and money is part of that but the key part is IP going forward, that's really where the value is.

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Latest comments (2)

its finding the right partnership and culture that can mesh together. The right publisher has incalculable experience, skillsets, project management, to help produce a even better product that can result from a go it alone developer some times. its just finding a good marriage that can last beyond the first few dates and cohabitation.
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Tony Johns10 years ago
I just want to ask a question to someone in the industry but have never been able to have any contacts.

If I want to make a game and I have an idea but nobody to develop it for, who should I work for?

Should I work for a Developer or should I work for a Publisher?

Because someone told me that the Publisher tells the Developer what to make, but there have been some examples in the Japanese games industry where the Developer is the one who comes up with the game to make and the publisher is the one who comes on board when they consider it marketable, like with the Suda51 games.

The first No More Heros was published by Rising Sun Games, but the second one was published by Ubisoft and Shaddows of the Dammed was published by EA.

Yet they were all made by Suda 51 with his Grasshopper Studios having the development of all 3 games.

Is the relationship between Western Publishers different compared to Japanese Publishers?
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