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Tim Train: "Somebody's got to be the huckster"

Big Huge Games CEO shares his tips for finding and working with a publisher

Tim Train, the man who co-designed Alpha Centauri at Firaxis Games and founded Big Huge Games (twice), warned developers not to ignore the business side of the game industry, especially when it comes to finding a publisher.

"Don't underestimate the importance of business development," he told attendees to his Casual Connect panel yesterday.

"A lot of people - especially with programming backgrounds - think BD is lame and for the frat boys who couldn't get jobs as coders but stereotypically you need the hacker, the designer and the huckster to start your game company. Somebody's got to be the huckster."

Train recently reincarnated his studio Big Huge Games and made a publishing deal with Nexon M, a subsidiary of Nexon Corp. He said his team spoke to around 10 to 12 publishers before deciding on Nexon, and one of the attractions was its large network and its strength in the Asian market.

"A lot of people - especially with programming backgrounds - think business development is lame and for the frat boys who couldn't get jobs as coders"

When it comes to pitching to publishers he told developers to decide on a story for their studio, and then use that to sell themselves.

"Part of the trick is to really figure out what your narrative is as a developer and how it fits into what the publisher is looking for. You really have to research the publishers and understand the genres they're competing in and what unique thing you could bring to the table and craft a narrative around it, even if it's 'we have these three team members that worked on an aerial zombie game' or whatever."

He also pointed out that these deals can often rely on one stakeholder or one contact at a company, so you need to be sure that your stakeholder isn't going to move on halfway through your project.

"How much management turnover do they have? Often your deal depends on the good graces of one stakeholder; is that stakeholder someone who has been there for a bit? Is it a company that regularly does re-orgs? That's something that's going to impact your long term stability with that publisher."

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Rachel Weber avatar
Rachel Weber: Rachel Weber has been with GamesIndustry since 2011 and specialises in news-writing and investigative journalism. She has more than five years of consumer experience, having previously worked for Future Publishing in the UK.
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