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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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Matt Martin avatar
Matt Martin: Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.
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