So you’ve just made an awesome game, and you’re getting ready to release it into the world. What comes next?
For many game industry professionals, it’s a question that looms large as they grapple with how best to market, monetize, publish, or distribute their games. Although many educational programs have focused on the art, design, and technology of game development, few programs have given focus to the equally significant business side of the industry.
Beginning this September, DigiPen Institute of Technology Europe-Bilbao is pleased to offer the Advanced Certificate in Video Game Publishing. This five-month online course is designed for graduates and professionals who wish to have a comprehensive understanding of the game publishing business.
“If your aim is to learn how to successfully launch a game and stand out from the competition, this is your program,” Ignacio de Otalora, Executive Director of DigiPen Europe-Bilbao, says. “It’s for developers who want to acquire business insights and incorporate them into the game development process, or for business professionals who want to refine or update their skills to create powerful and innovative go-to-market plans incorporating the industry’s latest trends.”
The Advanced Certificate in Video Game Publishing will cover a wide range of topics, including the evolution of game business models and marketing trends, innovative strategies for game monetization, and the many operations that support game publishing — such as localization, finance, customer support, and more. By the end of the program, students will be able to design a cohesive publishing plan and be equipped with a solid understanding of the publishers’ mindset when negotiating publishing agreements.
Students in the program will engage in a mix of projects, lectures, and peer-to-peer discussion, all facilitated by a world-class team of game marketing experts.
We asked some of the program faculty a few questions about the program and why it’s important for developers to learn about the business of game publishing. Here’s what they had to say:
Q: In what ways is marketing and publishing an overlooked aspect of the game development process? Isn’t it enough to just make an amazing game that people will want to play?
Making a great game is a must, that’s for sure, but it’s not enough — especially nowadays. We could name dozens of fantastic games that didn’t enjoy the commercial success they deserved due to a poor publishing strategy. We firmly believe that having in mind the publishing strategy in parallel to the game development process increases the odds of success significantly.
Q: When it comes to major publishers, some people think that business decisions can have a negative impact on a game’s development and worsen the end experience for the player. But can the reverse scenario be true as well? Can a well-executed business strategy actually make a game better?
It´s true that for many years the industry looked at its business side as the “devil” that could constrain creativity and compromise the game quality on behalf of business guidelines. We tended to make the developers heroes and the business teams the villains of the story, but nothing could be further from reality. In fact, what triggered the industry profitability in the last decade was the evolution of business models tied to the games, some of which have had a significant impact both on the business and the development side. Those companies who understand the need for effective communication and open dialogue between the creatives and the business people are the ones who are reshaping the industry.
Q: What are some of the biggest mistakes people tend to make when marketing or publishing their game?
There are quite a number of examples of big mistakes made by people and companies of any size, but we could classify them in three big groups. The first mistake is not listening to the player, especially in the early stages of development, to avoid a future backlash that could ruin years of development. Fortunately, we see more and more publishers or studios running alpha and beta versions of the game to receive early feedback from the community.
The second type of mistake has to do with the business model or monetization strategy. Developers and publishers need to balance what they offer and how much they can charge for it. Poor monetization strategies have derailed many games with a high success potential. Overpricing, extremely aggressive monetization schemes, or pay-to-win models are setting the game for failure.
The third category of mistake has to do with poor localization. When we talk about localization, we’re not just talking about translation. Making the game relevant for different audiences across the globe is critical to reach a global success. We see more and more in-game seasonal events that celebrate cultural differences (Halloween, Chinese Lunar Year, Ramadan, etc.) and resonate with varied communities.
Q: Is this program going to look at a wide range of gaming platforms and distribution models?
Of course. The player today is more complex than ever, and most people have access to more than one device. Technology now allows multiplatform gaming, and one can play on the console at home, on the cell phone when commuting, or on a handheld. We will definitely offer a multiplatform approach and cover the main differences when publishing games in each platform. When it comes to acquiring a game, it’s essential for us to explore how players can access the game we are marketing, whether it’s a digital or physical purchase, and how to improve the user experience in each case.
Q: What expertise will the instructors bring to this certificate program?
Every member of the faculty has a very solid experience working in top industry companies like Activision Blizzard, Nintendo, Ubisoft, Tencent, Epic Games, Newzoo, or ESL Gaming just to name a few. Most of them have held top executive positions in their companies, and all of them are still active in the industry.
Q: What will students in the program be working on?
The course is intended to be very interactive and will promote debate and discussion during the lectures. We do this because it will foster creativity and critical thinking, and considering the pool of speakers we will have, it will be a unique opportunity to learn from the real experience of top industry executives. The key deliverable for the students will be the final project, where they will have to create a publishing plan for a game of their choice (real or fictional) that will incorporate all the aspects of a publishing strategy covered during the course.