As part of WN Dev Contest, we are discussing the industry with the jury members. In this installment, we catch up with Rebecca Owen, Business Development Manager at Digital Development Management (DDM).
DDM is an agency that represents Indie, Independent, and AAA development studios to publishers and distributors globally. Rebecca manages DDM’s Indie game portfolio working with client studios on studio strategy, pitch materials, target lists, contract negotiation, market analysis, etc.
Business Development Manager, Digital Development Management (DDM)
WN Dev Contest is a competition for Unreal Engine game developers. It’s held by WN Media Group in collaboration with Unreal Engine and Reboot Develop.
GWO: Rebecca, many games submitted to the contest are still at an early development stage. Any words of marketing advice to their devs? Something to help them make a game that has a chance of taking off when it ships?
Rebecca: If a game is intended to be commercially viable, the developer should have a list of comparable game titles and some idea of the sales figures of those titles as well. It’s important to think of the project they are creating as a game within an existing player’s library.
So if they have that, that makes them better prepared to approach a publisher. Anything that could go wrong during initial talks?
Many developers approach a contract template without understanding that a template is a starting point for negotiation and a framework to build on together with the publisher through discussion of terms. The developer should have an internal list of priorities for what they ‘need’ and what would be ‘nice to have’ in the partnership/contract, and to focus talks on those priority or key terms first, and then to adapt secondary concerns after. If a developer is entering into partnership with a publisher, they should both be motivated to see the project succeed.
Should the developer request a specific marketing budget?
During negotiations and in contracts, there can be minimum or maximum marketing spend parameters/sales thresholds listed specifically, but it’s hard to pin down a precise budget for any one project’s marketing prior to launch — there is some flexibility needed for marketing to adapt their strategy as they go. Additionally it depends on the platform and business model for the project in question, as a rule of thumb I expect around 30% of the game’s budget for marketing for a smaller premium PC game (ig. if the project budget is $100k, the marketing would be an additional $30k).
What about the requirements that publishers have? It’s not just a viable idea, it’s also the team behind it that matters, right?
I have a huge preference for teams with at least some experienced leadership, or more than one person on staff who has shipped games within the team. It is wonderful to have fresh ideas and new hires, but only when they are tempered with some production experience. For publishers, I think there is a lot of interest in teams where there are leads who have shipped a popular or well-known game, it definitely adds prestige.
Generally, what kind of games are you looking for at the contest?
I am looking for games with distinct visual identity and creative direction. I’m also interested in seeing games with accessible but deep systems, and games that tell unusual stories.
- Valve’s Gabe Newell: “Independent game developers are the bedrock of our industry”
- Josh Sawyer: “Smaller teams and smaller projects will be the future of the industry for most devs”
- Chris Zukowski rolls out free class How To Make A Steam Page
- META Publishing’s Oleg Zelikman: “We deliberately limit the size of our catalog so as to only publish 4-6 games per year”