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The Publishing FAQ

Making A Game Is The Easy Part

Originally written: February, 2006. Most recent update: September, 2011

Note: Up until now, these articles have always been monthly. But no longer. From this point forward, new articles will be written as I perceive the need. My IGDA column, The Games Game, will continue as a monthly feature as long as the IGDA permits me to keep on keepin' on. And you're always welcome to email me your questions and comments. All questions and responses are posted on the Game Design Q&A bulletin board.

Disclaimer. I have not done the thing you are trying to do. I've never created an electronic game by coding it independently myself. But I have produced dozens of electronic games, and designed a few as well. I've worked in game publishing companies, development companies, and even toy development companies, for many many years. So I do know a thing or two about this topic. But like I say, you're trying to go somewhere I haven't gone myself. More power to you. Don't get discouraged by the next several paragraphs - at the end of this article I offer some new ideas that should help you look at your creation from an entirely different light than you've probably got shining on it now.

Whether you've created a video game, a computer game, or a mobile game, or even a board game or a card game, making the game itself is the easy part.

So many people ask, "I made a game, now how do I get it published, manufactured, marketed, and distributed?" As I write this, the subject of publishing your brainchild (with the end goal being to make money from it) has come up no less than three times in the past week.

No matter how hard it was to create the game, if you intend to try to make money from it, get prepared now for learning a whole new set of skills. And prepare yourself for even harder work than what it took you to make that game.

I discussed the publishing options for non-electronic games in article 20. Most of them, anyway. Paper games, games that the end user (the customer) can print on their home computer system and assemble themselves, can be published as PDFs on the 'web. And that model wasn't discussed in article 20. I'll go into that a little bit below. But before I forget, I just discovered another GREAT article, "So you've invented a board game. Now what?" It's at (thanks to a guy who decided to go with an abstract moniker rather than a real name).

But for the most part this article examines the typical schemes that the creator of an independent electronic game (video, computer, web, or mobile) usually considers - and some that they don't.

The publishing problem varies depending on the platform you create your game for. (Don't know what a "platform" is, in the context of games? Use the Game Biz Glossary, article 28, to look up any terms in this article that are new to you.)

So first let's look at some different platforms, and their concomitant different possible publishing models.

1. Video game (console, including Game Boy & PSP) or large PC game (large enough to require a DVD or one or more CDs)

2. Small PC game (of downloadable size) - or web game (playable in a browser)


4. Mobile game (game for cell phones)

5. Paper games, as downloadable PDFs.

So those are the typical solutions you've probably already thought of - and maybe some you hadn't. Let's look at each of those for a moment, then I'll finish by offering even better ideas.

A. Get your video game or mainstream PC game published by an established big mainstream publisher

B. Become a video game or computer game publisher yourself

C. Get your video/computer game distributed by a company that takes liquidated and closeout merchandise

D. Get your downloadable or web or mobile game hosted by an established game portal where they'll promote it and earn you money

E. Get your downloadable or web or mobile game hosted on a downloads site

F. Host your game on your own site

G. Get your MMOG published, hosted, and supported by a big publisher

H. Publish, host, and support your MMOG yourself

I. Get your mobile game published by a mobile publisher

J. Get your mobile game hosted online for folks to download

K. Offer it for sale on your own site

L. Get your paper game hosted on an established site where other paper games are also made available.

M. Sell your paper game from your own site.

If you're going to self-publish, you'll also need to self-publicize. The Association of Shareware Professionals would be a useful organization for you to join and learn a lot about various aspects of self-publishing. And offers lots of useful tips for publicizing your game. To find good info about how to write a press release, just Google "how to write a press release."

It may be just me - I enjoy designing and producing games, but I know I would not enjoy doing all the stuff involved in marketing, distributing, or publishing them. Your life may vary.

So - according to Tom Sloper, what's another way, an even better way you could look at your wonderful creation?

Whether or not you manage to make any money from your brainchild, I believe that it has tremendous value for you. It has even more value if you have multiple games (not just one measly game). The investment in time and work to make more games will prove tremendously valuable, in building your skills, your portfolio, your experience, and your perceived value to publishers.

Use your finished games as proof of what you can do. Publishers are much more interested in establishing a relationship with a talented developer who can do work for them, who can make the games they want, than they are in buying one or two measly games.

You are unlikely to get rich selling the one measly game you created. But if you follow my suggestion, your life will be all the richer.

What is my suggestion? That you leverage your creation into a career making games. Hey, you wanted to make that one, didn't you? So...? Wouldn't it be cool to make a career of it?

Or maybe it's just me.

More great publishing tips and resources in the IGDA Indie Production Guide.

And look, I know you don't wanna spend any more money, but if you read this article all the way down to here, you gotta buy The Indie Developers' Guide to Selling Games. Go to

A free article on self-publishing:

If you're looking to sell your IP, there are legal things you need to know. There are good articles, including one from February 2009 on Selling IP, at

The FAQs for the "Business of Game Development" forum, at, are an additional must-read.

Got a question or comment about this article? Email your comments to - you'll get a response on the Sloperama Game Design bulletin board.

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© 2006-2011 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved. May not be re-published without written permission of the author.