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GDC 07: How to get your indie game published

Bonnie Ruberg

It seems like everybody's hitting it big publishing their indie games through services like Xbox Live Arcade. But what about you? For those among us still clinging to indie projects but burning to get them out into the world (ah, it burns!), Simon Carless hosted a "Console/PC Distribution Gatekeepers" panel this afternoon as part of the Independent Games Summit. With John Hight from Sony, Sandy Resnick from GameTap, Greg Costikyan from Manifesto Games, and Ross Erickson (formerly) of Xbox Live Arcade, the panel covered everything from what game services are looking for, to how many submissions they get, to how much they pay. Here are some tips and heads-ups from the suits who decide the fate of your games:

  • Sure, experience, fun factor, uniqueness, and audience appropriateness are all important factors in getting your game published, but the execs also stressed enthusiasm. Making a game takes a lot of work, so publishers want to know you'll see it through. Said Erickson, "The game we want is the game you're passionate about."

  • Submission numbers: Excepting those emails from nine-year-olds who want a game with "animals and lasers," Erickson says XBL Arcade gets a few hundred submissions every month. He also says the level of competition is ramping up because people are more willing to put more time into their applications. GameTap doesn't get a ton of submissions, but they're expecting a lot more now that they're started up their "Indies" label (Resnick promises that info should be up at their site today). Manifesto gets four or five dozen submissions a month, but, in Costikyan's own words, "If it doesn't suck, we'll put it up."
  • Royalty numbers: If you've self-funded the development of your game, Erickson says Microsoft will give you 70% percent of the revenue. Costikyan will give you 60%. As for Sony and GameTab, they say it's complicated, but we know it's just that their lips are sealed.
For those who weren't around to rush the game execs with ideas after the panel, don't feel too bad. Just check out the line to chat up Ross Erikson. It's almost as long as the line for sandwiches. And you know how people love sandwiches.

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