• Game Developer's Market Guide

  • Completed 2003

This project was a book review I completed for Premier Press. The full text arcticle is reproduced on the remainder of this project page. Feel free to email me with any comments or questions!

Full Review

Joe Bertolami, review of Game Developer's Market Guide, by Bob Bates, Premier Press 2003.

Students entertain the dream of one day working for, or perhaps owning, a successful game studio where they are paid very well to do what they love. Unfortunately there are few good resources for students in this common position. Bob Bates' Game Developer's Market Guide is a step in the right direction, helping to fill a market niche crying for content.

Game Developer's Market Guide answers this difficult question: "How do I get a job in game development?" It provides students with a clear and complete resource for understanding and breaking into the game industry. Most importantly, this book helps an aspiring developer figure out what their goals really are, and how to achieve them.

The book is organized into three coherent segments. The first portion is a series of articles describing various aspects of the game industry, including the business, the freelance lifestyle, agents and recruiters, legal issues, game design, and explanations of the various components and jobs involved in both the production and management of a game.

The second portion of this book is a compendium of publishers, developers, contractors, distributors, game recruiters, schools, and industry events. Each entry listed in this section provides a full description of the company, contact information, a brief history, and its function in the industry.

The third portion of the book is a list of important organizations and websites with which any serious developer should be familiar.

This is an enjoyable, well-structured, and well-formatted book containing a wealth of useful information. It succeeds in providing a solid foundation in the fundamentals of the game industry. The articles in this book present concrete examples and crucial information from some of the industry's top developers that empower readers to competently formulate an approach to entering the game industry.

The first two articles, "The Business Side" by Bob Bates and "Breaking Into the Game Industry" by Marc Mencher and Olivia Crosby, serve as an excellent introduction to the business side of game development that demystify the multifaceted process of publishing and marketing a title.

For an aspiring developer, it is easy to focus only on the process of game creation, and overlook marketing and publishing. Bates' method of describing these processes is extremely effective. He not only outlines marketing and publishing, he explains how they affect the individual developer. For example, he explains the essential goals a developer needs when negotiating with a publisher. This provides the reader with a perspective on marketing and publishing that can be taken into consideration from the very beginning of a project. Bates also provides detailed descriptions of the various personnel utilized in pushing a game through development (programmers, artists, producers, testers, designers) to market (public relations, publishers, wholesalers, OEMs) which offers useful insights for developers who have never been through the process before.

"The negotiation over advances is always about finding each other's 'point of pain' and determining whether an accommodation can be reached whereby both sides are only a little uncomfortable." Bates clearly explains the push and pull relationships between publishers, retailers, and developers, and how best to navigate your relationships among them to make yourself as comfortable as possible.

Veteran developer Kenn Hoekstra's article, "Getting a Job in the Game Industry," provides an enlightening outline of the necessary knowledge and skills a developer needs to be valuable to the industry. "Breaking into the game development industry is difficult and there is no golden path to securing that dream job." He explains the difficulties in applying for a game development job, and offers advice on how to maximize your chances of success. He specifically explains attributes of a developer that makes them most appealing to employers such as readiness to relocate, experience in modifying commercial games, or having completed an impressive demo.

The articles that describe the freelancing lifestyle are important especially for artists who may not fully realize the ambiguities and insecurities inherent in such a lifestyle. This is essential material for anyone allured by freelancing because it explains the various relationships and knowledge necessary to be successful in such a volatile yet rewarding career path. For example, not everyone might be comfortable with negotiating pricing for completed work, living project to project with no job security, and collecting payment from clients.

One of the articles entitled "The Game Developer's Bookshelf" provides a booklist of essential reading for any developer. Having personally read most of the books on the list, it is refreshing to find so accurate and complete a list of development knowledge in one place. This chapter alone provides more than enough references to build the skill set of any developer.

The final two articles deal with contracts, and intellectual property laws. These articles detail the important legal aspects of managing and working for a company in a clear and concise manner, free of complex legal jargon. This information is essential to avoid very costly legal mistakes that could quickly cripple an aspiring developer.

In addition to the articles, the company list is an invaluable resource to student developers. One of the most difficult aspects of job application strategies for any student is gathering a list of prospective employers. This book provides a comprehensive list of companies that enables a reader to quickly track down contact information as well as identify companies that they might have otherwise overlooked.

The final section of the book provides links and information about popular game development organizations and websites. It provides an important foundation for students to understand and get involved with the community.

Regardless of whether you are an artist, programmer, designer, producer, tester, veteran, or novice, I highly recommend this book as an essential resource for understanding and existing within the game industry. Bates has fluidly organized the most important aspects of the game industry into a single comprehensive and easy to read reference guide. Each chapter is filled with information and tips that are crucial to the success of any game developer.

This book is easily a must-have for any aspiring developer who dreams of one day working for a successful game studio and being paid well to do what they love.