There are hundreds of different roles available in the games industry, spread across all the different types of companies involved in a game’s journey from concept to getting into player's hands. Perhaps one of the most misunderstood links in this chain is the publisher.
‘Publisher’ is a term used in other entertainment mediums, where it usually refers to set roles and processes in the production chain for books, for example. But in the world of video games, publishing is an incredibly varied part of the process – and the role has changed dramatically over the years.
Previously, even smaller games needed a publisher to launch on platforms like Steam, but with more marketplaces opening up to self-publishing for game developers, publishers have had to expand what they could offer in order to secure more development clients. A developer may have the ability to publish, but that does not mean it has the expertise needed to make it a success.
Within these companies, there are dozens of different job roles: producers, PR, marketing, sales, social media managers, licensing managers – to name but a few. Armor Games’ business development associate Justin Amigleo explained how the company’s own indie publishing team is structured.
“Our production team operates with a business development lead, a head of production, three producers working under that head, two QA leads, a social media and marketing manager, and a community manager,” he says.
Being an indie outfit, many members of the Armor team have to wear multiple hats. Meanwhile, Deep Silver – the publisher behind AAA titles like Saints Row and Metro Exodus -- has 18 employees dedicated to publishing, including brand managers, communications managers, community strategists, global brand directions and more.
Japanese publisher Bandai Namco has even more varied roles thrown into the mix, as content creation and publishing senior director Samuel Gatte explains: “[We now have a] lore creator, editorial specialist, trend analyst, community evangelist, data predictors, and many others – on top of all the well-known and traditional roles.”
He adds: “When I started in the industry more than 25 years ago, I would never have thought that I’d have the word ‘content’ in my title.”
With such a breadth of positions available, there are many different places for aspiring games professionals to start – and the key to success, according to Deep Silver, is how well each team works with its counterparts.
“[Our marketing manager] works closely through the brand and marketing teams to ensure that our campaigns are well thought through, appealing to the consumer and deployed in a timely manner. Our team wouldn’t be complete without the global brand and metrics analyst. This is a dedicated role for preparing reports on what’s happening with our games, social media channels and how that compares with the rest of the industry.”
For smaller companies where team members have multiple responsibilities, at Armor Games’ Amigleo split his week up into days with different focuses on each of the days.
“Mondays are often left to handle the support tasks that bubbled up from the weekend and take care of any discourse that may have occurred in any of our various communities, comment sections or other social media outlets,” he explains. “Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are dedicated to our onboarding process for prospective and potential games, responding to developers and preparing any games that need to go through evaluation.
“Wednesdays are usually my days where I wear other hats as well. I often dedicate this time for playtesting and/or QA testing for any games that might be at that stage. Otherwise I tend to be a supplementary agent to any project that is currently being worked on – putting out articles, preparing announcements within our various communities, maintaining an active presence within our Discord.
“Friday is for general maintenance, responding to emails that didn’t fall into the above categories and getting everything back to a place to start the process over again come Monday.”
Over at Bandai Namco, Gatte’s day-to-day schedule is a little more fluid, with most of his time spent solving issues and problems. “[My duties include] talking with my team of producers, brand managers and engineers, attending editorial, publishing, and steering committees, and making key decisions. But what I like the most is to work with the different development teams developing games for us.”
It’s working with developers that really demonstrates the role publishers play in a game’s release. Publishers can bring a fresh perspective to a project when compared to the developer who was worked tirelessly on it. That new view on a game’s potential, combined with a broader understanding of what’s happening in the market, makes publishers just as important as developers themselves.
Deep Silver sums this up: “While making games is often the dream for many looking for a career in the industry, the brand role represents a fantastic opportunity to work across every facet of the business, with the ultimate goal of turning our studios’ hard work into deserved commercial success.”
Amigleo adds: “In a way, publishers act as the first line of defense to the developers – both in the goals that they are looking to achieve, as well as the first point of contact when something goes wrong. They act with the developers’ best interest in mind, maintaining the safety of their wellbeing, mental health, and working to ensure their scheduling allows for a healthy work-life balance.”
Gatte concludes: “We are publishers, and we need to give the right direction to creative people when they are lost. We need to keep our fresh eyes in front of the deliverables and the builds. And we need to understand the audience from the get go, but not only as targeted buyers.”
Publishers also opens the industry to a wider range of career seekers. Not everyone has the skills required to code and develop games, but they may well fit into one of the numerous roles these companies require.
The skillset needed to successfully launch games is vast. Publishers need people who can play and create games, yes, but they also need folks who can use social media, understand game support, make connections with other games companies, test games, and much more.
A role in publishing may not often be the first thing that comes to mind for those who want to get into the games industry – but with so many different opportunities available, it’s one well worth considering.
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