Friday, May 14, 2010

So you wanna be a producer?

hat is it I do, anyway? My title is 'producer', but if you're like me, before I really started doing the job, I had little to no idea what that actually entailed. I'm also a producer on the publishing side, which - I am led to believe - is distinctly different from a producer at a developer studio.

We know what producers do for movies - at least we think we do - something like that? The short answer is yes, but there are a lot of things that a game company's producers do that you don't see elsewhere.

Honestly, the producer is the real 'Boss Monster' or villain of the video game industry. Generally reviled because we are the people who have to stop thinking about the fun parts and start thinking about distribution of funds and how to make a product profitable. We're the caste of party-poopers who are unloved by gamers because we came up with and rolled out paid DLC schemes and are responsible for pushing games out the door that aren't ready for market, et-cetera.

Now, I'm not a full-fledged producer yet - more like a mini-boss, if you will. I don't decide what gets monetized, but when it's decided, I'm setting price points and debating how far we can go in trying to make a product profitable before people will turn away from it. I also am the one with my eyes on the rest of the companies in the industry - seeing how they're charging their customers and reporting back to the brass on ways to maximize gains. I keep a lot of records, make a lot of charts and analyze a lot of market data.

The role of the producer, more seriously, is overall management of a project. From the very beginning of a project, where we green-light a proposal, through to roll-out and distribution of DLC. We interface with sales and marketing to give them the information about the game to push to the media and distributors, we also keep our eyes on development schedules - set milestones for developers to meet, and enforce those deadlines. We loan equipment as necessary to developers and make sure that they have all of the tools they need to get the project done within our specifications and are the ones who say when content needs to be cut.

When a game is ready to go to the licensor (Console manufacturer), we are the ones who talk to them, we burn the master discs and get them into the licensor's hands for review. If they have a question or concern, we make sure it's addressed by the right person and gets taken care of. If we drop the ball, things come to a screeching halt.

In Japan, the producer is also the face of the project much of the time when dealing with press and media. We are evangelists - presales men right along with the PR force who are responsible for telling the world just what the game is all about. The foremost expert on the product, as a product.

Here the producer often takes a semi-creative role, directing the creative vision of a project - I am led to believe this is less often the case overseas. The producer can frequently also play the role of the creative director, becoming more hands-on with the game than just making sure it gets done. Traditionally, this doesn't fall within the realm of our responsibilities, though.

In the end, the producer is the 'business' end of a video game, for better or worse. A necessary evil, if you will.

Because of my position within the gaming industry, I am exposed to every side of an argument in the development of a game. It also makes me a champion of some unpopular ideas, like DRM and DLC, both of which will be the subject of entries to come.

But I'm also a guy who just loves video games. I am proud to see my name in the credits of every game that I've been involved with, because I know that although I didn't do the art, I didn't write a line of code or a note of music - nothing I've done is immediately visible to the player (usually), but through our hard work and faith in a project, it sits on the shelf or - even better - in your game machine at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment