A Start-to-Finish Guide for Making a Video Game

Coding

I

n this step of the process, your game is already done, tested, and ready to go. But where is it going to? Success here can be defined however you want, so it ends up being a very nebulous step, but perhaps the most important. What good is a game if nobody plays it?

It is incredibly important to let people know that your game even exists. Every budding game studio also needs to be part PR firm and ad agency. These days, it’s easy to stoop to Social media spam and viral tactics, but in the long run, responsible advertising will pay off with the respect of your users.

As a journalist by trade, I like to take an approach of using social media to inform users about my product and not being too abrasive about it. I’ll let them decide from there what to make of it. One of the best ways of doing this is Let’s Play videos, where someone plays and describes the game. They’re very simple to make, and they can show a representative slice of a game while still highlighting its best features. Here’s an example of one for a game I made as part of a class project.

Distribution is about more than just advertising, though. Getting your idea out isn't as important as getting the game out. Back in the early days of video games, companies had to wither pay huge fees to license the use of game cartridges, like on the NES, or set up their own mail-order businesses for distributing floppy disks. Today, there’s a huge market in giving your games away or free online. The Humble Bundle gives away games on a weekly basis, letting users decide what price they want to pay for it, a business model that can rake in millions of dollars for new and indie developers.

Even without ever charging a cent, free distribution can be a great way to get your name known among bigger developers. Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya released the game Cave Story for free in 2004. It grew critical acclaim for its solid gameplay and fantastic music, all created solely by him. Eventually, it was re-released on WiiWare and Steam, and then again in a boxed product on 3DS, along with several Humble Indie Bundles along the way.

For the game creator not wanting to rely on charity, there’s plenty of platforms for selling your game digitally. Steam is the biggest and arguably the best. Their Greenlight sysytem allows users to vote on what titles they want to see put into the store, though submissions do require a one-time $100 donation to charity to weed out spammers.

Origin is another digital distribution platform, and it tries to cater to smaller developers by waiving fees for the first 90 days of a game’s life if it was crowd-funded, according to their publishing page.

What You'll Need

Contacts
Sometimes, you just need to know a guy. That guy might even need to know a guy.
Money
This step can be as expensive as you want to make it, including free. Though if you want to have any kind of TV or internet ad campaign, that's going to cost something.
Website
Your game needs some sort of web presence, even if it's just a simple page with a download link. Like all aspects of your game, this should enhance a user's experience, not distract from it. For example, make the "Buy Now" button really, really big.

Distribution Resources

Platforms
Steam
Greenlight
Origin
Xbox Live Indie Games
Video Tools
Twitch
UStream
Fraps
CamStudio