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From: Centarius Software
Subject: Re: So how DO you publish a game?
Date: 1996/07/24

Well, just to throw my 2 cents in.....

We tried to enter the publishing area last year, and failed. We had 6
good products from some top notch people ready to roll, with about a
dozen or so others in the works. The costs of business web-pages were
(and still are) outrageous for a struggling start-up, regular magazine
ads are even worse (CGW & PC Gamer both want $1000+ for Business Card
sized B/W ads, with the more visible stuff going even higher!
Duplication and packaging are cheap. Boxes (plain white go for less
than $ .50 each, about $2 for color printing) lables, disks total
around $1.50-$4 unless you go with CD-Rom, which adds around $10 to
your costs (if you can afford a CD-Writer, certain CD-R's aren't fully
compatable with all CD-Rom drives) and a decent manual will cost you
about $3 each. The questions are :

1: Where does your budget indicate you can afford to advertize?
Cheapest is ad it to your .SIG and post alot on the related
newsgroups, plus find an FTP site to carry it for you as shareware.
You could put it on your personal web-page, however most
terms-of-agreement for these net accounts i've read indicate you may
be canned if you do such things (ie: use your PERSONAL page for

2: How to distribute the product - SEE ABOVE
Most retail distribution is run thru mega-large distributors like
Ingram-Micro. They will want 10,000+ units. At an estimated cost of
$7 per copy, to hit these sorses you need about $100,000 in start-up
inventory alone. Smaller wholesalers may take smaller lots, but your
exposure is significantly smaller. ELB, Babbages, Computer-City, etc
usually don't deal with these smaller shops. For the end
caps/prominent displays you couldn't afford the kick-backs to the
buyers either. We approached the buyer of one of the larger computer
game stores to try and work out a contract to supply them with
software. One of the things we were asked was what kinds of "extras"
would we throw in for the buyer. Stuff like, free copies just for
placing our software at eye-level on the shelves. I always thought
their job was to buy products at $x, mark it up by $y and sell it for
$z. Volume discounts we expected, but this seemed too much like
paying them to sell our products. No thank you.

Another option is to approach places like Chips&Bits, etx to see if
they will take orders for you, take their cut and then forward the
order (and remaining $) to you for filling. This is called
drop-shipping. Some places do, most won't.

3: where do you get the $$$$ needed to start up?
I have no clue. We tried for 18 months to obtain $30,000 to start
business. We hit every bank, credit union and finance co. in our
area. We looked into Small Business loans, selling our cars, venture
capital with no luck. The banks claimed it was a:too risky, or b:
lack of collateral. The venture capitalists claimed we wouldn't make
enough to be worth their while. (we had a 5 year profit-loss and cash
flow projection showing our 1st year PROFIT to be in excess of

If at this point you've decided you don't want to go pro, and want to
look into the Shareware method, check out the Shareware faq, and Game
Development faq which are posted to this newsgroup regularly.
(try http:\\ for more info)

also you can check out the Ultimate Game Developers Sourcebook, by Ben
Sawyer (i think)

- OR -

You can try approaching one of the established publishers. Only
challenge there is if you don't have a reputation, some finished
commercial grade projects under your belt, and something that can
compete with what's on the market today, they won't give you the time
of day. I've seen games in the mags get ripped apart for grfx. Grfx
which in my opinion were great. I'm sorry, but a wargame doesn't need
65,000 colors with 4D raycasting and wavetable quadrafonic sound. An
RPG doesn't need this either, BUT!!! if you put out a game which looks
like SSI's Gettysburg the Turning Point, or War in Russia, or Ultima
6, the reviewers tear you to shreads. They seem to miss the
game-play/re-playability issue. (whoops, kinda climbed on the
soap-box, getting down now...) Anyway, in any case, if you've got the
desire, and the ideas go for it. It may take you a few years to get
established, and you may not make the money that Richard Garriot made
with the Ultima's, but it's a good chance for a claim to fame. Most
folks never get past the "Well I'd like to" or "I wanna.." stages.

One other thing...In approaching the big names, pick those who are
familiar with your type of game, With the normal turnaround time on a
submission being in excess of 3 months, you want to make sure that you
hit your #1 most likely candidates first. (So don't send the arcade
game to SSI, and the RPG to Microsoft). While they may be interested
in expanding into those areas, your better bet is focusing on those
with the specializations in your target niche.

Hope it helps, and good luck!

Centarius Software

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