The role of the producer within a game studio can be pretty contentious. Where big studios utilise product owners to hold budgets and manage the development time of medium to large games, the need for a production role in indie studios is less established. Many indie studios are too small to have the funds for a producer – or, they haven’t assessed the value (in all senses of the word) that production can add to game development.
Our Creative Director, Katie, decided to investigate what the idea of a producer means to very small indie developers. Her survey measured the following:
– Size of the studio
– Whether a producer was currently employed
– Whether they wanted a producer
– The tasks they would want/have their producer do
– How they would want the producer to work.
Of all the studios, 37.5% had one person on the team, 50% had 2-4 people and 12.5% employed 5-10 people.
The production tasks specified by the studios tended to be very similar, although there was some divergence between more traditional time management and budgeting tasks and business responsibilities such as finances and employee pay. What’s particularly worth noting is the response of a larger studio –
Time management, Task management, Progress Reports, Meeting notes, Creative lead.
Versus that of a smaller one –
Time management, Task management, Game budgets, HR, Fund finding, Publisher relations, Client relations, Outsource management, Meeting management, Calendar bookings, Game Promotion, Social media, Community management, Talks and panels, Finances, Employee pay.
So here the larger studio is likely to have a dedicated business lead or Director who can undertake the accoutrements of running the business while the producer controls the time-planning of the game in the purest sense. Creating a game is like making any artwork: it needs a start and an end point, and the producer is there to help the creators know where those points should be.
Sometimes things go smoothly…
A micro or bedroom studio might require more from a production role simply because of its size: employing a jack-of-all-trades producer means that the business side of the studio can be taken care of, leaving more time for actual game development. At Triangular Pixels we’ve found that business development and game development are deeply intertwined – you need to understand and manage your financial planning in order to be able to plan the trajectory of the game. Yet despite this only 50% of those surveyed wanted a producer, suggesting that producers aren’t currently a major priority.
In terms of risk management small studios have to tread a fine line between getting the work done and keeping the bank balance happy. Katie’s survey was designed to understand how flexible production could be for developing studios – the possibility of part-time or remote working could make a huge difference financially. It’s interesting to note that the only response with a full-time producer employed was the largest studio, suggesting that micro studios simply don’t have or don’t feel like they have the funds to add a non-game dev role to their team. It’s therefore important to mitigate the potential costs of production by utilising freelance and flexible contracts.
Sometimes things are more complicated!
As Triangular Pixels’ Producer my role is threefold: 1) to ensure that game development runs on time; 2) to reconcile the game’s budget with the business’s financial situation as a whole; and 3) to undertake general business tasks. I’m also freelance and work remotely, which means that overheads are very low and I’m able to build my experience by working different freelance positions. The net result is that our artist, designer and coder can focus completely on what’s most important: making the game.
We think that if more indie/small studios understand the value of production, both in monetary and creative terms, productivity (pun intended) will not only increase but the overall psychological well-being of the studio will also improve. Having a producer constantly watching, occasionally steering and always analysing means that your current game will not only get made, but it will create learning outcomes – or even funding – for your future projects, ultimately extending the longevity of the business.
If you want to participate in our survey, you can find it here: https://goo.gl/forms/2XHauOc69DZL0lAH2
The answers can be broken down like this: