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What Are the Best Tips for Selling Video Games?

Eugene P.
Eugene P.

There are many aspects involved in selling video games, and knowing what publishers or producers are expecting can be difficult, but it also can help to eventually get the game sold. One of the most overlooked tasks — one that should be considered mandatory — when beginning the process of selling video games is making certain that all legal aspects for the game are in place, including statements of liability, any trademarks or copyrights, and any business structures that need to be implemented. The second stage of selling video games is to choose a marketing and sales model, which can be anything from showcasing a game at a trade show to direct digital sales via the Internet. Finally, the last stage of selling video games in some cases is the long-term maintenance of the game and customer service — areas that can help to determine the success of later games.

The first step when selling video games is to file all the necessary legal and tax documents. While a single developer might be able to get by as a sole proprietor, groups of programmers and artists might want to come together as a partnership or a limited liability company (LLC) to ensure that all members working on the game have some legal protections. Other filings that could be necessary include trademarks for the company name, if desired, and patents if there are particularly innovative or advanced code segments that perform new tasks not seen in other games. Depending on how the game is eventually sold, however, some of these items might have their ownership transferred to the purchasing company.

A man playing a video game.
A man playing a video game.

Determining which business model to use to sell the game can make all the difference. One tip about selling video games is to be prepared for different marketing and sales situations in advance. This means having the full version of the game available for distribution on a compact disc (CD) or secure online server, having assorted demonstration versions, and possibly having videos of game play or advertising trailers. Keeping a variety of distributable game-related media available and at hand can lead to a better chance of finding that buyer who will pick the title up and distribute it.

A handheld video game.
A handheld video game.

Another tip when selling video games is not to underestimate the power of direct marketing and sales. This can be through an existing digital download site that is happy to add a new game to its available inventory or by finding a bricks-and-mortar game store in which to place an advertising display. An independent sales page run by the development company also can work, if it is well advertised. If allowable, multiple sales models can be pursued simultaneously, although larger companies usually demand exclusive rights to purchased games.

If the ultimate goal is to sell the video game to a larger game development house or distributor, then it is important to realize that this can be quite difficult for those not already in the industry. Large developers and distributors frequent trade shows and other gaming-specific outlets to look for the next promising game, and they don't always respond to — or even accept — independent submissions. Getting their attention might require a booth at a trade show or a flashy advertisement in a trade publication.

Finally, the best tip for an aspiring game developer or game development company is to remember that the work doesn't end once a customer or larger company has purchased the game; effectively following up after the sale is what separates professional companies from fly-by-night companies. This means listening to and responding to customer inquiries and problems. It could involve developing a frequently asked questions (FAQ) list, responding personally to emails from players and, in some cases, releasing updates and patches to fix previously overlooked bugs in the game. Some development companies will actually include these specific terms for support in any contracts that are signed. Successful companies understand that while the sale of a game to a customer might seem like the last step for the developers, it is only the first step for a player, and a good customer support experience will lead to repeat business in the future.

One last tip might seem simple, but it's not always understood by new developers. Before selling video games, or even showing them to potential buyers, the game must be wholly complete. This is vital, especially for new companies producing a game for the first time. Large game companies most likely will not fund development of a game from a relatively anonymous startup company, and it's even less likely that a company will purchase just an idea or concept; the buyers will want to see a polished and finished product.

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    • A man playing a video game.
      A man playing a video game.
    • A handheld video game.
      By: aberenyi
      A handheld video game.