You see the term “Game Developer” tossed around a lot; From news articles, game industry press conferences, job titles, and more, all without any real explanation of what it means. So what the heck is a game developer anyway?
A Simple Yet Confusing ‘Industry’ Term:
The basic definition of the term “Game Developer” is as simple as it is vague. It means, “the maker of a video game.” While this seems like a no-brainer explanation, it isn’t. With the exception of some indie scene games, you’ll be hard pressed to find a single individual who can make an entire video game. Because of this, it is better to think of “Game Developer” as an adjective instead of a noun.
Who Is a Game Developer?
The majority of commercial video games are made by numerous individuals, each of whom build and create different components. These team members can range from a handful of individuals to hundreds, all working on the same game.
Every single one of these artists, designers, engineers, programmers, writers, animators, audio designers, testers, and even producers are game developers. For the most part, one individual could not make an entire game, but together they will develop a full video game, and typically work in what is known as a game development studio.
Publisher or Developer?
While these roles are starting to become blurred, traditionally a game’s publisher is separate from its developer. The publisher typically finances, manufactures, markets, and distributes the game, while the developer is the development studio that builds the game.
These lines often gets crossed, especially now that it is easier than ever for development studios to publish their own games thanks to download portals. On the flip side, many publishers actually own multiple development studios.
The Indie Developer
A game development studio that is not owned by a publisher is known as an independent development studio, or “indie developer.”
For instance, the studio behind Ratchet & Clank, and the Resistance series, Insomniac Games, is independently owned. They build the game, and Sony (SCEA) handles the publishing. This way Insomniac retains ownership of their games.
On the other hand, Activision owns Infinity Ward, the studio who created the Call of Duty franchise. While Infinity Ward enjoys fewer expenses and greater job security, they don’t retain ownership of their games, and their business is overseen by Activision.
So Now What is a Game Developer Again?
In short, a game developer is someone who makes games, but is also a team of people, each with a unique specialty that makes up a development studio. They are the folks who make your game experience great, frustrating, emotional, buggy, powerful, and engaging, because they are the ones who develop it from an idea, into a reality.