I had a long conversation today with a person responsible for biz dev at a major publisher. He regaled me with a remarkable story about a hot indie developer who he had reached out to with a simple email: “Hey there, I’d like to introduce myself and learn more about your company.” There was more to the publisher’s email, but that is how it started out.

The developer wrote back, “A little advice — you should insert my name and my company’s name in your email. It will make it more effective.”

Can you guess how the publisher responded? Predictably: “Thanks for the advice. I wish your company the best of luck in its future endeavors.” Still no name in there. 😉

I don’t care how great you think you are. I don’t care how many companies are knocking down your door. This is a very small industry, and people talk. Never forget that. It simply doesn’t pay to be an asshole. What good does it get you, except a brief feeling of smug superiority?

Your next game or two might flop. It has happened to the best of developers, for reasons both within and not within their control. If you find yourself in that unfortunate position, all you’ll have left is your reputation — how people feel about you as a person, what you’re like to work with, etc. And even if you’re lucky enough to enjoy an endless string of successful titles, do you really want to be known as a jerk?

There’s a reason why guys like Will Wright, Ray Muzyka, Bob Bates and Chris Avellone are so widely respected in the game industry. It’s partly because they’re successful and talented… but it’s also because they’re genuinely nice guys. Aspire to be like them, not some douchebag celebrity.

7 responses to “Pretentious

  1. That’s…surprising. I mean, even if you’re an indie developer who’s staunchly opposed to publishers there’s still nothing to be gained from that kind of a response. Are you sure you’re giving us the whole story, David?

    And by the way, very interesting and useful keynote at the DD Summit. I’m glad it was made available online.

  2. > Are you sure you’re giving us the whole story, David?

    Yes, pretty sure (although I can’t say 100% sure as it didn’t happen to me personally.)

    Honestly, it doesn’t surprise me. Take a bunch of people, make them (relatively) “rich” and “famous”, and some of them will ultimately let it go to their heads. This isn’t something unique to indie game developers… it’s a very human failing. One that the rest of us should strive to avoid.

    > And by the way, very interesting and useful keynote at the DD Summit.

    Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  3. This is indeed a very good advice. In the same way, you shouldn’t drink too much at business oriented parties. You don’t want to do something you will regrets and that people will talk about.

    However I have an other take on the story (based on your post only). The developer wanted maybe just to advice the publisher to personalize a bit more his e-mails. Not because the developer deserve it but just because it’s polite. In its form the mail of the publisher could be simply a standard copy paste mail he send to every “hip” developers who prefer informal introduction.
    Even when you contact dozens of person in a work day you should always make it personal and so putting the name of the person you contact is the minimum you can do.

  4. What’s funny is that I find both characters in your story to be jerks in their own way.

    1 – You don’t write business e-mails that look like you just copy-pasted a spam.
    2 – You don’t answer back to potential business partners by pointing their faults, or at least you do it with a great deal of diligence.
    3 – When you realize you made a mistake, you don’t act like royalty, even if you are.

  5. Nic & Marc — you’re right to point out that the publisher’s email could indeed have been written better. Still, the point of the story is: there’s no benefit to replying in an insulting manner. Better to not reply at all if you feel the email doesn’t warrant your respect.

  6. Perhaps the dev thought it was a joke or something? I mean, why would he ask for his name and company name to be included in the email? Just a guess.

  7. Even if the developer was flippant, the publisher missed out on a business opportunity too. If you can’t work with prima donnas then you probably won’t be very successful in the entertainment industry.

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