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Getting Your Game Published

Millions of people still like 2-D games despite the "coolness" factor that you get with 3-D. People who play 2-D don't care whether a game is 2-D, 3-D, or virtual reality; if it's fun, they'll play it. If you want to write serious games and have a chance to market them, know the competition and make sure that you pick a game genre that you have a chance at as a beginning designer. After you do that, then try self-publishing your program.

So, you've written your first game, and you want to publish it yourself. The process isn't that complicated. First, make sure that the game is solid (bug-free) and has a simple installation and setup. Then compress all the game files into one archive file with WinZip (or a similar product) or self-extracting .EXE. Also, in your game files, include these documents (in simple MS-DOS ASCII format):

  • VENDOR.DOC: This file describes what your terms are for other people to distribute your game. For example, someone in another country may want to put your game on a CD bundle, so use this document to specify the conditions they must agree to.
  • FILEID.DIZ: This file is read by BBSs (bulletin board systems) as a short description of your game. Limit this document to a few lines of information about you and the product.
  • ORDER.DOC: If you want to sell your game and get money for it, use this file to provide ordering information.
  • README.TXT: This standard READ ME file contains information that you want the user to read before using your program. Typically, you include last-minute changes, bug fixes, and other similar notes.

Now that your game is ready to go, the quickest way to get it out there is to upload it to as many BBSs as possible and create a Web page for it (if you have your own Web site). This way, people can get access to your game. In addition, it won't hurt you to buy some shareware CDs and call the producers of the CDs to see if they'll put your game on their next CD.

Next, you must decide on a price for your game; don't be too expensive, but don't be too cheap. A good price range is usually $39 to $49, and that amount is commensurate with most other games. Don't sell your game for $5. It's guaranteed that everyone will think that it's bad —after all, how could anything that's just five bucks be any good?

Getting the money is the next problem. At first, you probably can only handle checks or money orders, unless you have a credit card merchant account. If you do decide to have people send you checks, get a post office box so that you don't divulge your street address. Additionally, you can use PayPal or Yahoo! PayDirect to do simple e-commerce for you.

However, you can contract a company to handle e-commerce for you. The company's staff takes credit card orders, allows people to download your product from their site, and sends the money to you once a month. The cost for these services ranges from free to up to a 50 percent commission on the profits, so shop around! Here are a couple of companies you can try:

If you have an Internet account, create a Web site for your company and place your product on the Web for downloading. Don't worry if you can't afford a full-blown domain name and 50MB Web site with CGI scripts and FrontPage extensions. Most Internet accounts include 3MB to 5MB for a personal Web site that you can put your game on for free. The address may look something like www.provider.com/~you, but that's life. And of course, you can use free Web hosting services running under providers such as Yahoo! GeoCities, but the ads that are displayed to the customer are annoying, so use a real Web site.

To do everything by the book, start up a small sole proprietorship and get a business license and bank account. Starting a small company costs anywhere from $30 to hundreds of dollars per year, depending on your state. The bank account is usually free to open for sole proprietorships (a small fee or initial deposit for some banks). Call your local county clerk's office or Chamber of Commerce to find out about your local laws. You may want to consult a tax advisor or read a good book on the subject before you do anything.

That's it. Write the game, make a .ZIP file with the added information and ordering documents, then upload your game to every site you can (start by searching for game sites on the Web and link from there). Try these Web sites:

In addition, you may want to download or purchase a Web spider or bot that uploads your information to hundreds of Web sites for you! You can find a number of spiders or bots just by typing bot or spider into your favorite search engine.

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