RPGamer Feature - Publisher Pow-Wow - cdv Software Entertainment USA
cdv Software Entertainment USA
Sara Jenkins
Brand Manager

Ted Calico
Calico Media
Publisher: cdv Software
Sacred 2
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cdv Software Entertainment USA

First off, could you detail the decision making process for selecting which games are released in North America. Who is involved and what steps does the process go through?
Sara Jenkins: The process of selecting titles may vary from publisher to publisher, however for cdv Software Entertainment USA it's all about evaluation of compatibility with our needs, timing and cost.

It all starts with the evaluation team, and in our case they scour developers looking for new ideas. Depending on where the developers are with a game's progress, we may be looking at just a concept, artwork, story boards or actual game play. Not only do we evaluate the game concept, but we also evaluate the developers themselves. It is important to review the developer's history and track record to see if they can produce the game that they say they can.

We then consider if the timing of development fits in our time frame from concept to release. We also have to compare the title to similar games that may have been released in the past and analyze the competition; how have similar games performed? How does the game we are considering compare in terms of features, game play and graphic capabilities of the competition? Is it unique and interesting enough that it will sell?

Lastly, we have to think about what the cost of development will be. We then use that amount to determine what the total cost will be to make the game successful (the cost of the game is only part of the formula) – this includes QA testing, packaging, marketing, PR, advertising, distribution, etc. We apply this cost to our business model as there are more expenses involved with publishing a game than just the development costs.

To what extent is the game's developer involved in the publishing process? Could you share some examples of how they are involved?
Sara: The game developer creates the actual game code while the publisher helps fund, market and ensure that the title makes it to retail. A developer also supports the publisher by providing assets. We cannot market the game properly if we are not given sufficient assets to encourage a demand for the game. Assets could be anything from interviews, screenshots, game demos etc.

We also give developers the opportunity to offer input into the PR, marketing and packaging process. That way we can ensure we're promoting the game the way the developer was hoping. It's a collaborative process between our internal teams and the developer.

What difficulties and/or barriers have you had to overcome in publishing games in North America? Could you share some examples of barriers that have been overcome and/or those that could not be? What barriers are different from platform to platform?
Sara: There is a lot to consider when publishing a title. Depending on what platform we are publishing a title on, getting licensed by the platform holders is the absolute first step – if you're not licensed, your game simply doesn't see the light of day. Right from the start of the process, the console manufacturers have final say on whether your game is good to go or dead in the water. If they don't like the concept or think it's lacking in features, they will not sign off on licensing it. This means you must make the changes they ask in order to move forward.

Then there are many obstacles that vary from platform to platform. For example, approvals for everything from game concept, game codes, to game marketing vary with each platform holder.

In the end, all three platform holders want quality products that won't crash or cause any difficulty for their users. All three manufacturers have raised the bar as far as their quality requirements.

When ramping up for a game's release, how are the decisions made as to where to advertise, which game gets priority, how many copies to produce, and when to release the game?
Sara: To help us decide where to advertise, we study the basic game demographics and create our target audience from there. We also look outside the game industry, for example – if we had a racing game, we'd also take a look at racing publications, fan sites and blogs as advertising opportunities. The same goes for our public relations efforts-- in the current marketplace where there is a huge mix of people playing games we have to complement our outreach to hardcore sites by engaging editors, bloggers and of course – readers, of other publications. Timing of a release is really a combination of when the game is actually ready, the time of year and season of release and the competition. The number of copies to be produced is driven by the retailer's forecast (which is determined in large part by pre-orders from consumers).

How are translation decisions handled, things like renaming a game or character? Any games you've had a really enjoyable time taking liberties with? Do you have any examples of games given a less-strict translation that influenced your own?
Sara: This is a great question. In the beginning, cdv Software Entertainment USA brought many European products to North America. Many times we localized in what may have been German English into American English –which would include changing the title in some cases.

Ted Calico: In the past, the localization process was that we either did it ourselves, or let the developer manage it.

If the developers managed it, they would choose a localization studio to handle the work, and we'd cover the costs. It was pretty straightforward, though some localization studios were better than others, thus for some games, for one reason or another, we'd manage the process.

When we manage the process, the developers would often send us a file (text, excel spreadsheet, etc) that contained every line of dialog, character names, unit names, regions, etc. that appear in the game. We would send that off to a localization studio to manage the translation to English, then we would take that localized version, look at it-in house to ensure it made sense (some game terms can be really odd when translated) and either sign-off on it, or give it to the developers to see if they had any input. Once everyone signs off, the developer integrates the localized file.

Sometimes, the developer would send us text that didn't need full localization, just a quick pass to look for any glaring errors. For example, we did a war game that took place in the UK, but the player only managed American soldiers. We found in the localization documents, that the US soldiers were saying things like "Right Guv'nuh" and "That's right , Mate!" – things American soldiers obviously don't say. So we fixed it.

Videogame-specific language can be a real problem. In one of our titles, for example, a control key was translated as "Hide behind the Window" and "Un-hide from the Window." We scratched our heads for the better part of a day, because hiding behind a window obviously makes no sense at all (it's transparent glass, after all!). Finally, we just called the developer who said "Oh no, that means ‘Open the Window' or ‘Close the Window', it's a common mis-translation when dealing with games in our language."

Any interesting or horrific stories that you could tell us about? You know, maybe that one office incident that everyone laughs about and shares with new hires?
Ted: Games we get are too tame and too nude here. In Europe; they don't mind nudity but do not want the game's to be violent.

Sara: Take the sex out and add more violence – they think it' hysterical because it makes no sense to them...

Ted: Here's a great story that I still tell years after it happened. We were working on the PR for "Lula 3D" and adult-themed game for PC, which by virtue of being an adult-rated game, featured tons of nudity. We had a, shall we call it, gentlemen's publication; call us asking for additional screenshots. The developers weren't around that day (European Holiday I believe) and so I had to take the screens. I happened to be working from my home office that day, as was my wife. About an hour into me playing this game, my wife walks into the home office and sees, well, a whole lot of nudity on my screen. She simply said, "I'm pretending I never saw that, and what's scary is, I know it's for your work." Then she turned and left the room.

Also, with previous titles, we used to be in charge of naming them for the US market. And while I can't cite any specific example (don't want to offend anyone ) – our brainstorming sessions led to some pretty funny, soda-blown-out-the-nose moments.

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