Classifying Developers – The Very Definition of Tricky
The holiday shopping season is in full swing. You have parents and grandparents buying games for their loved ones. Of course, those buying the games aren’t necessarily gamers themselves. Thus, when certain lingo gets tossed around much of it makes little sense. One that I see trip people up often is classifying developers.
Classifying developers is common practice within the gaming community
When it comes to video game development there are generally four classifications that get tossed around. They are first, second, third-party, and indie, I’m sure most people reading this will be familiar with these terms. For those that aren’t fear not an explanation is forthcoming.
The term first-party developer generally only applies within the realm of the home console market. The term refers to a development studio that is fully owned by the home console manufacturer (Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft).
The software titles that they develop are usually exclusive to their respective home console. Sony develops games for Sony consoles and not Nintendo and Microsoft. Although in recent years these developers have started releasing titles on non-competing platforms such as smart devices. Their priority, however, will always be their respective hardware.
When it comes to classifying developers the term second-party tends to trip people up. There are a lot of different ways that people classify what makes up a second-party developer.
I always gauge it by ownership. If a first-party developer is wholly own by the console manufacturer. Then a second-party developer is only partially owned by the manufacturer. By partially owned I’m referring to the console company owning a controlling interest of the developer.
A great example of this would be the Pokémon Company. Which is technically owned by three separate companies Nintendo being one of them.
This is perhaps the easiest classification to put into words. Simply put third-party developers aren’t owned by any of the console manufacturers. Thus, they’re able to develop for any platform they want. Rather it’s the home console market, mobile, or PC, many times they will release a title for multiple platforms.
While sometimes a company such as Microsoft or Sony will make a deal with a third-party developer for a title. That exclusive contract is very different than ownership. Many third-party developers are publicly traded companies much like the console manufacturers that they work with. As such isn’t likely to be bought out and made into a first-party studio anytime soon.
A couple of good examples of third-party developers would be EA, Square Enix, and Blizzard Entertainment.
As you might’ve guessed the “indie” in indie developer stands for independent. Like third-party developers, indie devs aren’t beholden to a console manufacturer. The development teams tend to be very small sometimes only consisting of a single person.
The games often tend to be smaller and more affordable than larger developers. They also release across multiple platforms such as consoles, mobile, and PC.
In recent years you’ve begun to see home console manufacturers reach out to indie developers. In an effort to try and offer exclusive indie content on their systems.
Hopefully, This Clears Things Up
Well there you have it, hopefully, this allows you to make better sense of what someone is talking about. Remember it should be less important about what type of developer, worked on a game. More about rather or not the game is something that you enjoy. The type of developer that works on a game isn’t a sign of that games quality, or lack thereof.
Have thoughts, or comments? Sound off below.