What Are First, Second, and Third-Party Video Game Developers?

The gaming landscape always changes and demands more from publishers and developers. The relationship between the two entities can take on three main shapes, affecting different aspects of the production process.

Let’s break down what it means to be a first, second, and third-party video game developer. Alongside examples of studios that currently fall under each category, we’ll also talk about how the modern gaming landscape impacts developers.

First-Party Video Game Developers

A company like Sony and Microsoft that owns a particular platform can have studios working exclusively for them. The job of first-party developers is to make titles for that platform alone, resulting in high-end or AAA titles.

Over the years, independent studios have dwindled as platforms like PlayStation go to great lengths to create or acquire new assets. On the one hand, using in-house developers gives you more control over a game’s design, publication, distribution, and more.

However, it can be very expensive too. Being a subsidiary also restricts creativity to what the company’s executives approve of. Strained relations are often a problem in deciding what makes the perfect video game.

Examples of first-party video game developers:

  • Naughty Dog
  • Santa Monica Studio
  • Obsidian Entertainment
  • Mojang Studios

Second-Party Video Game Developers

Companies can collaborate with studios without owning them completely. A second-party developer might be a partial subsidiary or just have a contract with a platform holder. Overall, there’s more freedom and profit involved.

Since such studios are technically independent, platform owners can buy their dedication to a specific project or platform at a higher price than first-party game developers. Then, their services and discretion are at the platform holder’s disposal for the duration of the agreement.

Once this expires, the studio can move on to other platforms and projects. In the case of partial subsidiaries, the partnership between studio and publisher might allow some freedoms, whether it’s outsourcing further or approving the use of an environment like Phaser as your game development framework.

Of course, different circumstances will come with different contracts, but there are clear advantages to these kinds of studios.

Examples of second-party video game developers:

  • Game Freak
  • Grezzo
  • Remedy Entertainment

Third-Party Video Game Developers

Being an independent studio is both risky and beneficial. Small developers, for example, might not have the funds to cope with multiple failed or canceled titles. In such cases, all the effort and money that goes into a project, from arranging to designing it, can simply fall through.

Third-party game developers try to avoid such scenarios by choosing their partnerships and titles wisely. Platform holders approach the issue just as carefully. Considering they often use indie studios as the cheaper option, good plans and relations can avert technical problems, inconvenient extensions, and additional expenses.

On the plus side, a third-party developer has the most freedom of all in choosing and even designing their games. While the paying client has the final say, some contracts might allow the studio to weigh in on important decisions.

Another positive factor to keep in mind are crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. They’re a safety net for small and prestigious developers who don’t have the money to pursue a project or want to avoid consolidation for as long as possible.

Examples of third-party video game developers:

  • Electronic Arts
  • Ubisoft
  • Epic Games
  • Larian Studios

Does the Gaming Industry Affect Video Game Developers?

First off, consumers and platform holders have a lot of power over trends, which affect what studios will choose to work on. That said, many other factors can influence the industry and its people, shaping priorities and opportunities.

Financial concerns are key, especially considering the shifts we’re experiencing in entertainment values and the workplace. Take cloud gaming, for example, and how Google Stadia redirected its investment because of how expensive producing first-party titles turned out to be.

Occasions like these make third and second-party game development ideal, boosting interest in the fields. Crowdfunding also gives indie studios a great alternative to joining a platform’s ranks. At the same time, gamers enjoy helping produce titles that appeal to them.

Even better, as standards go up in terms of video game performance and capabilities, so does the need for special skill-sets in graphic design, online communities, broadcasting, and more. This makes outsourcing that much more appealing to publishers.

In short, the gaming industry’s condition, components, and trends definitely affect how developers navigate everything. What the current state of affairs shows is that independent studios are in a stronger position than ever.

The business of video games is very volatile, so developers have to be smart and flexible if they want to impress their audiences and survive the competition. Fortunately, there are many in-house and independent directions to choose from, each with their pros and cons.

While being the best in your field is important, knowing what’s happening in the industry is just as vital. Following news, conferences, and even consumer opinions are great ways for first, second, and third-party game developers to make a positive and long-lasting impact.

Author: Electra Nanou

Source: Electra Nanou.” What Are First, Second, and Third-Party Video Game Developers?”. Retrieved From https://www.makeuseof.com/what-are-first-second-third-party-video-game-developers/

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