SAN JOSE--Dave Perry, producer of high-profile movie tie-in Enter the Matrix, shared his insight on how to succeed as a game producer in his keynote speech for the GDC production track. Titled "Production Through Collaboration: Escalating Demands on the Producer," Perry started off by defining a producer as "someone who delivers games with no BS." He went on to describe what a producer needed to do to produce high-quality product, then explained how to leverage that ability to build a career.
"It's a huge sign of trust when someone gives you their money to make a game," Perry explained, "so it's important to justify that trust. The producer should deal with anything that could sabotage the game; promote the game team internally, making certain that it gets the resources it needs; and be the central repository for information about the game, so that if a team member needs assets and doesn't know where to get them, he or she should be able to find out from the producer."
Delivering high-quality games on time and on budget is the first requirement for producers, but it's just table stakes. To take their careers to the next level, producers need to be able to make their names known. Perry quizzed the audience to make his point, by saying, "Raise your hand if you can name the producer of Madden 2003." In a full auditorium, only four people raised their hands. According to Perry, that response is exactly what producers need to avoid. If you produce one of the best-selling titles of the year, you should make certain that your name is associated with that game, he advised.
Perry gave four general recommendations for getting exposure, based on his experience with Disney's Aladdin game for the Genesis. Ship the product on time, attach your name to a major brand, work on a hit, and do everything you can to personally support the marketing of the game. These are the same four factors that helped Neil Young gain exposure for his work on EA's LOTR series.
Of course, this process could take time, so Perry concluded his presentation with words he hoped attendees would take to heart. He mentioned two ways to speed up the process. First, try to work with established brands. It's easier to create a successful sequel than a successful new property. Second, consider hiring a publicist. Though Perry admits that most game professionals aren't comfortable with this idea, he points out that it's the easiest way to get your name out to the media, which leads to interviews that will increase your visibility and your value--and someday might even land you a slot on a GDC keynote.