A game producer is the person in charge of overseeing development of the computer game.
Although the term is an industry standard today, it was dismissed as “imitation Hollywood” by many game executives and press members at the time. Over its entire history, the role of the game producer has been defined in a wide range of ways by different companies and different teams, and there are a variety of positions within the industry referred to as producer.
There are relatively few superstars of game production that parallel those we know in film, in part because top producers are usually employed by publishers who choose to play down publicizing their contributions. Unlike many of their counterparts in film or music, these producers do not run their own independent companies.
At Kef Sensei when we develop a game for another company or publisher the producer is constantly in contact with the customer or publisher keeping them with the updated status of the project and schedule and involving them in every important decision being made.
Producer’s job responsibilities focus mainly on overseeing the Game Projects being worked on by a number of developers, artists, QA and musicians and communicating with the shareholders of the Game Project. While keeping updated on the progress of the games being developed, they report to the management the status of the pending projects and any problems they may be experiencing.
The producer is heavily involved in the development of, usually, a single game. The person in this position has the following duties:
- Acting as a liaison between the development staff and the upper stakeholders (publisher or executive staff)
- Developing and maintaining schedules and budgets
- Overseeing creative (art and design) and technical development (game programming) of the game
- Ensuring timely delivery of deliverables (such as milestones)
- Scheduling timely quality assurance (testing)
- Arranging for beta testing and focus groups, if applicable
- Arranging for localization
In short, the producer is ultimately responsible for timely delivery and final quality of the game.
For small games, the producer may interact directly with the programming and creative staff. For larger games, the producer will seek the assistance of the lead programmer, art lead, game designer and testing lead. While it is customary for the producer to meet with the entire development staff from time to time, for larger games, they will only meet with the leads on a regular basis to keep updated on the development status.
For most games, the producer has a large role in the development of the game design. While not a game designer, the producer has to weave the wishes of the publisher or upper management into the design. They usually seek the assistance of the game designer in this effort. So the final game design is a result of a cooperative effort of the designer and the producer.
In general, the producer is not the “boss” of the people on the game development team, but the “boss” of the game. So while a programmer may answer to a programming director, where matters of the game are involved, they answer to the producer. Producers may issue reprimands or issue accolades, but usually the fate of the developer’s employment is not in the hands of the producer. So while they may recommend termination or promotions of certain employees, the producer normally cannot fire or promote team members single-handedly.
The earliest documented use of the term producer in games was by Trip Hawkins, who established the position when he founded Electronic Arts in 1982. His vision—influenced by his relationship with Jerry Moss—was that producers would manage artists and repertoire in the same way as in the music business, and Hawkins brought in record producers from A&M Records to help train those first producers.