Previewing GDC 2009: Inside The Business & Management Track

[In the sixth of a series picking out the most notable Game Developers Conference 2009 lectures, sister site Gamasutra examines the Business & Management Track, featuring talks about starting up an independent studio, learning from Flagship’s demise, Age Of Booty creator Certain Affinity’s rise, negotiating rights for future games, and much more.]
Game Developers Conference 2009 (organized by Gamasutra parent company Think Services) is set to take place in San Francisco’s Moscone Center from March 23 to 27, 2009.
With nearly 390 sessions now confirmed for GDC 2009, we’ll be taking a track by track look at the conference’s line-up over the next few weeks.
Sixth on the list is GDC’s Business & Management Track, which will “looks at the game development process from the standpoint of running the business and offers proven strategies for the developer who needs to understand complex business issues.”
Notable highlights thus far announced for this track are as follows:

– Bungie veteran Max Hoberman, now president and founder of Certain Affinity (Age of Booty), will discuss “starting a development studio, what some of the less obvious challenges are, and how Certain Affinity has managed to overcome them” in an informative lecture titled “From Bungie to Bootstrapping – Starting an Independent Developer“.
– On the other end of the spectrum, Stubbs Alderton & Markiles’s senior counsel Stephen Goldstein will share his “Lessons Learned from Flagship Studios“. As former director business development and general counsel at the now defunct studio, Goldstein will share his insider’s insight on how Flagship went from one of the most promising developers to laying off its employees, losing the rights to its games, and closing its doors.
– In “Riding the Waves of Change: How Video Game Companies Can Flourish in an Environment of Relentless Volatility and Flux,” a panel of industry leaders — Headstrong’s Bradley Crooks, Radical’s Dave Fracchia, Disney Interactive’s Howard Donaldson, Relic’s Tarnie Williams, and Great Northern Way Campus’ Gerri Sinclair will exchange survival techniques for dealing with corporate change, and how they “build strong alliances, negotiate from a powerful place, and use internal politics to their and their teams’ advantage.”
– Looking to help developers understand the evaluation rights clauses that publishers sometimes use to restrict studios from publishing future games, attorney Stephen Rubin will deliver a valuable lecture entitled “When Publishers Won’t Let Go: Signing Away Rights to Future Games“, in which he’ll clear up the “very significant practical differences and impact of the similar-sounding clauses granting publishers what on the surface are seemingly limited rights to evaluate a developer’s future games.”
– What measures must a studio take to evolve from a garage start-up to a professional business entity? In this full-day tutorial titled “The Big Picture 2009: Managing Your Game Dev Deal and Operating Your Game Dev Studio“, a parade of game industry lawyers and studio heads — such as Bungie president and studio manager Harold Ryan, and Insomniac Games president and founder Ted Price — will share “what steps a company must take internally to make sure it is in compliance with its development contracts and the law, as well as strategies to help it negotiate better development deals.”
– Discussing “Stability in Stormy Weather“, Demiurge Studios’ (Brothers in Arms: Double Time) CEO Bill Reed and studio director Albert Reed, a father-and-son management team, will share concrete steps that small and mid-sized developers can take to “improve the consistency and viability of their businesses,” as well as techniques that will “will help prevent layoffs and cash or production crunches.”
– EA Maxis designer Jeb Havens will present “Speaking Out: Advancing the LGBT Game Development Community” a roundtable session discussing topics important to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals working in the development community, as well as experiences and ideas on addressing “the issues of gender identity and sexual orientation as they relate to the games we make and the people who make them.”
– In “Developing by the Numbers: Metrics in the Game Industry“, a panel of industry-wide experts — Metacritic’s Marc Doyle, Wedbush Morgan’s Michael Pachter, The NPD Group’s Michael Klotz, Game Developer Research’s Simon Carless, and more — will provide a rare look at the factors affecting “the factors affecting the metrics used in measuring games, developers, and publishers, as well as the overall health of the game market.” Each panelist will discuss what metrics they track, how they collect their data, and how their data is used.
– SCEA’s senior developer’s relations account manager Chris Eden will deliver an enlightening session on “Independent Self-Publishing On PlayStation Network“, sharing with attendees how they can grow and add value to their business on both PS3 and PSP. He’ll also describe the “the steps necessary to become a fully fledged independent publisher” and look at “lessons learned from the first wave of self-published titles.”
The full Business & Management Track line-up to date includes many more notable lectures and roundtables, including discussions on managing quality assurance teams, early stage funding on video game start ups, stereoscopic 3D gaming, selling IPs to Hollywood, and more.