With Dare the Monkey fast approaching completion I find myself with a dilemma that many indies no doubt have: should I self-publish or seek a publisher?
A publishing deal comes with many advantages. For example, some publishers can provide a little development funding to help get your game over the finishing line. However, in my opinion, the biggest advantages they offer is mentorship for monetisation, and of course marketing.
On the surface, monetisation doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Just slap in some In-App Purchases and you’re good to go, right? Well it’s not that simple and if you get it wrong then your game is going to fail financially no matter how many downloads you get. The excellent iOS game Punch Quest is proof of that.
But a good monetisation strategy on its own won’t guarantee success. Even if your game has been designed to maximise user retention and session times, you still need downloads before you’ll start generating money. It’s here that a publisher can once again flex their muscles. With so many games out there these days it’s incredibly difficult to be heard above the noise and you’re gonna need all the help you can get.
Of course, partnering with a publisher will come at a cast. You’ll have to give up a certain percentage of revenue and that can vary significantly from publisher to publisher. You’re also going to have to give up a certain element of control. When you’ve spent so long working on your game that can actually be a hard thing to do. Trust comes into it too. Can you really trust a publisher to do the right thing for your game? Do they care as much as you if it fails? After all, they’ve probably got tonnes of other games they can just chuck out there if yours doesn’t push the needle.
On the other side of the coin, there have been plenty of well documented success stories from indies that have gone it alone. Flappy Bird, Crossy Road, and Mr Jump are some of the most famous examples. But even these developers don’t seem to fully understand why their game went viral. Sure they are great games but for every great game that goes viral there are hundreds, if not thousands, that sink without a trace. The quality of a game is no guarantee of success. I have close first-hand knowledge of triple-A games that flopped.
Anyway, food for thought and I’d love to hear from any other indie devs who’ve gone down either path.