Recently I covered my thoughts on self-publishing vs. getting a publishing deal. Today I’m going to spend a bit more time covering some more benefits of working with a publisher.
I tend to think that indie games development is a bit like climbing a mountain. The summit is actually only the half way point and if you’ve expended all your energy getting there then you’re not gonna make it back down. Think of the release of your game as the summit. Most indies are completely burned out by that point and have no energy left to go on to promote their game. So why not let a publisher do that for you.
Sure I know what you’re thinking. I did all the hard work making the game so why should someone else get rich off the back of all my hard work?
But let’s stop for a minute and make sure we properly weigh-up what an experienced publisher can actually bring to the table. Yes, it may involve giving up a very large share of your game’s revenue and even the intellectual property, but self-publishing is a hard road to follow especially if you have no prior experience. You simply can’t just put your game out there, cross your fingers and hope the cash comes rolling in. It just won’t happen no matter how good your game is.
So what exactly can a publisher bring to the table?
Well for a start, they can call upon a wealth of experience and contacts within the industry as a whole. They’ll have a budget for marketing and an audience from previous games they can target. That alone is something most indie devs don’t have. Even if you’re on the usual social channels, you’re unlikely to have any more than a few hundred followers. Even a few thousand isn’t really gonna do much for you. Put simply, a good publisher will have the marketing power to give your game a much higher degree of visibility.
As I’ve discussed previously, a publisher will also have a large degree of experience when it comes to various monetisation strategies. They’ll know which one suits your game best and will be able to give advice on how to make changes to your game in order to suit their chosen strategy. You’ve got to remember, a publisher wants to maximise the amount of money they can make from your game, which in turn will maximise the amount of money you can make too.
With so many different devices and hardware platforms out there, it could cost you a fortune making sure your game works on everything out there. This is especially true if you’re targeting Android. And let’s be honest, there’s even a decent number of device configurations when targeting iOS these days too. A good publisher will be able to provide in-house testing and help improve your game and ensure it’s compatible with as many hardware configurations as possible. This in turn will ensure your game has a wider reach and will be less likely to receive negative reviews from angry customers who had a poor experience on their platform of choice.
They’ll also be able to perform extensive play-testing for you. The importance of play-testing should never be overlooked and it’s one of the areas where many indie projects fall down. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of play-testing your own game. In my opinion it’s a cardinal sin and will likely result in a game that’s just too difficult for its target audience. Indie devs tend to become masters of their own game and quickly forget just how hard their game can be for average gamers or first-time players. If your game’s too difficult you’ll haemorrhage users, end-up with reduced session times, and see poor retention rates. This will all negatively impact revenue from in-app purchases and ad revenue. An experienced testing team can help transform your game from being good to being great.
Many indie developers also struggle to get their game released in other regions across the world. I bet localisation hadn’t even crossed your mind? Yeah, don’t worry, it doesn’t for most small teams. Most are too busy getting their game finished rather than trying to find the time or resources to think about localisation. But the truth is, it’s a big deal when you consider the growing popularity of mobile in other territories such as China, and a good publisher will be able to help with that. The more regions your app is available in, the more revenue you’ll be able to generate.
App Store features is another thing publishers can help with. I know what you’re thinking: getting featured is a lottery. Sure there’s an element of luck involved but publishers that already have previous features are much more likely to get featured again when they release something new. And believe it or not, having your product localised for multiple territories will help strengthen your chances of a feature.
One other thing worth considering is that once you have a working relationship with a publisher, they may be able to help fund your next project. In turn this could help you expand your team and work on increasingly ambitious projects.
So before deciding to self-publish, take a look around at some of the publishing companies out there. Most are fairly transparent in terms of getting in touch with and by doing a small amount of research it should be possible to find the publishers that are the best fit for the type of game you’re developing. Of course the self-publishing route can be just as successful or even more so but for many indie developers, approaching an actual publisher might be a good way to go especially early on.