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  • Publishing 101: When To Partner With A Game Publisher

    [08.30.18]
    - David Logan

  • Development

    Regardless of where your game development is at, publishers can assist you. Keep in mind that different publishers might be looking for games in different development stages.

    Advising

    • Publishers will be able to advise your team on the design of your game, from art, to audio, and everything in between.

    • They will be able to identify traits and features of your game that could be pushed further, to increase sales and exposure, such as adding daily missions or overall achievements to increase replayability and player retention.

    Financing

    • Some publishers are able to provide financing to assist with your team's development costs.

    • This can allow developers to fully focus on creating the game, instead of having to work other jobs to support themselves part-time.

    • Searching for financing may limit the publishers interested in taking your game on, or may make certain terms in the contract harder to get, however finding financing can make your game development smoother and faster.

    Porting

    • Publishers will have or partner with teams who can help bring your title to additional platforms.

    • This allows you as the developer to focus on developing the overall game, instead of splitting focus with porting.

      • For Desert Child Akupara Games is current working with the developer, Oscar Brittain, and while he focuses on the Steam version, we are porting it to Switch, PS4, and Xbox One.

    • Oftentimes indie games will launch first on PC, with the intention to port to consoles if they're successful. Even though it's a more risky upfront cost, Akupara Games actually prefers all platforms to launch at once, as having multiple launches often means less press for each subsequent release, and combining them together helps create more noise, as there are then articles for every platform. Multiple releases also means additional costs and efforts for marketing

      • There are examples of the former working though, for example Terraria launched successfully on PC, and then was picked up by publisher 505 Games who brought it to consoles.

    QA

    • Publishers can provide QA testing for bugs, device testing on a multitude of low and high-end devices, and assist with the requirements your title needs to pass to get through certification.

      • For example, publishers can provide extensive mobile testing across dozens of devices to find the minimum specs and platforms to release the game on

    • Events can be a key way to discover bugs and issues. When you attend events, work with your publisher to monitor and track player interactions so that you can record where they get stuck.

    Talent

    • Publishers work with lots of indie developers, so they can assist you with finding the right talent to fill your team's needs.

    • Sometimes publishers will even dedicate resources from their internal team to assist with your game.

      • Akupara Games used our composers for an original soundtrack, and programmer to help recreate Keep in Mind in Unity (originally Game Maker Studio), for the release of Keep in Mind: Remastered.

    Localization

    • Localization isn't just translating the words in a game, but can also mean tweaking details for various regions to be more culturally appropriate.

      • For example, in certain regions of the world, like in China, talk of death is taboo.

    • This could also mean changing up key landmarks, flags, or references to make more sense and become more accessible.

      • In Stardew Valley not only did they localize the languages, but the artwork as well such as portraits, and the UI HUD.

    • Publishers will have localization expertise to make your game translatable and fun for all languages and cultures

    Marketing

    Generally when developers think of needing a publisher, marketing and publicity are the first things that comes to mind. A good publisher will have a wide array of marketing and promotional tools at their disposal for bringing awareness and praise to your title.

    Media Outreach

    • One of the more traditional ways to get exposure for your title is through media outreach.

    • This includes reaching out to journalists, bloggers, and other game-related press outlets about your title.

    • Publishers will have established networks of contacts who they've worked with over the years, making these outreach efforts more efficient and effective.

    • The ideal goal with press outreach is to get interviews, reviews, and articles on your game; a publisher's connections will make outreach easier and more successful.

    Media Buying

    • Another aspect of traditional marketing is media buying and ad placement. Publishers will often have teams that can plan social media and display ads to reach key audiences.

    • Media Buying can be done with any level of budget and digital ads often have immediate measures of success whether you are looking to build awareness of your game or increase downloads or sales.

    Influencer Outreach

    • The goal is for influential Twitch streamers and YouTube content creators will talk about your game to their audiences.

    • This is a major driver for sales, where a few large influencers can sway a product from "unknown" status to trending title.

      • For example, One Hand Clapping is a game that was created by USC students which was then picked up by YouTubers PewDiePieMarkiplier, and JackSepticEye that received millions of views and have translated to over 75,000 downloads on itch.io

    • Similar to media, publishers will have established relationships with influencers.

    • Some publishers create exclusive influencer programs, where influencers can get special perks from that publisher.

      • Akupara Games has recently started our influencer program - which allows us to thank these influencers with early access to our games, and opportunities for in-game avatars or voice overs.

    Trailers

    • A trailer is a great way to showcase the gameplay, or tease content of your game in a short and engaging video.

    • Publishers often have video editors who can create top-notch trailers, or they can advise your team to create these materials. They know what makes a successful trailer and can guide steps like storyboarding and editing.

    • There are articles based on the top game trailers that come out every year such as Gaming Trend's Best Game Trailers of E3 2018.

      • Akupara Games loves making buzzworthy trailers using everything from gameplay footage, to animation, and even live actors like in the trailer for The Metronomicon.

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