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  • Publishing 101: When To Partner With A Game Publisher

    [08.30.18]
    - David Logan
  • Hi! David Logan here, CEO of Akupara Games! We get a lot of questions about the game publishing process and I decided I wanted to write a series of articles to help guide developers throughout decisions surrounding the release of their game. Before we get too nitty gritty, let's start with the biggest decision every developer has to make: should you partner with a game publisher?

    Akupara Games is a video game publisher, so it is no secret that we believe publishers can bring value to a lot of games, however that doesn't always mean that a publisher is right for you. I'd like to outline some of the perks publishers can offer, to try to encourage you to consider them as an option for your team and title.

    In this article, I will be going over the services and benefits a publisher provides - such as distribution, development support, marketing, and community building. While publishers may offer some of these services, many will not provide all of them. Each publisher will specialize in various areas, so as you read, consider which are most important to you, and let that guide you if you choose to seek out a publisher.

    What do Publishers Get?

    Publishers are a business too, and have various ways of recouping their costs and making money. In exchange for their assistance, publishers will often receive a revenue share of your game on each platform they work with.

    Gross Income vs. Net Income

    Revenue share agreements will specify between sharing Gross Income or Net Income.

    • We recommend going with Gross Income whenever possible.

      • Net Income allows publishers to pay themselves back first for whatever expenses they deem necessary

        • For instance a publisher may try to deduct expenses like marketing, or localization costs, before paying out the developer

      • Gross Income will be the split payment after the distributor's share (Valve, Nintendo, etc.), but won't include other miscellaneous expenses incurred

    Share Percentages

    • The more effort and cost required from the publisher, the larger of a percentage they'll ask for.

      • Especially in the case of lending money, publishers will usually have a higher rev-share percentage they receive pre-recoupment, and then drop down to a more standard rate after that.

    • The rev-share amount may be different per each platform, for instance if a publisher handles all the porting costs and management for Nintendo Switch - they may receive a larger percentage on that platform.

    Other Elements

    • Occasionally publishers will ask for things such as IP ownership.

      • Our opinion is to never sell IP, unless it is an insanely fantastic deal (lots of $$$).

    • A publisher may also ask for right of first refusal for future platforms

    • Think carefully if you want to commit to terms like these, and whether they would have a long-term positive or negative impact for your project.

    Distribution

    Getting your game to various platforms is a lot of work with all of the various rules and procedures for each. Mobile platforms tend to be the most straight-forward, but consoles in particular involve a fairly lengthy process. A publisher can handle the entire process from getting approvals, uploading the products, writing the store copy, creating the proper graphics and videos, to actually getting the product approved.

    Ratings

    You will often need a rating for the various regions around the world you're releasing.

    • The publisher can handle the management and cost for these regions, which include:

      • ESRB (America)

      • PEGI (Europe)

      • CERO (Japan)

      • USK (Germany)

    Partner Relationships - Distributors

    • Another part of the process is leveraging opportunities to get your game featured at events, blogs written, social posts about your game, or having your trailer posted to a distributor's YouTube channel.

      • Publishers have pre-existing relationships with platforms and account managers to get your game opportunities easier

      • This will help your game stand out from the pack

      • Oftentimes distributors want juicy details to share - such as a release date announcement, or the first showing of a trailer.

        • Guacamelee! 2 recently partnered with PlayStation's YouTube channel, for their release date announcement

    • It is important for publishers to build fantastic relationships with distributors, so that they can more easily receive these opportunities. The best opportunity is getting featured in the storefront by a distributor, which directly brings your game extra sales.

      • Ask potential publishers how they have worked with distributors to feature their games and what potential opportunities they would push for your game

    Partner Relationships - Other

    • It's also important that your publisher has good relationships with other partners as well, such as hardware manufacturers like Alienware who can provide sponsored machines for events, or Limited Run Games who can create physical editions of your product.

      • Logitech featured The Metronomicon when introducing their new G560 lightsync PC gaming speakers.

      • Limited Run Games partnered with Thumper to make physical Switch and PlayStation 4 versions of the game, as well as limited T-Shirts.

    • By leveraging these partnerships the publisher is able to find other opportunities to make your game money or get awareness, past just the initial digital sales.

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