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  • Publishers: How To Find Them And What To Expect

    - Kevin Giguere

  • Where do you find them?

    Many publishers are always on the hunt for the next big thing. They want to see great games under their banner, so don't be shy to contact them with your own project. One of the most invaluable tools to find a publisher has been OneMoreGameBro's Indie Game Publishers Database, which is a list of over 150 publishers with contact information. Additionally, you can also scour the Internet for games in a similar genre as yours, figure out who published it, then contact them.

    Don't be afraid to cast a wide net. Sometimes publishers may be looking for something to diversify their portfolio, and your game might be exactly what they're looking for. As I understand, Tech Support arrived at the right moment with Iceberg for that reason. Likewise, the worst that can happen is a publisher not getting back to you or simply not being interested in your game. You'll face plenty of rejection, but it only takes one approval to get the show on the road.

    Also, make sure you do some research on your publisher, which games they've released in the past, how those games performed and what the publisher do to influence the game's success. Understand how they treat their developers and what you can expect your relationship to be. There are often many red flags to look out for and though it doesn't mean the publisher won't come through for you, you should always remain cautious before signing away the results of your hard labor.

    Also, be open to international publishers. Iceberg is in the Netherlands, whereas I'm in Canada, and most of our sales come from the USA, Germany and China. 

    Pitch deck

    A pitch deck is a document that presents your game and includes a list of its features, underlines your commercial expectations for it, an analysis of your competition and also explains what you are seeking out of the publishing relationship. It is not necessary to go into too many details concerning your game, since the publisher will already be able to try out your game directly. Instead, the pitch deck emphasizes the place of your game within the market. It should remain fairly short, ideally keeping under 20 pages, and focus on bullet points and other easily readable values rather than large amounts of text. Screenshots can also help emphasize your game as a selling point.

    Here is the pitch deck I sent out to publishers when I was looking for a partner for Tech Support.

    There is no standard contract

    Once you've come to an understanding with your potential publisher, a list of terms may be established, or even a contract directly. It's important to understand everything that's expected from you and what's expected from them, so going to a lawyer is a wise choice in most cases.

    Most contracts will involve an amount of money dedicated to various activities, such as marketing, production or even an advance for the developer to sustain them ahead of publication. It's important to understand how that money will be distributed. For instance, buying supplies or contracting someone to create a trailer will be different from using the money towards in-house resources to do the same. It might not be possible to completely outline every expense, but at the very least understanding how far that money will stretch will make a lot of difference for your success.

    It's ok to negotiate and I would encourage all parties to do so. If you believe some terms to be unrealistic or unfair, for instance potential penalties to missed deadlines, or the amount of money wouldn't cover development properly, have that conversation with the publisher. It is likely that they will have their own reservations and expectations towards you, and will negotiate accordingly. However, also understand that a publishing contract shouldn't be a competition but rather a partnership. Both parties should have much to gain from the successful release of the game, which will in turn encourage them to put forth as much effort as possible.

    Before signing with Iceberg, I had several offers presented to me from different sources, which helped me understand what was the perceived value of my game and extent that people were willing to invest in it to make it as successful as possible. That perspective definitely impacted my relationship with Iceberg themselves and the terms we negotiated (which unfortunately I can't share here). The most important aspect for me was for the terms to be clear, which I never had issues with moving forward.


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