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  • Publishers: How To Find Them And What To Expect

    [05.14.19]
    - Kevin Giguere

  • Be willing to walk away

    It's easy to get caught up in the hurricane of game development and having lots of tasks, with finding a publisher bringing an extra layer to that. Before taking any decision, take a moment to pause and really consider what your options are. Do some research on the publisher, see how they treat the other developers under their labels. Review the terms of the offer and figure out how realistic they are. You will be entering in a binding legal agreement which will last for years, so understand what that involves and what impact that will have on your process.

    If the terms aren't right and you're unable to negotiate something satisfactory, walk away. Don't lock yourself into a bad deal because you feel forced to do so. It might have a negative impact on your game, but a temporary setback will always be preferable to a long lasting one. There's always the possibility of revisiting the project at a later date, or a different opportunity may arise over time.

    That being said, also be realistic regarding the value of your game. Most games sell thousands or tens of thousands of copies, not millions. Your publisher will have expectations as far as sales numbers go, and that will be reflected in the contract that they present to you. Likewise, your game might have a purpose within their catalog of games, including the expected release date, so understanding those details can help shape your expectations.

    Communication

    As with any partnership, the most important aspect of the relationship with your publisher will be communication. This may imply regular discussions over Skype or Discord to explain your development progress, along with emails to further track objectives and other relevant resources. At all times, everyone should be clear about their work, what is being asked of them and any anticipated problems. Moreover, everyone should also be advised the moment a situation changes. This of course isn't limited to a relationship with a publisher, but rather a good rule of thumb for any partnership.

    Proper communication brings with it a plethora of advantages. You will be working with a team which will be planning moves weeks, or sometimes even months in advance. The launch of a game does not simply occur on the day you press the launch button, you want to ensure that as large an audience as possible will be standing ready to purchase your game from the first moment. This requires a significant degree of planning in multiple stages. Thus, have some consideration to the people you will be working with, and try to convey that you expect them to have that same consideration towards you and your team. Having great communication is a win-win scenario, since it leads to not only a better game launch, but also better working conditions for everyone involved.

    A publisher is a partner

    Finally, understand that your publisher is your partner. That means that they're not your enemy, but they're also not your friend. From a purely legal standpoint, you both have a series of obligations towards one another aiming towards (presumably) mutual benefit. Your obligations stop at the terms involved in the contract, and so do theirs. It's a very cold way of seeing things, but it can help establish realistic expectations towards the approach your publisher will take towards your game and also ensure that the terms are properly written down in the contract from the get-go.

    It certainly doesn't mean that you can't befriend the people you work with. In fact, I've had a great time with the people of Iceberg at every tier of management. However, I also know that we're here to work, meaning it is a commercial endeavor and that people's livelihoods (including my own) depend on it. As such, I always ensure to expedite whatever my publisher requires of me, since that will enable their staff to work more efficiently, which in turn will profit my game and myself. Conversely, I expect the same when the tables are reversed.

    That being said, holding a good relationship can still involve going above and beyond the agreements in the contract. From my perspective, the best contracts are negotiated, signed and immediately forgotten about. My goal isn't to do the bare minimum, but rather create the best game possible and put that out into the world. As mentioned, it can involve a degree of work above and beyond the terms, but the gamers will ultimately end up being the ones who benefit from it, which is exactly as it should be.

    Conclusion

    People who have followed my story know that my first two games, which I published myself, didn't do as well commercially as they could have. As such, thanks to the help of Iceberg Interactive, Tech Support has sold considerably better. 

    Publishers are like any other group you work with: some will be more engaged than others, their expectations and visions for your game will be different and the investment they're willing to make follows from that as well. Therefore, it's important to look around for the appropriate match for your project and your expectations.

    It's also important to understand that signing with a publisher does not guarantee the success of your game. Be weary of any publisher that makes such promises. The gaming industry is volatile and there are never any guarantees. In my opinion though, it is a practical way to increase the resources you have available and to maximize the potential of your project, which hopefully will allow you to continue on to your next endeavor with a clear conscience.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me using the links below.

    Handy links

    Dragon Slumber: https://dragonslumber.com
    Tech Support: https://techsupportgame.com
    Iceberg Interactive: https://www.iceberg-games.com/

    Facebook: https://facebook.com/dragonslumbergames
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/dragon_slumber
    Discord: https://discord.gg/dragonslumber
    Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/dragonslumber

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