No Publisher

Yesterday I enjoyed an interesting afternoon with Finnish game developers, lawyers and VC’s. The event was called “Financing a Gaming Company” and it was organized by Fondia. After bunch of nice talks the formal part ended with a panel talk. I had a question in mind.

A while back we had released our first game: SCAWAR Space Combat, a space shooter for Android. It was a project we completed on our free time. Or as one of the speakers, Samuli Syvähuoko, with: “selkänahka ja parisuhde”, freely translated “skin from our backs and our relationships”, because that’s what you sacrifice for making a game with no funding. We were successful in getting a bunch of really nice professional reviews with only high marks. But we never gained the user traction we had hoped for. So now that we’ve started developing our next game, I had my mind set on getting a publisher for the game.

So that’s what I asked: Is getting a publisher the right way for a small indie studio to get the publicity it needs for a game to succeed? Both of the gaming company representatives in the panel, Tiina Zilliacus from Gajatri Studios and Samuli Syvähuoko from Crazy Crusade (previously from Remedy and Recoil, big names in Finnish gaming) answered with a resounding: NO!

How they saw it, was that most game publishers are stuck in the age when it was hard to get your game published and distributed. What you will end up now with is a more or less unfavorable deal. One that doesn’t guarantee any publicity for you but does guarantee a big cut of all your profits straight to the publisher. And you will probably be stuck with that contract for many years. Only way to ensure they are interested in really promoting your game is accepting money from them. And that will be painfully expensive for you.

I was certainly surprised by the answers. Although they did make sense now that I heard them. One possible exception they mentioned was those publishers that used to be game developers themselves.

I’d love to hear your experiences of working with game publishers, especially when it comes to mobile gaming. How did it turn out for you?


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