Top 3 reasons to NOT work with publishers

15 02 2008

So I already told you why it is good to work with publishers. Unfortunately working with publishers isn’t great for all the time. Even if the deal looks great on paper, sometimes it doesn’t work out for you. It doesn’t work out for many reasons, but here are my top 3.

#3 Less creative freedom

NotesOnce someone agree to put money into your game he may want to have creative control over your game. Most often both sides will work to make the game the best thing on earth, but it may happen, that you’ll be forced to add or remove features that doesn’t go with your ideas.

Remember, you have the passion for your game. Employees of your publisher may not.

#2 Lack of experience

Yeah, I know how does it sound, but believe. Just because they are cold publishers, doesn’t mean they are experienced in the area you are wanting them to be. Need an example? Great retail publisher doesn’t have to be great online publisher (and vice versa).

If you work on a casual game, make sure your publisher can provide you quality beta tests. And put it in contract! Casual game success depends a lot on gameplay balancing and without a real player testing your game it is not possible to catch all weak points in your game. Some devs advice to test game mechanic on every stage of development. Make sure to test it after each bigger change in gameplay mechanic.

#1 Money

50 DollarsEarly cash advance is great, but then you have to wait for a long time before the flow of cash comes in… It can take 4 mothns (best case scenario) or… but it may never happen. Your publisher takes 50% or more of your game NET revenue and needs to recoupe your advance first.

Publishing online is quite easy. It can take some time, but it’s not worth giving away 50% of your games revenue. The only reason to go with a publisher in this case is only when you can’t get there without him… and there are only 2-3 places that will not work with indie developers directly (AOL, Yahoo). So sign a deal to publish your game only on those two portas. Submit your game yourself to the others.

Your publisher may want to trick you that he will get a better deal with a portal than you do on your own. I really doubt it (mine didn’t). Portals just don’t feel like giving more to anyone and it doesn’t matter for them if you’re small or not. Of course, they may want to try to give you lower royalties, but it doesn’t mean that you have to agree. Learn to say no. Negotiate. It is a great skill in the long run.

And last but not least… let’s say your game is not so hot as it seemed to be. With so many titles in publishers portfolio they may just don’t work that hard on monetizing your game, cause they may have better converting game. If you sign exclusive you’re screwed. Your game is probably all you have… you’ve been working on it for 6, 9, 12 or more months. You need to make those money back. Even if your game is not so well converting among all other games it may still be the best converting game in your portfolio. Keep at least the right to sell from your own website.

Whatever you choose – good luck!

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Don’t you love Windows Vista?

8 02 2008

If you could ask software journalist about the biggest disappointment of the year 2007 most of them would say: Windows Vista. I am pretty sure that there’s a lot of reasons behind that… and I just found one yesterday on my own. I’ve setup new computer for my mother. It did come with Windows Vista Home (or Basic) edition. I installed Runes of Avalon and … it doesn’t work.

It’s not the game’s fault. It’s Software Passport aka Armadillo that is not compatible with Vista. There is of course a new version that is compatible with Vista, but guess what… there’s no upgrade, you need to buy full new license. What the heck? Not only Armadillo doesn’t protect you against piracy (Runes of Avalon had been cracked one day after release) but they force you to buy new license (300$) to get your software compatible with new Windows.

Lucky me, Vista users correspond to only 12% of ANAWIKI website visitors so I can focus on finishing Runes of Avalon 2 before switching to home made DRM solution. I will either go with separate demo/full version or online activation. We have to do something for Mac and Linux anyway, so no point for paying for new Software Passport that is not cross-platform.

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Top 3 reasons to work with publishers

7 02 2008

Even if you are indie, you may consider working with a publisher to bring your next game to life. There are many pros and cons, but today I’ll list top 3 pros. It’s all based on my experience.

1. Cash advance
It takes a lot of time to create a great game… and time is money. Publishers are ready to pay you in advance against future royalties. If you work together with a publisher on your game, then you can get advance paid in parts for each milestone. Getting “constant” flow of cash can make life of independent* developer much easier. It can also speed up development of your game, because you’ll get the cash to invest into better art resources or development tools.

* some will say that if you work with a publisher then you are no longer independent, but as long as you are creating your vision you are independent enough for me.

2. QA
Do you have the time and resources to provide great QA service for your game? In the end of development process I am sick of my game and don’t have the passion to put the level of attention needed to testing all those little details. I am also so used to my game that I don’t notice a lot of issues. QA stuff that works for publishers very often does an awesome work and not only catches a lot of bugs, but also gives you ideas for improvement of gameplay.

3. Getting into the markets
Today everyone can setup a site and put a game on sale, though not everyone is able to catch peoples attention. Publishers either have established online sales channels or know how to reach them. They have established retail sales channels and can get your game into boxes or jewel cases and sell it in stores you would not be able to reach. What more, publishers have a lot of products and can make bundles of them to increase your games life. At the end, it can sum up to the great amount of cash… and that you sold more games than you would without a publisher.

What you have read above are my personal top 3 reasons to work with publishers, but don’t be fouled… it doesn’t mean that there is no cons… in the next post I will give you my top 3 reasons to not work with publishers :)

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Anawiki Games 2008 resolutions

1 02 2008

Yeah, I know it’s odd to post New Year resolutions in the beginning of February. My thinking is that if you post them so late then actually they are worth anything.

Year 2007 was not a very good one for me. I had great plans in the beginning, but in December I started to wonder why it didn’t happen? The first half of the year wasn’t so bad, but the second one was devastating to all my plans.

  • We released Pony World… and then received request to translate it to 6 different languages. We had a contarct and we couldn’t deny request and each translation took so looong, because Pony World is a complex game with a lot of written and rasterized text. If you ever want to translate your game, make sure it doesn’t use rasterized text or make it data driven. Each menu, caption, buttons, icons should be defined in a file that you can change without the need to recompile the game.
  • We started 2 or 3 game projects and run into cash-flow issues… I didn’t expect that getting money from released game takes so long.

Well, there are other minor things that made it difficult, but 2008 looks much different.

Year is very long… and it’s very difficult to predict in detail so I decided to split my predictions into 3 parts: short term (first quater), medium term (first half of the year) and long term (second part of the year).

My main goal is to improve company efficiency at making games and selling them. Making games is time consuming so when I written down all our projects I was shocked. If I want to finish them as I plan I should release a new game almost every 2-3 weeks. Yep, it’s sounds unbelievable… though we create games in a way that we can easily make add-ons and sequels.

    So here it goes:

  • Pony World Deluxe – should be released in Feb
  • Runes of Avalon 2 – should be released in Feb
  • JigSaw Quest: Avalon – scheduled for release in March
  • Alice Adventures – scheduled for April
  • … and 5 more games to be released in the first half of the year
  • … and 2 more in the second half of the year

Sounds crazy when I look at it… though first four titles on the list are in production or near completion at the moment. We just have to focus on finishing it one by one instead of making little steps in each game. In the second half of the year we will release only two games. If game development is your business, then monetizing comes first and if you have no games to monetize you run out of the business.

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