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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One response to “Top 3 reasons to NOT work with publishers”

19 02 2008
Bruno Sanches (14:20:33) :

I worked with a publisher about 4 years ago, and to my surprise, my game was their second 3d game. I knew the guys that did their first 3d game and the person responsible for QA and checking requirements when playing the first company 3d game (and the first 3d game of his life) throwed up after playing it a while… Now imagine the problems that we had.