How to know if a publisher is good for your game?
You started the game of you dream. You soon realize that you hate marketing and no one wants to speak about your game. Then, you make appointments with publishers in game conventions. You go home, and wonder: “Can I really trust those people?”.
This is normal. A publishing deal can break your game down. It can also make your game stand out from the crowd. Basically, it means everything and nothing. But, you can try to be more precise about why you want to trust a specific publisher.
This list is not exhaustive. You have to pick your questions and adapt them to your game. You also have to make all the details written, in the contract, so you can use it in court if needed. Make it clear about how much and where they intend to put the money. Be careful though and read Alkemi’s Story of how they were ripped off by a German publisher.
This blog post is based on the excellent talk by Nigel Lowrie. Nigel, I hope you don’t mind me making an enhanced recap of your talk.
Global questions, imagine you talk to a publisher.
- What kind of games did you publish in the past? Do you focus on a certain genre or style?
- How many games a year do you publish?
- What value do you add compare to the marketing I would do myself?
- Who have which roles in your company? Who will I talk to, when and why? Who will be my direct correspondents?
- Who owns the IP in the contract?
- Do you do advance on earnings? How much? On which condition?
- What is the revenue share ratio? How much do you have? How much do I have? Will this rate evolve after certain milestones?
- Can I have access to the analytics?
- Can I have access to the billing of marketing expenses, to be sure it’s done properly?
- How will you support us in case of hard times?
- What happens if you push the release date further?
- What happens if I push the release date further?
Consoles & devices ports
- Do you have plans or fundings to port games?
- How much money do you usually grant to port games to new platforms?
- Do you have privileged relationships with certain platforms?
- Can you sign exclusive deals with a distribution platform that would help fund a game?
- Should my developers do the port or you will handle it yourself?
- Which languages do you cover?
- Who will pay for the localization? How much do you put in the localization?
- When will you localize the game?
- What do you have in mind for the marketing strategy of the game?
- Who is in the spotlight during the communication? You or me?
- What is your specialty in marketing? PR? Influencers? Community Management? Guerrilla Marketing?
Public Relations — PR
- How much money do you invest in PR?
- Who takes care of the PR? Yourself, one of your employee, or a freelance company?
- Are Youtube & Twitch influencers taken into account on PR?
It applies if you decide to make your music revenue shared, done by an external freelance.
- Who is in charge of the music?
- Who sells the OST? On Which platforms ? What are the different revenue shares?
- Who does the trailer?
- Is the trailer made by your company or by a freelance contractor?
- How much money do you invest in the trailer? How many trailers will you do?
- What is your global advertising strategy?
- Which platforms will you target and how much do you plan to invest in advertising?
Events and game conventions
- Which events are you attending?
- Do you always show all your games in events? Which events will feature my game?
- Are there external freelance on the booth presenting the game? Can I teach them how to show the game?
- Will you fund some travel expenses for us to attend game conventions?
- On which stores will you distribute the game? Steam? Humble? Others?
- Can you get good featuring from the website platforms? [This is particularly important for mobile publishers]
- Who decides on the game price?
- Do you allow us to do Early Access? [If as a developer I plan to put it in Early Access]
That’s it! When you’re done, you’ll have a better view of why and how you want to work with a publisher.
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