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Game Developers: Know What You Bring to the Table Before You Start Looking to Get Published

Posted on April 27, 2016
By Kelly McGrath, Senior Manager BD, North America GamingSenior Manager BD, North America Gaming

Game Developers Conference 2016 took place recently in San Francisco, and boy was it a great one! InMobi hosted and moderated a panel with some of the top gaming publishers in the world, including Michael McHale, General Manager of Glu Games, Henry Lowenfels, VP of Biz Dev at Scopely, and Amit Khanduja, CEO of Reliance Games.

The panelists represented some of the largest publishers in the industry, while the majority of the audience was made up of indie developers and representatives from smaller studios. They were all there to gain tips and insights into the one big question: “What does it take to get chosen by the greatest gaming publishers?” Since there’s more and more consolidation in gaming, the industry is getting competitive and sometimes smaller guys need help. Finding the right publisher, and conversely, finding the right developer to work with is much like the dating game: there’s always a bit of give and take, but you have to know what you’re looking for in order for the relationship to work.

The resounding takeaway is that each game and developer is evaluated on a case by case basis. There is no one-size-fits-all daily active user (DAU) threshold, popular genre, or magic retention number etc. All publishers agreed that it’s a combination of moving parts that will help create the overall picture of success. While this might be unfortunate for some of you to hear, don’t worry. Due to the complexity of each relationship, there are so many business points up for negotiation. What will the revenue share be? Who is in charge of marketing costs? What is the IAP split? And on and on.

While no gold standard template or perfect partner exists, there are some key features that publishers will take into consideration:

Team Pedigree: There’s always room for an underdog. However, when time, money, and other resources are involved, an investor is more likely to bet on known winners instead of the rookie. Much like when venture capitalists look at the background of a company, a game publisher will do exactly the same for a game. What games have people on this team shipped before? How long has each of them been working in the industry? Are they interested in a long-term relationship or a one-off deal?f

Technical Knowledge: Publishers don’t always prefer one platform over another. They care about how much a team knows about the options they’ve chosen. Be a specialist, not a generalist.

Unique Offerings: What else can the developer offer aside from the team and the game the publisher is investing in? Some developers have developed specific platforms and tools that can be helpful across the publisher portfolio. The value of that is much higher for the publisher than just a title alone.

If you’re worried about getting picked up by a publisher, don’t. Keep working on making amazing games. Once you’ve got that figured out, then start shopping your title around - remember you need to crawl before you can walk. There’s no playbook for how to land a publisher for you, and there’s no blueprint of a perfect developer for them.

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