Part 07 – Publishers and Your Game

What do publishers think when they see your game?

Let’s start with basics you were probably suspecting, but are worth saying anyway.

  1. Games are a business. Apologies folks, they are fun I know. They are people’s passions, but when you go to a publisher or Kickstarter or try to get people to part with their money you need to think like a business does (more on this later).
  2. Generally speaking, publishers don’t know who you are and don’t care who you are. They only care about that stuff that affects the basic question, “How can this developer make us money”?
  3. Another generalization, publishers don’t care that you have 2000 years of combined experience on your team. That’s a cool stat to show off to the public with but as a stat, it says nothing about you. Were those previous games successful? Do you have two people with 1000 years of experience or 2000 people with one year of experience?

I have sat on both sides of the bargaining table during my career and I will attempt to save you some time by getting to the heart of the matter. Here are some questions going through the publisher’s mind:

  1. What is unique about this game I can’t get anywhere else? To put it another way, “What is your unfair advantage?” What do you have that no one else can easily have or duplicate? That is what you must lead the conversation with.
  2. Are you demonstrating enough of your product’s vision in the presentation? Some games have an awesome tech demo. Some games have a great trailer. Others may have some drawings. It’s really up to you to present your unique angle in the best way you can. This goes for Kickstarter trailers, Patreon videos, blogs etc. Everything should turn on what you offer that no one else has. If you have a blog you want people to read, give them a reason! Funny articles? Serious articles? Outlandish articles? Exclusive articles? Give people a reason! Same goes for a game. Unique gameplay (Portal)? Amazing art (Ori and the Blind Forest)? Amazing tech (Battlefield)?
  3. Do you, as the project creator, see a clear way you will make the publisher (or the Kickstarter backer) either a monetary return or a return of “acclaim”?
    • Monetary return is pretty obvious. You are giving someone more money than they initially gave you for investing in your project. Games like Call of Duty and League of Legends fit into this category.
    • Acclaim for the publisher covers several areas. For a publisher, this could be a game that wins awards and gains the publisher credit from the general public as a benevolent and wise group. Games like ICO are what fit into this category.
    • Acclaim for the player is a category I think we forget about. Basically, does your game tell a story worth repeating? An example would be a game in which somethingso amazing happens, it makes you want to tell someone about it. So, does your game have memorable moments, a memorable story, etc…? A lot of times people will back and support something that advances their ability to be interesting or popular (for lack of a better phrase). I look at old games like X-Com which have outlandish scenarios all throughout. When you survive one of those, you want to tell someone about it! Same might go for a crazy match of Counter Strike or League of Legends. If you have a game people talk about after they put it down then you might really be onto something.

So you say you have all that and you want to know what is the final kicker, the extra ingredient that will put you apart from the rest. Here it is. If you can answer yes to the following every single day of development, then you are well on your way to fantastic success in all areas of life:

“Can I honestly say I did my very best work with no compromise or excuses today? Did I give it my all with no room for getting better?”

Only you can answer that question any given day. Most people are lucky to say yes to that once every six months. The more that answer is yes, the better off you are when you see a publisher or try to sell your product. Asking that question will propel you to new areas and put you in the uncomfortable spots you need to be in to succeed.

Do it!

Talk with you soon,