Does your game need a publisher or not?

Publishers make the case at PGC San Francisco 2015

Does your game need a publisher or not?

The ever rising cost of user acquisition was a common topic in many of the talks at Pocket Gamer Connects San Francisco 2015.

With the rising cost of UA, deep-pocketed publishers are becoming more prominent in the industry, offering huge boons to developers if their goals match.

So, during the Publishing Panel - Succeeding Around the World, the topic of UA created the foundation to the question of is it best for developers to partner with publishers?

On the panel consisted of:

  • Nick Malaperiman, President, Roadhouse Interactive,
  • Tung Nguyen-Khac, CEO, Spil Games,
  • Sebastian Kriese, Head of Partnerships, Wooga,
  • Bhaskar Roy, CPO, Playphone, and
  • Shanti Bergel, Senior VP of Business & Corporate Development, GREE.

So when should a developer start seeking out a publisher to partner with?

Nguyen-Khac believes that, "It's always a good time to approach a publisher".

He thought that many smaller developers might not have released a mobile game before and hence don't understand the full scope of a project.

And that's where Spil Games can help out - it's currently operating its Unsung Heroes initiative - and " developers to create milestones and a schedule," as means of ensuring that the game is hitting the market at the right time and in top form.

Know what you want

Nick Malaperiman stated a common problem he finds is, "...too many devs don't know who their target audience is".

In Malaperiman eyes, this is critical when talking to publishers as many decisions are based on where the identified market is.

Too many devs don't know who their target audience is.
Nick Malaperiman

In the same vein, Malaperiman also suggested that developers find publisher who have expertise in the regions they are looking to release.

Similarly, Nguyen-Khac pointed out that developers (and publishers) need to think about the level of success they expect.

"The top 20 is different than the top 50, is different than the top 100, is different from the top 150," Nguyen-Khac explained.

Go it alone

In this way, all publishers are choose where they want to focus their efforts, and all games have unique business opportunities.

Sebastian Kriese explained that not all of those unique opportunities require a publisher.

Wooga, for instance, is extremely hands on. It would want to invest a lot of equity into a project to guarantee the level of quality would be the same as a game from an in-house studio.

"If you are a two person team making a game you love, bringing a publisher in might break the economics of your project," Kriese said.

He and the other panel members urged developers to not force a publisher on your game, but to understand what potential value a publisher brings for your game.