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Mobile game: self publish or find a publisher?

2014-02-06 20:04:00 by Kajenx

So I've been working on a mobile game, and I'm just wondering if anyone has had experience dealing with publishers or publishing on their own, and what sort of experience/money each one was like. :)  I'd love to be independant, but I like making lots of money more, haha, so if it makes a huge difference I'd opt for partnering.

I've designed the game to work a lot like King's puzzle games, where you'd use microtransactions to restore "lives" that can be used to play levels.  It's a sort of gem matching game, but has some unique twists that I think really make it my own thing. :)

If you aren't comfortable posting direct numbers and want to send me a PM instead, that'd be really awesome.  I know it can be weird telling other people how much you've made, but I'm really looking for a bit of business advice as someone who's in the industry and looking to move onto other things, since flash sponsorships have become unreliable.  Even saying "I made 10x more going with a publisher than the game I released on my own" would be very helpful.


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2014-02-06 20:19:23

I think the only real perk of going with a publisher is that your game has a better chance of actually getting featured, which could ultimately end with you making a nice chunk of change. The problem is that the publisher might have some sketchy terms such as a buyout, or a partial buyout + a % of sales etc. It depends on the publisher. I've had a little experience with these sort of deals, and from what I've observed, it's not really worth it unless you're going to get in with someone like Chilingo, King, 6waves, etc. And they'll probably overlook you as there are 500 other people submitting their games every day.. But if you're diligent, it could work out great for you.

The trick to self publishing is you gotta have a pretty substantial following. Honestly, a game similar to many of the puzzlers you'd find via king probably won't inspire much excitement from potential followers. The last iOS games I've worked on that were self published, both have made less that $10 (together) in the last 2 years. One game that we went with a not so huge publisher (you wouldn't be interested in these people, but if you'd like contact info, PM me) did a partial buyout and a percent of sales. I think in total.. since completion.. not including the upfront funds, we probably made $5 total in the last year.. maybe..

This bad experience I've had with mobile isn't necessarily how it's going to go for you though. We had absolutely not idea what we were doing.. And you likely already have somewhat of a following, so you could do better.

But overall, I feel like the mobile market (at least with iOS) is pretty much all about who you get published by, or if you can get your game published. That's the only way I've ever seen a game be successful.

Kajenx responds:

Thanks for the infos! So what is a partial buyout? Does that mean selling IP and stuff?

Did you do micro-transactions, or did you try to sell outright? I'm wondering if there'd be a difference in experience. If the game is free, it'll likely have a lot more downloads, and then those people would be more disposed to paying for something once they've already had some fun with it. something like >90% of the "Top Grossing" games on android are free, too, which told me all I needed to know about the various models when I was looking into it.


2014-02-07 08:29:07

Partial buyout meaning they offered X amount upfront for the IP and then we got a % of sales thereafter. Yep, free download and microtransactions. That model is still the best way to go imo, since you can coax players to buy items more easily once they'd already invested time into the game.

Kajenx responds:

Actually, that option sounds kind of nice to me. As long as I would still get credit for the game somewhere, it would mean they could deal with the business of branding and maintaining the bug fixes and such. Or did they still expect you to do that sort of thing?


2014-02-07 18:13:31

I'm definitely buying it, but I have zero experience with publishing :\


2014-02-08 06:52:02

I guess it depends on who you're dealing with. I believe with the bigger publishers the only option they'll give is full on buyout. With the game we did the partial on, all bug fixes/branding was on us.. but again, depends on you agreement and who you're dealing with.


2014-02-20 18:56:00

Be careful with publishers!
I swear microsoft has a whole division dedicated to the hostile takeover of small companies.
I know it probably sounds like conspiracy talk. But I live in Redmond, WA.

Some microsoft guy offered me 65,000.00 a year to work on my game. I turned him down.
I did not believe his claim of "you'll get to keep the I.P."

P.S. New beta up! Prepare yourself for a generic message with details in your inbox!

(-John Mark)