Publishers - experiences?

Monkey Archive Forums/Digital Discussion/Publishers - experiences?

Xaron(Posted 2013) [#1]
Hi guys,

has anyone here experiences with publishers like Big Fish Games especially for mobile markets?

I mean using a publisher like BFG might create huge benefits because they can push games into the lists really easy...

GfK(Posted 2013) [#2]
Yes, but not for mobile. My games are available on Big Fish Games, Gamehouse and Zylom (the latter two are both part of RealNetworks Inc).

With Big Fish Games, you can get 40% royalty if you give them an exclusive period, otherwise 35%. It's a bit less with RealNetworks but I can't remember the numbers off-hand and I can't be arsed to dig the contract out.

So they get 60% for doing nothing?! Well, no. They get their cut because they can put your game in front of millions of potential customers right away. You won't have to deal with marketing, or snotty customers complaining because the game doesn't work on their 10 year old PC, or anything. It's 60% well spent.

anawiki(Posted 2013) [#3]
BFG is picky regarding mobile markets and while they made for us more than we made ourselves with our mobile apps it wasn't anything shocking. Nice add on to desktop revenue.

On the other hand I have a friend, that without publisher made 2-3 times more than we made with BFG (for their own published game). With mobile apps you never now. You have higher chances with publisher, but if anything goes wrong with your app (read: doesn't meet publishers expectations) he will be the first one to forget about your game (there are new titles coming every day for him to cure disappointment).

Xaron(Posted 2013) [#4]
So for desktop apps it might be the best to use BFG. Cool. I sometimes think that everything goes mobile now but the casual games for PC market isn't dead, right?

therevills(Posted 2013) [#5]
Far from dead ;)

But I would be wary of using Monkeys primary desktop targets for a BFG game...

Xaron(Posted 2013) [#6]
Well yes, even though it _could_ work now as we can resize windows and do fullscreen apps...

...or just use that MonkeyMax target. ;)

Soap(Posted 2013) [#7]

Xaron(Posted 2013) [#8]
Very good thoughts, Soap, thanks for that! :)

GfK(Posted 2013) [#9]
@soap - It isn't about whether your game is good enough to sell on its own. You need to give it visibility and if you're planning on getting that via word of mouth only, then you might as well just apply for a job at McDonald's right now.

If you don't do promotion and marketing, nobody will know about your game. So no matter how good it is, nobody is going to buy something they do not know about. Promotion requires two things; marketing knowledge, and money - and I don't mean pocket change. If you don't have both in abundance, forget it. Just sending eval copies off to review sites and putting it on crappy sites like CNET won't be enough, and most of them will want money off you first or you won't even get a mention.

therevills(Posted 2013) [#10]
but if you accept any less than 70% you are shooting yourself in the foot

Well my feet are very well and have been for over 4 years since selling my games via BFG with 40%...

John McCubbin(Posted 2013) [#11]
Portals such as Big Fish Games and iWin are really the best way to go for your casual desktop games, like GFK I have not used them for mobile publishing but they would be great for that too I am sure as they have a loyal following who will play the games they publish on mobile if possible.

As to you 'only' making 35% - 40% for each sale it is a fair trade off, unless you can guarentee your website is reaching millions of visitors a day who are specifically interested in playing the type of game you make then you wont see many sales, big portals mean big numbers.

Gerry Quinn(Posted 2013) [#12]
"Big portals mean big numbers." Exactly. The equation is simple, if they sell ten times as many as you would, your 35% is 3.5 times what you would have sold.

And that doesn't allow for your own costs. If you consider that selling and support costs via your own site are the equivalent of 20% of sales revenue (not an unreasonable figure), then 35% is 44% of 80%.

Xaron(Posted 2013) [#13]
Well, I think best might be to take a publisher for desktop games and try to market the mobile version by myself. I'll check it out and let you know!

Soap(Posted 2013) [#14]

anawiki(Posted 2013) [#15]
There are many ways to success, but when you're in casual genre, then odds for that when you're selling without portals are pretty low. Really, it's very hard to compete with portals price point of $6.99 if you make casual game.

The best of it - even if you go exclusive with one portal it doesn't mean you can't keep the game exclusive for a month or more on your own site (and sell it at $10, $20, or more).

I found no joy in marketing / publishing my games. I do some minimum of basic things, but move over to game development as soon as I can. And I don't complain for my revenues :)


Paul - Taiphoz(Posted 2013) [#16]
What about making a small game, something fun, but low on workload, something that loads a banner from the developers site and advert from the developer, for the developer, if you then put that game out to tons of portals taking the 30% cut, spreading it as far and wide as possible, and then use it as an advert platform for your main big project game, using the image/banner that your hosting on your own site to advertise your next game, where to buy it , where to download it.

I wonder if that would be a worth while endeavor.

Soap(Posted 2013) [#17]

anawiki(Posted 2013) [#18]
Taiphoz: No, portals are not that stupid. First of all, the game would have to be worth hosting by portals, so you'd hardly get away with low on workload. Then, they will allow you to upsell the game, cross-promo sequel / prequel (already on the portals shelves), but not something they don't host.

Soap: I don't agree with you. I'm not paying them 60k for this privilege. It's rather that we both earn: we 40k, they 60k. What I pay is opportunity cost - I could do parallel release, go exclusive with someone else, don't go to portals, etc. That's the real cost and what you have to think about.

If you're happy with selling directly, great for you. I'm happy with my business model. Portals specialize at selling, I specialize at developing games. At the end of the day I think both models can lead to similar success and whether you are satisfied or not depends on what you prefer to do.

GfK(Posted 2013) [#19]
Most BFG sales go for $6.99 - you get 40% only if you agree to exclusivity with them, 30% if you don't.
It's actually 35% for non-exclusive, not 30%.

But the point I wanted to raise, is that the exclusivity is for a limited period (rather than forever), after which you're free to do what you like again. As part of the exclusivity arrangement you're still permitted to sell direct from your own site, just nowhere else. Plus two of my games have now been localized - one is in eight languages, the other, ten languages, and getting that done didn't cost me a cent. Localized sales aren't anywhere near English version sales, but it does top up the coffers nicely, so it's well worth doing it if you're playing the long game.

Personally I would love to have a flock of loyal customers and be completely independent, but right now the casual business model is working for me, even though I can openly accept that it isn't something I want to stick with forever - just enough to fill up the bank account.

Soap(Posted 2013) [#20]

muddy_shoes(Posted 2013) [#21]
I'm pretty sure it's a horses for courses thing. I'd be interested to hear how you went about building your direct customers though, Soap. The success of such a strategy would seem highly dependent on finding a niche enthusiast audience that can be targeted and sold to.

I'm also curious why you choose to keep quiet about what your games business actually is here. That seems an odd choice for someone extolling the virtues of building your own audience and sales platform.

Soap(Posted 2013) [#22]

muddy_shoes(Posted 2013) [#23]
Who you are may not be relevant, but what sort of games you create and when you started may well be. There's a difference between avoiding portals and trying to build a direct sales audience if you're writing Napoleonic war simulations and doing the same thing if you're iterating on fluffy Match-3s and Hidden Object games set in girl's boarding schools.

Soap(Posted 2013) [#24]

muddy_shoes(Posted 2013) [#25]
You're spinning the argument away from the point I was making. Regardless of whether I like fluffy Match-3s* the targetable audience for those games and other "casual" genres is very effectively concentrated by the portals. The business sense decision in terms of chance of getting a good return when deciding whether to take the percentage hit for using them is very much affected by the type of game you are creating.

You're completely free to not explain what your business is but to argue that the games you make, what sort of cash you have on hand, what skills and contacts you have for marketing or what the extant market environment is are all irrelevant to the choice of going direct or going for portal distribution doesn't fly for me at all.

*I've got Candy Crush on my iThing like everyone else, FWIW

Soap(Posted 2013) [#26]

muddy_shoes(Posted 2013) [#27]
Actually, my example of "Napoleonic war-sim" wasn't of a core game (whatever your personal definition of that might be), it was of a product with a niche and targetable audience. More specifically war-gamers aren't an audience that is corralled by a market gatekeeper that limits your ability to build your brand as the likes of Big Fish do in the casual world.

You're still off spinning what I said into arguments I didn't make. The lack of funds to provide a living expense runway or to pull an audience via advertising isn't an "excuse... so they don't take action". It's a valid reason why someone might decide that taking the action of signing a portal deal is better both in the short and long-term for them. You don't get to count the money from your tens of thousands of direct sales at 90+% if you go bankrupt trying to get the first 100 sales.

I maintain that any argument stating "direct is better than taking portal deals" made in a general sense is facile. Without contemplating market specifics and individual resource realities it's just saying "Hey, 90% of X is bigger than 40% of Y" where X and Y are arbitrary numbers you just get to decide on rather than the biggest unknowns in the whole thing. Your own confidence in generating a good value for X is all very commendable but that's hardly the default.

Soap(Posted 2013) [#28]

muddy_shoes(Posted 2013) [#29]
It's pointless continuing this if you're going to snap off sub-clauses in points I make and argue against them out of context for your own convenience. There's a huge gap between what you chose to quote in isolation from my first paragraph and the actual meaning it has as a whole. Again, I did not mention "Napoleonic war-sims" as an example of a core game genre and wargamers are not an audience that congregates primarily on Steam.

You're also contradicting your own words from above by suggesting that Steam is no different from Big Fish:

If the casual portals only took 30% (or 35%) and allowed us to link to our own sites in our own games I'd be willing to work with them, but as is their practices are still anti-developer. There are still services like Steam which are not perfect either but do pay fair and do allow devs to build their own audiences.

The bottom line is that your position that being successfully fully independent and making more money from direct customers is a better place to be is hardly something that anyone would disagree with. However, the fact that it's a better outcome doesn't form an argument that pursuing that path is a better strategy for anyone in particular.

As I said before, I'd always be interested to hear how you went about achieving that outcome for yourself or practical things you think others can do in that line. Hearing how people achieve success is always valuable, just hearing them say "Success is great, you should just be successful like me" is less so.

Soap(Posted 2013) [#30]

Why0Why(Posted 2013) [#31]
Soap, I think it is great that you are providing a different recommendation based on your own experience since most of the commercial developers here seem to use portals in the casual market. But I agree with Muddy, to be truly helpful, it would be nice to post something concrete and not just broad strokes. For example:

In my experience, XYZ is the best way to build a list.
This type of email is most effective in selling.
This has worked for me as a starting price and I recommend cutting the price after X time.

I would find it very interesting and helpful and as much as you have already written in this thread being vague, you could have written up a small guide. Can you post tips on how to make it marketing on your own?

muddy_shoes(Posted 2013) [#32]
What? This is what I said

Ugh... just to try and get you to appreciate where you're warping the message. Look what you said that in response to:

>>a market gatekeeper that limits your ability to build your brand as the likes of Big Fish do in the casual world

>They don't no more than Steam does with core.

So, I was talking specifically about the relative constraints placed on your ability to build your own name, direct players to your own site or your future products. Your reply is that Big Fish "don't no more than Steam does".

1. I didn't mention Steam.
2. As quoted, you previously noted the large difference between Steam and casual portals in the very regard I was talking about, hence contradiction.

I hope that's clear.

As for the rest. If you're just talking from your own personal viewpoint, understanding that your choices worked for you for specific reasons related to your circumstances (hence making those relevant although you won't discuss them) in ways that don't necessarily translate to the circumstances of others, then there's no issue. Maybe you can reconsider your terminology when talking about it though. Much of what you have written comes across as stating that your position is absolute and any argument suggesting otherwise is just an excuse or a rationalisation of personal failures.

Choosing to go with a portal is an action. Doing so because you consider that you don't have the money/time/skills/contacts to effectively do better than they can with their expertise and resources to get sales is not an excuse.

Soap(Posted 2013) [#33]

muddy_shoes(Posted 2013) [#34]
You seriously went through the thread and deleted your posts? I didn't see it as a waste of time but you've kind of made sure that it was, haven't you?

Xaron(Posted 2013) [#35]
Argh... these posts had so much value (IMHO)... I'm glad I read them before you deleted them Soap!

Soap(Posted 2013) [#36]

GfK(Posted 2013) [#37]
I really have no interest in arguing, trying to convince people my opinions are universally true
Then don't. Have your opinion, and leave it at that - it only escalates into an argument if you're completely closed off to the opinions of others, and try to force your own ideals onto everybody else. We are all different and have different needs and goals.

Bit childish deleting all your posts.

anawiki(Posted 2013) [#38]
@Soap: too bad you deleted your posts. I didn't agree with everything you said, but that didn't mean there was no value in it. The real value was in our conversation (all posters). Xaron could make up his mind based on our opinions and make his own INDEPENDENT decision of whether he wants to go this route or another.

There are people that live well selling directly, like Cliffski, and there are people that live well selling through portals, like me.

Don't be ashamed of your opinions and thoughts. Being independent means that there is a lot of people that doesn't agree with you :D

Tibit(Posted 2013) [#39]
@muddy_shoes - I appreciate your skill to stay objective and focus on the core of things, I find your comments to often be very insightful.

@Soap - I love to read about your views. I never got around to read this thread but the one where you talked about monetization. I first read the original article on gamasutra (linked from this forum) and I remember agreed with the Author to a big part. Then you posted here on the forum and in your google+ article, and you talked about an almost opposite view on monetization and individual's ability to make decisions that I found I agreed a lot with too. Your generosity in arguing against that author gave me a lot of insight. In the end I found myself with a more balanced view that was from "both worlds" so to say. I value that second opinion a lot. And so I probably also would have in this thread.

We all know there rarely is a right or wrong, because most challenges in this world have many complex dependencies.

I hope you keep arguing over what you believe, because it enriches the world that there is more than one belief to choose from. In the end we all make our own choices like you said in your article - it is not about convincing others or about being right, it is about giving us all more options.