Jump to content
  • Advertisement
  • 07/07/19 11:50 AM

    Publishing 103 - What Publishers Look For in Games

    Business and Law

    Akupara Games



    Publishing 101 | Publishing 102 | Publishing 103


    This is David Logan, CEO of Akupara Games, and I’m back with the final part of my game publishing trilogy! For those of you who have stumbled across this series for the first time, let me direct you to the original article that aims to guide you to making the decision to self-publish or partner with another studio to publish your game. After that, you can learn how to find the best game publisher for you in the follow-up article. Take your time; I’ll be here for you when you’re ready!

    All caught up? Great! By now, you’ve decided that a publisher route is exactly the way you want to go, found some great potential publisher fits, and know what you might want to talk to them about once you’ve got your foot in the door. Now what? Well, it’s time for you to craft your pitch and materials, get noticed, and actually get your foot in the door!


    The Basics

    These are the primary materials that you will want to prepare as you begin reaching out to publishers. It may seem like a lot, but you really want to be prepared and confident in your own idea and to leave the best impression possible. With the following materials, you are telling the publishers that you are a serious studio, and have already poured a ton of time, sweat, and thought into your game.



    • A good trailer will pique the interest of publishers before anything else
    • Be clear about what the game is all about – concept, plot, genre, gameplay, etc
      • The most effective way for your pitch to be dismissed is if there are too many unanswered questions about basic things after watching your trailer
      • Your game’s content should be clear to the viewer
    • A trailer is a really powerful asset because it provides a good peek at how all the aspects of the world you’re creating come together – audio, art, design, etc.
      • This will be one of the few opportunities for them to see your game come to life during your pitch, as most other material will be text and still images
      • Be careful that you aren’t hiding something vital through the trailer; in which case, a publisher may just prefer concept art and a prototype
    • Make sure that your trailer does your creation justice and accurately represents what you want to showcase at that moment
    • Let your trailer shine and show what makes it unique
      • What will make people talk about your game?
      • How are they going to talk about it after watching it?
    • Check out “How To Make an Indie Game Trailer | Game Maker’s Toolkit” on YouTube


    Subnautica was developed and self-published by Unknown Worlds Entertainment. The focus of their trailer is creating a cinematic experience, like something you’d see before the latest superhero movie. It tells a clear story, starting with an immediate hook, transitioning to the studio’s logo, gameplay footage, voice-over detailing the player experience that feels congruent with the game’s theme, and then ramping up in intensity until it hits a chilling button to finish out the trailer. It even sprinkles in pull quotes from Youtube influencers rather than traditional media outlets.


    Team Cherry’s Hollow Knight has a more simplified trailer whose primary focus is gameplay. By showcasing the game’s mechanics and aesthetics, it allows the viewer insight to a game that has multiple areas, enemies, bosses, skills, and much more. A trap that this trailer did not fall into was overlaying music over each scene; rather, it kept the scenes intact with sound effects as music accompanied these scenes. Without those sound effects, your game doesn’t feel as alive or realized – it just feels flat. It’s important to note that this trailer also features on-screen text to fill in the gaps of viewer’s knowledge. A two-minute trailer is never going to be enough to show everyone the fine details, so don’t be afraid to drop in with some text to make sure everyone’s on the same page.



    • Having something working and playable will help tremendously in your pitch
      • Ensure your demo plays well, has been playtested, and free of major bugs/glitches that prevent the demo from being fully experienced
        • If your game involves puzzles or sections where the player has to input information, make sure that people outside of your circle of development are able to also progress with ease
      • Including a document with your demo that outlines how to play the game and controls will be greatly appreciated
    • Demos show how ideas have turned into something realized
      • It should provide a player both excitement for and expectations of what’s to come
        • Of course, it’s not out of the realm for a demo to not be completely representative of the final product in visual assets or complex mechanics
    • Use your demo as an opportunity to focus on the uniqueness and difficulties of the game, i.e. proof of concept
      • Prioritize fun gameplay over graphics
    • Use your demo as a chance to show off excellent writing skills if dialogue is a big part of your game
    • It’s understood that the build of your game will not have finalized assets, so don’t be afraid of having placeholders
      • Be sure it’s easy to tell if something is a placeholder
        • It can mislead or misrepresent your design if a placeholder looks like it belongs, but does not look great
    • Know whether you want to work towards a Vertical Slice of your game versus an Alpha or Beta
      • A Vertical Slice gives the best impression of what the final product will be in a short bite-sized piece
        • It is like a single slice of a dressed up cake with all the layers, frosting, decorations, and candles
        • Mechanic-based or multiplayer games may be better presented as vertical slices, so publishers can see the final quality of the product
      • An Alpha isn’t as polished of an experience, but shows the entire game from start to finish
        • This is the entire cake, baked and frosted, but it doesn’t have all the sprinkles and decorations on it
        • Story-based games or games with a strong single-player may be better presented as alphas, so the publisher can see the full intended experience
      • A Beta is a more polished Alpha build, that has everything the final game would, except may need final tweaks in design and bug-fixing
        • This is the best of both worlds – high fidelity and polish, and nearly final content
        • Betas take the most time though, so although they present best, they also would have cost the most to get here
    • Above all, make sure your demo is fun to play
      • Leave the people playing your demo grasping for more by the end of it
      • Focus on the fun and stray away from anything that might be frustrating and keeping people from finishing your demo


    Indie developer EggNut made excellent use of the Steam store by providing a free demo of their film-noir inspired adventure game. The demo provides a great example of what a Vertical Slice looks like. By offering a free demo, users were able to experience what feels like full and realized game and the opportunity to provide their feedback to further improve it. By being on Steam it helps generate Steam Wishlists, which are vital to getting sales on the game’s launch. It also has an excellent button on the ending to really get you hooked. Check it out on Steam!


    Pitch Deck

    • The pitch deck allows you to show potential publishers what your game can become
      • While the trailer and build shows where the game is, utilize the pitch deck to show how you foresee the full experience working, such as highlighting a variety of enemies, bosses, or late game mechanics
    • After you gather your assets and put them all together, there are two main questions that need to be answered with your pitch deck:
      • Is this game worth making?
        • Think about what makes it different/fun/unique/something people will want to buy
      • Can this team make the game?
        • Point out any obvious technical risks or challenges that you honestly foresee upfront and prove that you have the people/resources/knowledge to address them
        • As an encouragement and reassurance that your team can make the game, include your track record of success and mention previously released games
    • Be sure to include the core loop, mechanics, and the player experience
      • If pitching to publishers, prioritize your game mechanics over your game’s monetization model, no matter how good you foresee the monetization
    • When it comes to art, it’s quality over quantity
      • Focus on one or two top-quality pieces of that really represent your game, rather than a lot of mediocre art
    • Take some time to sell yourselves as a company and as individuals
      • Keep this to 1 or 2 slides though, as your actual pitch is the most important part
        • With a limited amount of real estate to sell your team and members, show proof of why you are the best team to make the game so it focuses less on general skills and leans on why your team is the best fit in comparison to anyone else
      • Though your game may not be the right fit for the publisher(s) you approach, they may remember you and contact you for other projects/purposes
    • Overall, don’t forget about the power of the classic elevator pitch
      • Know how to quickly and succinctly describe your game for others to understand and digest it
        • It’s completely okay to say it’s a cross between two well-known games or a mix of genres; people will understand this easily



    Plasticity is a short experience that was brought to us by students of the USC Games Program. Check it out for free on Steam, currently with about 20-40 minutes of content and multiple endings! Taking a look at the pitch deck they submitted, let’s point out some really good points when it comes to preparing a deck for your game.



    Calling attention to this slide for its use of in-game assets, as it keeps the viewer grounded in the idea of the game they’re looking at. Additionally, it’s great material to help separate the game from other titles in the genre. It is telling how the game is being innovative.



    Continuing the world building within the pitch, this is telling how the game is original and unique.



    As mentioned above, the pitch deck is the developer’s opportunity to show where the game can go past what is present in the trailer and build. By being transparent, you are building rapport with your potential publisher and they will be able to make a more informed decision on how to approach your game.



    Show how serious you are in your intentions with an educated and informed production timeline. Depending on how/when you expect to be getting paid during development, this will be very helpful to a publisher in proposing a budget. Having a project budget is mandatory for a publisher to know the scope of what’s needed in terms of funding. Include each team members’ monthly cost, facility costs (if any), hardware, software, and stuff such as marketing expenses.


    What You Need from Them

    • When in the talks with a publisher, be transparent on your expectations and needs from them, such as:
      • How much financing you need
      • Whether you need porting assistance
      • What forms of marketing support you need
      • Anything else from my Publishing 101 article
    • Before you submit your pitch, have estimates of:
      • Budget to make your game
        • Be transparent and explain why and how funding will be used
      • Your timeline
        • Be prepared to show the task breakdown per month for each person
      • What additional talent you need to complete your game
    • As a publisher knows what they are able and willing to provide, it is important for your time and theirs that you are open and honest about your needs early on



    Advice for a Great Pitch


    • Avoid bandwagoning to a current craze/gimmick – unless your game really calls for it or the publisher is looking for it
    • Don’t pitch a game for an IP without already having the licensing deal, hoping the publisher could help you secure that deal for you
      • The exception here is if the publisher owns the rights to the IP, and you’re making a pitch at hopes of getting approval from them
    • Make sure your business plan is realistic
      • Don’t be afraid to dream big, but also be prepared to admit to the challenges you will face and how you plan to address them
    • Tailor your pitches to the publisher you are approaching
      • Be mindful of your time and theirs and show them something they want to look at
        • Don’t show a mobile-only publisher your console-only game, or don’t show your horror game to a publisher that typically is known for lighter and friendlier genres
    • Think about your pitch from a mutually beneficial perspective
      • Be upfront about what you need from the publisher, but also outline what it is that you are providing for them as well
    • Be passionate about your game, your company, and your brand




    • Be professional
    • Dress well
    • Be prepared for many different situations when it comes to pitching your game
      • Prepare physical materials in the event there are some tech issues
      • Think about potential questions and how to answer them
      • Have a fact/breakdown sheets that can be passed around for latecomers
      • Come with your own devices, in case of incompatibility, or prepare for all types
    • Choose the right team and people
      • Not everyone can hype up the room and push your game in the right direction, so figure out who on your team is the best for this
        • Be enthusiastic, honest, sell your hook, know your audience, and know your direction
      • Don’t waste time by starting only once all your technical setup is ready
        • Have team members prepare the tech, while others are socializing and getting a read of the room
        • Break out any literature you may have prepared, in the event setup is taking longer than expected
    • Leave time for questions and clarification
      • Don’t get annoyed or worried when asked questions
        • Questions are a means of getting clarity based on your pitch, and different people are going to have different questions
    • Be sure to exchange business cards if you haven’t previously done so




    • Keep your pitch short, clear, and interesting
    • Toss in a cool visual GIF that is low in size
      • High-quality image that represents your game works well, too
    • Include an easily accessible link to a compelling YouTube trailer
    • Preferably using bullet points, cleanly lay out the details of your game
      • Brief and graspable description of your game’s plot and gameplay
      • Target platforms and audience
      • The needs of your project
    • Include a link to where someone can access a playable build of your game
    • Make sure your format is actually email friendly
      • It’s easy for your formatting to get a little awry when you copy/paste from somewhere else or after dropping in any images/GIFs
      • Extra points for you if you can even make it mobile friendly for those who may be reading your email pitch on their phones



    Paper Cut Mansion of indie developer Space Lizard Studio put together their pitch in a great looking email (even on mobile!) with good readability and succinct bullets. Everything is quick and to the point. Hyperlinks helped to highlight and draw the eye to the important things they want their reader to see; plus, it makes attaching assets like videos and builds really clean. With just a glance, a publisher already knows key points about the game – core concept, platforms, and needs. Check out ongoing development of the game on Facebook!


    The Right Fit

    The first step and a crucial key to a successful pitch, and hopefully a signing, is ensuring that you are pitching to the right audience. This means really understanding your brand and what it is exactly you’re trying to sell. This also entails you doing research and shopping around for publishers who are likely to be interested in you and your game. If you’re lucky, you can be like Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor and be approached without even pitching. The secret to this is having main publisher targets and stay in the shadows – appear at events that they will be at, appeal to their target signings, and be ready to showcase your game to them when they are ready and looking. In most cases, however, you might not be as lucky. This just means perfecting your materials to the best of your capabilities and trusting in your team and game.



    An “anti-adventure” game, Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor had the experience of actually never being pitched to anyone, according to developer Sundae Month. Instead, indie publisher tinyBuild approached Sundae Month to partner up after seeing an article on Killscreen (linked above). “We had a call with them where we talked about what the game was, and if I recall correctly, we showed them a build. It was something close to a horizontal slice though, with most of the environment at a moderately finished state. With Diaries that’s kind of the key selling point.”


    What Akupara Looks For

    As Akupara Games is a game publisher, we are always on the lookout for games to partner with. We believe in and support the indie developer – being uninhibited by many external factors, they are free to create truly unique and meaningful works. As a team, we choose to work on projects that we are passionate about, due to a combination of the project itself and the development studio’s drive. We actively look out for and approach projects that we see or hear about across different events and avenues. Cold pitches are welcome, as we are always interested to hear about those hidden gems. Listed below are some things we consider while we are evaluating bids for projects to work on.

    • Premium titles
    • PC and console focused
    • No AR and VR
    • Game design that has not been explored before
      • New playing mechanics
      • New genre or unique hybrid
    • Teams that are easy to work with
      • Communication
      • Work ethic
      • Reliability
      • Fun to be around and interact with
    • Passionate teams
    • Willing to match our team in effort in preparing for release




    If interested in pitching to Akupara Games, you can email us at team [at] akuparagames [dot] com with a pitch deck, build, and trailer!



    By now, you should have a good idea of what materials you will want to prepare before you start reaching out to those potential publishers. Perhaps you’ve already prepared these materials, and if so, hopefully, there were some insightful points that you can use to improve your materials to make them even better.

    Thank you for reading our short game publishing series. We really hope it proved to be useful in your growth in the indie gaming spacing. We love to share our experiences and knowledge!

    If you have any questions after reading this, feeling something is missing, or have another topic you want us to cover, let us know on social media @AkuparaGames on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Discord.



    Akupara Games is an indie game studio based in Los Angeles, California. Composed of veterans of the game industry, Akupara Games focuses their energy and resources as an "indie for indies" studio by providing premier support to other indie studios through development, publishing, porting, and advising. Their mission statement ensures that each project receives a unique experience and personalized support.

    Website | Discord


    Note: This article was originally posted on the Akupara Games website, and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the author.

      Report Article

    User Feedback

    There are no comments to display.

    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now

  • Advertisement
  • Advertisement
  • Latest Featured Articles

  • Featured Blogs

  • Advertisement
  • Popular Now

  • Similar Content

    • By Jason.Rideout
      I am having some trouble finding next steps. I am interested in gameplay programming. The problem is that I am not sure where to learn the skills after the basics. Do you have any advice or maybe book recommendations? Thank you.
    • By NicBee
      Hi, all!

      This is my first post, so I hope I'm in the right place.  So, I am interested in becoming a video game character writer; their background, their likes, and dislikes, their hopes, dreams, goals, their temperament, all of that interests me immensely.  I am just not sure how I can go about displaying my 'talents'.  From doing extensive research online, I have read that a lot of gaming companies would like to hire writers who have showcased their talents online, by writing various stories with different characters and worlds, but I haven't been able to find anything specifically about showcasing just characters.

      I was thinking about teaming up with an artist who can create my character based off of the references and dialogue but I wasn't sure if that would be smart since I'm supposed to be showing off what I'm capable of and not an artist.  

      What do you all recommend? How can I show that I am determined to become a character writer in the industry?  

      Also, what other skills do you recommend I work on, aside from writing.  Thank you!
    • By CarterTC
      2019 Tiancai Cup Hackathon
      My startup is currently hosting an online hackathon called the Tiancai Cup with Alibaba Cloud, and I thought one of our categories, Best Casual Mobile Game, might be of interest to some of you guys!   Registration is free, and the winning team for the Mobile Game category will get a first prize of $50,000 HKD ($6,400 USD), along with a private 15-minute video chat with a C-level executive from a publicly traded video game publisher (iDreamSky).   
      If your interested in participating, the rules for the Best Casual Mobile Game can be viewed here, and registration is currently open at https://tiancaicup.com/register!
      If you have any other questions, feel free to visit us at https://tiancaicup.com/en.html or join our Telegram Group 
      For anyone who is interested, I have also posted a list of the rules for the game category below =)     Best 'Casual' Mobile Game   Category Description Develop a 'casual' mobile game which can be easily learned, played and enjoyed.

      The term 'casual games' refers to video games which do not require a major time investment to play, win, and enjoy.

      Examples: Flappy Bird, Doodle Jump, etc.   Category Requirements 1 The game must run well on mid-range iOS and/or Android Phones 2 The game should not be a clone of an existing game; be creative! 3 The game should be simple and easy to learn. 4 The game should not include any illegal content or themes. 5 If you use other peoples graphics, you must credit them in the game! 6 The game must be fun! 7 Required Frontend Platforms Android, iOS or both Allowed Frontend Languages Any Allowed Backend Platforms and Language Any  
      Judging Criteria Fun 40% How enjoyable is the game play? Do users want to keep playing over and over again after a first game? In-game Graphics 10% How clean are the in-game graphics? Does the game follow a common graphics theme? Code Quality 20% How well is the code written, structured and organized? Would it be easy for other developers to read and add more functionality at a later date? Learning Curve 15% How easy is it for new users to get started playing your game? UI Design 5% How polished is the UI design? Does it look appealing and approachable? Video 10% How well does the product demo video demonstrate the features of the app?
    • By Lady_Fuzzy
      Hi guys. So in past few weeks I've been researching an alternative business models on Steam (but not only). 

      ===The Subject===
      As we all know - the golden age of steam is long gone. But after recent Summer Sale fiasco... things went even worse. So now, we got waves of shitty games, game profile features perma-limited (trading cards, achievements and such), visibility rounds nerfed and now - storefront-wide sale stopped being that time of the year when we earn a fair extra. 
      So I've started looking for another way and came upon Doki Doki Literature Club. The game is freeware but has a $9.99 'Thank you' DLC. That DLC doesn't add a lot to the game - its most showcased and used as a way for the players who enjoyed the game to actually support the developer for giving them the game for free. And to my utmost surprise - there was a lot of people who actually bought that optional DLC and wanted to express their support and gratitude with their wallets.
      Now, as Doki Doki is a typical viral example - I started looking for other games who followed Doki Doki's lead and it appears it does work - but of course not always, not with just any games and it doesn't bank as high as Doki Doki's viral case.

      ===PROs and CONs===
      + HUGE natural reach thx to non-existent entry curve (we are talking millions of players)
      + no refunds (you can't refund DLCs and the base game is free)
      + Higher % of positive reviews (its kind a harder for people to bash something they had been given for FREE)
      + Massive Good PR
      + Bigger media/streamers/letsplayers coverage
      + No WL grinding before the release
      + Could be used as groundwork for your next - paid project.
      - No chance for Trading Cards
      - No chance for landing on frontpage
      - 'Leap of Faith' in terms of monetary viability (as the players are not charged for playing and the game must be truly captivating to push them into willingly purchasing a 100% optional DLC, which is borderline donation at this point)
      - Due to no guarantied revenue - the game design and genre is limited (no online/MMO)
      - Impossible to spread the awareness of your game by selling Steam Keys on other storefronts as the game is... umm, well - freeware? o.o

      === My take ===
      In perfect world - this would be THE model. As you know - we are artists. And the dream of any artist is for his/her creation to reach as many players as possible. And when some money actually rolls in - you know you earned it. Less steam-natural toxicity, butthurtness and hairs going bald or white due to refunds or some freaks review bombing your game.
      PS: Keep in mind this model makes any sense only on Steam - where it will have a massive organic reach. Doing the same on some 'flashportal' defeats the purpose as there - you are just another one, out of many. Where on steam - you'll be one of few.

      === The Question ===
      Seriously - this route is 'as indie as you can get'. But we all need to eat, pay bills and perhaps not be homeless lol. Any of you went this route? Could you share your take on this? maybe some data? Anyone-anything?
    • By Akupara Games
      Publishing 101 | Publishing 102 | Publishing 103
      Hi! David Logan here, CEO of Akupara Games! We get a lot of questions about the game publishing process and I decided I wanted to write a series of articles to help guide developers throughout decisions surrounding the release of their game. Before we get too nitty-gritty, let’s start with the biggest decision every developer has to make: should you partner with a game publisher?

      Akupara Games is a video game publisher, so it is no secret that we believe publishers can bring value to a lot of games, however that doesn’t always mean that a publisher is right for you. I’d like to outline some of the perks publishers can offer, to try to encourage you to consider them as an option for your team and title.
      In this article, I will be going over the services and benefits a publisher provides – such as distribution, development support, marketing, and community building. While publishers may offer some of these services, many will not provide all of them. Each publisher will specialize in various areas, so as you read, consider which are most important to you, and let that guide you if you choose to seek out a publisher.
      What do Publishers Get?
      Publishers are a business too, and have various ways of recouping their costs and making money. In exchange for their assistance, publishers will often receive a revenue share of your game on each platform they work with.
      Gross Income vs. Net Income
      Revenue share agreements will specify between sharing Gross Income or Net Income.
      We recommend going with Gross Income whenever possible. Net Income allows publishers to pay themselves back first for whatever expenses they deem necessary For instance a publisher may try to deduct expenses like marketing, or localization costs, before paying out the developer Gross Income will be the split payment after the distributor’s share (Valve, Nintendo, etc.), but won’t include other miscellaneous expenses incurred  
      Share Percentages
      The more effort and cost required from the publisher, the larger of a percentage they’ll ask for. Especially in the case of lending money, publishers will usually have a higher rev-share percentage they receive pre-recoupment, and then drop down to a more standard rate after that. The rev-share amount may be different per each platform, for instance, if a publisher handles all the porting costs and management for Nintendo Switch – they may receive a larger percentage on that platform.  
      Other Elements
      Occasionally publishers will ask for things such as IP ownership. Our opinion is to never sell IP, unless it is an insanely fantastic deal (lots of $$$). A publisher may also ask for right of first refusal for future platforms Think carefully if you want to commit to terms like these, and whether they would have a long-term positive or negative impact for your project.  
      Getting your game to various platforms is a lot of work with all of the various rules and procedures for each. Mobile platforms tend to be the most straight-forward, but consoles in particular involve a fairly lengthy process. A publisher can handle the entire process from getting approvals, uploading the products, writing the store copy, creating the proper graphics and videos, to actually getting the product approved.
      You will often need a rating for the various regions around the world you’re releasing.
      The publisher can handle the management and cost for these regions, which include: ESRB (America) PEGI (Europe) CERO (Japan) USK (Germany)  
      Partner Relationships – Distributors
      Another part of the process is leveraging opportunities to get your game featured at events, blogs written, social posts about your game, or having your trailer posted to a distributor’s YouTube channel. Publishers have pre-existing relationships with platforms and account managers to get your game opportunities easier This will help your game stand out from the pack Oftentimes distributors want juicy details to share – such as a release date announcement, or the first showing of a trailer. Guacamelee! 2 recently partnered with PlayStation’s YouTube channel, for their release date announcement It is important for publishers to build fantastic relationships with distributors, so that they can more easily receive these opportunities. The best opportunity is getting featured in the storefront by a distributor, which directly brings your game extra sales. Ask potential publishers how they have worked with distributors to feature their games and what potential opportunities they would push for your game
      Partner Relationships – Other
      It’s also important that your publisher has good relationships with other partners as well, such as hardware manufacturers like Alienware who can provide sponsored machines for events, or Limited Run Games who can create physical editions of your product. Logitech featured The Metronomicon when introducing their new G560 Lightsync PC gaming speakers. Limited Run Games partnered with Thumper to make physical Switch and PlayStation 4 versions of the game, as well as limited T-Shirts. By leveraging these partnerships the publisher is able to find other opportunities to make your game money or get awareness, past just the initial digital sales.
      Regardless of where your game development is at, publishers can assist you. Keep in mind that different publishers might be looking for games in different development stages.
      Publishers will be able to advise your team on the design of your game, from art, to audio, and everything in between. They will be able to identify traits and features of your game that could be pushed further, to increase sales and exposure, such as adding daily missions or overall achievements to increase replayability and player retention.  
      Some publishers are able to provide financing to assist with your team’s development costs. This can allow developers to fully focus on creating the game, instead of having to work other jobs to support themselves part-time. Searching for financing may limit the publishers interested in taking your game on, or may make certain terms in the contract harder to get, however finding financing can make your game development smoother and faster.  
      Publishers will have or partner with teams who can help bring your title to additional platforms. This allows you as the developer to focus on developing the overall game, instead of splitting focus with porting. For Desert Child Akupara Games is currently working with the developer, Oscar Brittain, and while he focuses on the Steam version, we are porting it to Switch, PS4, and Xbox One. Oftentimes indie games will launch first on PC, with the intention to port to consoles if they’re successful. Even though it’s a more risky upfront cost, Akupara Games actually prefers all platforms to launch at once, as having multiple launches often means less press for each subsequent release, and combining them together helps create more noise, as there are then articles for every platform. Multiple releases also mean additional costs and efforts for marketing There are examples of the former working though, for example, Terraria launched successfully on PC, and then was picked up by publisher 505 Games who brought it to consoles.
      Publishers can provide QA testing for bugs, device testing on a multitude of low and high-end devices, and assist with the requirements your title needs to pass to get through certification. For example, publishers can provide extensive mobile testing across dozens of devices to find the minimum specs and platforms to release the game on Events can be a key way to discover bugs and issues. When you attend events, work with your publisher to monitor and track player interactions so that you can record where they get stuck.  

      Publishers work with lots of indie developers, so they can assist you with finding the right talent to fill your team’s needs. Sometimes publishers will even dedicate resources from their internal team to assist with your game. Akupara Games used our composers for an original soundtrack, and programmer to help recreate Keep in Mind in Unity (originally Game Maker Studio), for the release of Keep in Mind: Remastered.
      Localization isn’t just translating the words in a game, but can also mean tweaking details for various regions to be more culturally appropriate. For example, in certain regions of the world, like in China, talk of death is taboo. This could also mean changing up key landmarks, flags, or references to make more sense and become more accessible. In Stardew Valley not only did they localize the languages, but the artwork as well such as portraits, and the UI HUD. Publishers will have localization expertise to make your game translatable and fun for all languages and cultures

      Generally when developers think of needing a publisher, marketing and publicity are the first things that comes to mind. A good publisher will have a wide array of marketing and promotional tools at their disposal for bringing awareness and praise to your title.

      Media Outreach
      One of the more traditional ways to get exposure for your title is through media outreach. This includes reaching out to journalists, bloggers, and other game-related press outlets about your title. Publishers will have established networks of contacts who they’ve worked with over the years, making these outreach efforts more efficient and effective. The ideal goal with press outreach is to get interviews, reviews, and articles on your game; a publisher’s connections will make outreach easier and more successful.  
      Media Buying
      Another aspect of traditional marketing is media buying and ad placement. Publishers will often have teams that can plan social media and display ads to reach key audiences. Media Buying can be done with any level of budget and digital ads often have immediate measures of success whether you are looking to build awareness of your game or increase downloads or sales.  
      Influencer Outreach
      The goal is for influential Twitch streamers and YouTube content creators will talk about your game to their audiences. This is a major driver for sales, where a few large influencers can sway a product from “unknown” status to trending title. For example, One Hand Clapping is a game that was created by USC students which was then picked up by YouTubers PewDiePie, Markiplier, and JackSepticEye that received millions of views and have translated to over 75,000 downloads on itch.io Similar to media, publishers will have established relationships with influencers. Some publishers create exclusive influencer programs, where influencers can get special perks from that publisher. Akupara Games has recently started our influencer program – which allows us to thank these influencers with early access to our games, and opportunities for in-game avatars or voice-overs.
      A trailer is a great way to showcase the gameplay, or tease content of your game in a short and engaging video. Publishers often have video editors who can create top-notch trailers, or they can advise your team to create these materials. They know what makes a successful trailer and can guide steps like storyboarding and editing. There are articles based on the top game trailers that come out every year such as Gaming Trend’s Best Game Trailers of E3 2018. Akupara Games loves making buzzworthy trailers using everything from gameplay footage, to animation, and even live actors like in the trailer for The Metronomicon.  
      Social media and community management are important aspects of any successful game launch. A publisher can help you determine which social platforms your game studio and title should be present on and which kind of content you should be showcasing on each of the channels.
      Community Management
      A publisher can teach you how to properly engage with your community to retain users. Often this means promptly answering questions and providing regular updates about the game. A publisher is able to leverage their existing communities and introduce them to your title, which will further grow your audience. The more engagement there is about your game, the more visible it is to others outside of your community as well.  
      Social Media
      Social media can be a tough medium to navigate through. It is a valuable tool for digital marketing since you can reach hundreds if not thousands of people if a post goes viral, but it also can be a platform for negative sentiment that you have to manage. Proper knowledge of what is appropriate to post on each platform, valuable and engaging content, and responding can elevate the visibility of a game.
      Facebook prefers users to stay on their platforms and users tend to enjoy video and photo over text content. This is where big announcements should be made. Instagram is a large hub for photos and great to show off concept art, development, and screenshots. Twitter is where updates big and small should be made. It is also the best platform to directly engage with users on. With social media, it is important to note that it should not be just about advertising your game for sales, but a big emphasis should be on building and engaging your audience and answering questions or comments to develop a better sense of community.

      Game trade shows, conventions, and events are a great way to bring awareness to your game, but you need a proper plan in place. Often the major takeaways of conventions are receiving player feedback, bringing press by to see the game in person, and building your mailing list. A good publisher will book you a solid press schedule, and set up ways to grow your mailing list – with easy signups and giveaways which will incentivize attendees. Events can be expensive if representing a single title, but often publishers will have pre-existing space that they will use to showcase your title A publisher can also take care of the booth set up, getting the swag manufactured, and arrange for the development team’s accommodations including flight, hotel, badges, and meals. Presentation is everything, and your publisher should try to find ways to best showcase your title, to be attractive to attendees walking by. Recently we showcased Desert Child on a custom-built arcade machine at E3. This allowed us with a relatively small budget to still create a unique presentation which stood out. The Walking Dead at E3 had zombie actors that effectively spooked a lot of people walking by, which was great for the awareness of the booth as well as social media buzz of people taking pictures and videos with the zombies.
      When a Publisher Isn’t the Right Fit
      Retaining full revenue, creative control, and IP ownership is a huge perk for not having a publisher. These are the most common reasons you wouldn’t want to use a publisher and would be better off yourself.
      Your Team has the Necessary Skills
      The point when you don’t need a publisher is when you’re able to accomplish what they can offer on your own. To successfully pull off self-publishing, you should be set up with the following:
      A large and engaged audience – which may come from conventions, past games you’ve developed, or even came naturally from social posts you make. You want to make sure you have a following already to make sure your game is as visible as possible. Social posts you create get picked up, shared, and talked about frequently. Established press and influencer connections, or large press and influencers that approach you on their own to write about your game. You will want to be able to reach out and follow up frequently. It is also a good idea to meet in person when possible to keep a strong relationship.  
      Your Team has the Necessary Financing
      An alternative would be if you have the financial backing to where you could partner with teams to fill in the gaps for the services you can’t provide. Common services you can partner with for would be:
      Marketing Porting Localization QA  
      Of course, if you go through the entire pitch process and do not find a publisher that is the right fit for you, that doesn’t mean your game won’t succeed. Often a game with a small release on one platform can gain momentum and become more attractive to publishers later.
      Stay tuned for our next article on game publishing – “How do You Find the Best Game Publisher for Yourself?”
      If you have any lingering questions, or feel I missed something, let us know on our social media @AkuparaGames on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Discord!
      Akupara Games is an indie game studio based in Los Angeles, California. Composed of veterans of the game industry, Akupara Games focuses their energy and resources as an "indie for indies" studio by providing premier support to other indie studios through development, publishing, porting, and advising. Their mission statement ensures that each project receives a unique experience and personalized support.
      Website | Discord
      Note: This article was originally posted on the Akupara Games website, and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the author.

Important Information

By using GameDev.net, you agree to our community Guidelines, Terms of Use, and Privacy Policy.

GameDev.net is your game development community. Create an account for your GameDev Portfolio and participate in the largest developer community in the games industry.

Sign me up!