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DarkZoulz

What do publishers look for?

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Let's say we have a small group of indie-developers with no trackrecord. In general, what will publishers mostly look for in a demo they recieve. * Lots of superb conceptual art and game models? * Impressive technology (lots of animated characters with high-detail on screen at once, for example)? * A well-written and structured design? Or will they not even consider a demo from a developer with no trackrecord? How about smaller publishing companies?

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It all depends on your total budget. Is it under 100k USD ? Then a simple playable demo with most of the technology already done could be enough for smaller publishers.
Is it over 1M USD ? Then you`ll have problems to get the funding even with people having direct experience in the industry. Then, all of the things you mentioned are the bare minimum in the demo.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Publishers are looking for products they can sell through their retail channels. Given that their retailers might have limited shelf capacity, that usually means they will have to displace an existing product to put yours instead, or wait for a product to reach its EOL to make a replacement. The decision boils down to determining if your product is significantly superior to existing products in its retail portfolio, and what would be the business terms that can be negotiated with you.

If you don't have a complete product, then the publisher would have to invest in your company some amount (usually an advance-on-future-royalties) to evolve your demo into a retailable product. This adds a lot of risk to their potential upside, and publishers will tend to avoid game studios without a solid track record for that precise reason.

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What you have is a tech demo, not a playable level, and even farther from a retailable product. You can't judge a game by just looking at the artwork and the structure of its design document. Is the game fun to play? Does it show some noverly? Is the game scalable to multiple levels / versions?

Your next step is to build what we call a "first playable". This will get the attention of some of the smaller publishers. But if I were you, I'd try to make the complete game and sell it through Internet. It's easier to go to a publisher afterwards with a complete product and some minimal sales data.

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Yes. At a very minimum, since you have no industry experience, you will need at least one level of the game completely finished, with all the core game mechanics implemented. The more of the game you have finished beyond that, the better your prospects will be.

-me

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Quote:
Original post by DarkZoulz
Let's say we have a small group of indie-developers with no trackrecord. In general, what will publishers mostly look for in a demo they recieve.

* Lots of superb conceptual art and game models?
* Impressive technology (lots of animated characters with high-detail on screen at once, for example)?
* A well-written and structured design?

Or will they not even consider a demo from a developer with no trackrecord? How about smaller publishing companies?


This question is asked frequently. I still love to quote this fairly accurate answer:

Quote:
Original post by tsloper
succinctly asked: "What if you just send Activision a 100% complete AA game?"

Then you can expect a 10% chance that they might decide to publish it. (The odds are 9-to-1 that they will decide not to.) http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson11.htm


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From my own experience id say if you are a new dev then you will have to have a near complete game, depends on the budget, if the budget is over 1 mil USD then that cuts the publishers way way down as only a hand full will invest that, you will have to have a track record or a complete or near complete game, its very risky, smaller games may be different as the money risk is a lot less.

Though I will say this, if you have a relationship with someone that can make a decision, build up the interest in what you can do and earn their faith or show aptitude you may get them to decide to take you on to make a game for them, relationships with the right people seem to make a big difference.

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heh it makes a fine circle like the one about the egg and the hen.

You cant get a publisher deal without trackrecord. And you cant get a trackrecord as a indi developer. Mening you probobly have to join a larger company doing slavery work for some months to get your name attached to a title or two then find a group of people who has done the same to get going?

But i guess stuff like independant game festival and Swedish Game Awards Might help on a "track" record?.

And if you look at the creators of savage and now project offset you can see that skilled and talanted people can create their own way! =)

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Quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
Publishers are looking for products they can sell through their retail channels.


At this age we live wouldn't the internet the correct channel to distribute those things? The idea of phisically handling software seems ridiculous to me.

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If you have no track record a publisher will look for your game to be 100% complete. Publishers won't take risks and unproven developers are a risk so they won't sign them. If you have a finished games then obviously that is low risk so a publisher would take it.

How do you get experience? You work at an established development company learning how the business works and making contacts. Alternatively you start off making small indie games (self funded) and publishing them over the net.

Far too many people today decide to start on development, look around and see big developers like id, Bioware, Rockstar Nth and think "Hey I will make the next GTA" (with a publisher's money). What they forget is none of those companies started out making big huge games like that. Most of today's successful developers started small. Only once they had proven their ability did they get the big deals from publishers.

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Quote:
Original post by Athos
You cant get a publisher deal without trackrecord. And you cant get a trackrecord as a indi developer. ...
But i guess stuff like independant game festival and Swedish Game Awards Might help on a "track" record?.

Independant game studios have to grow to multi-million dollar buisinesses before they can become algined with a publisher. They are real businesses.

The finalists (not just the winners) at the IGF were all studios with published games and fairly small (10+ people) businesses. I believe the smallest of the student finalists was a 4-person team of students.

Independents are groups of people who act professional and begin publishing games. After they put out a few games and start making money they are considered an independent studio. Until they put out games they are just homebrew or hobby games. If it doesn't involve a team of experienced people, it's homebrew and not indie. You get the experience by actually making money producing homebrew games.

If you don't make money, you aren't a business. Studios are businesses. So any independent studio must be making enough money to support a development team and their expenses. Homebrew/hobby developers can start their own business and grow into an indie studio, but most fail for reasons covered completely in the "Articles and Resources" section of this site.

Since it will be mentioned, even the overhyped Chris Sawyer who wrote RollerCoaster Tycoon by him self in binary [smile], he was very experienced (about 15 years), had his own established studio, was not indie (his studio was aligned with Microprose), and had other people involved for music and sound, artwork, marketing, and so on.
Quote:
Original post by Athos
Mening you probobly have to join a larger company doing slavery work for some months to get your name attached to a title or two then find a group of people who has done the same to get going? ...
And if you look at the creators of savage and now project offset you can see that skilled and talanted people can create their own way! =)

It generally takes years, not a few months. Unless you define a few months as 30-90 months.

And yes, you do need to create your own way. Nobody is going to just hand you money and fame because you have a good idea.

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QUOTE
And if you look at the creators of savage and now project offset you can see that skilled and talanted people can create their own way! =)

Last time I looked project offset did not have a publisher, so I don't see that as a success yet, yes the images look great but as a publisher has not signed them to my knowledge then they still must be considered a risk.

On gaining experience I don't think a publisher sees that working for other companies is the thing, they want to see what that studio has shipped, though it does help if you and your studio has worked in other large studios on good titles, though even so, you in your new studio are still a new studio yet to be proven, even though you have worked years on other games for other studios, its a bit like the award shows on TV, you get an award for best new comer in comedy and you have worked clubs for like 8 years till you got the big break, your hardly a new comer but the business sees it that you are, I think the games industry is the same.

though I do belive that if a new studio can get a game with no publisher finance, completely done or almost done, from their own efforts and finance, you have really busted some ass to do that, unless you have some kind of massive trust fund, creating a games studio is not easy at all, for a new one to come in self funded and put there stuff in front of a publisher takes some doing, so you deserve some kudos for that if you can get that far. Far better to start small and work up though as others have said, but it isnt impossible to make a large title with a new studio, just virtually impossible.

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Getting published from GamaSutra:

http://www.gamasutra.com/features/agents_advice/19990305.htm

http://www.gamasutra.com/features/19990430/winters_01b.htm

http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20050906/jenkins_01.shtml

It gives you a few points to focus on at least. At the very least, you'll get publisher's perspective, and a "ranking" system to put your work in perspective.

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As Abbadon said, Project Offset, with a single programmer and 2-3 artists got themselves a publishing deal but their engine is up there with Unreal 3 (from what I've seen might be slightly better renderingwise). But when we say this is not the norm we're understating it. Try self publishing, you can get a lot of reviews and interest that way and word of mouth is awesome. Plus 100% of profits go to you, instead of like 5% ;-)

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Quote:
Original post by Mike2343
As Abbadon said, Project Offset, with a single programmer and 2-3 artists got themselves a publishing deal....
He didn't say that and it isn't true. They still don't have a publisher (at least there have been no announcements that they have one). They are currently increasing their team size (at their own expense) in an attempt to look more attractive to publishers and get a deal.

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Quote:
Original post by DarkZoulz
Let's say we have a small group of indie-developers with no trackrecord. In general, what will publishers mostly look for in a demo they recieve.

* Lots of superb conceptual art and game models?
* Impressive technology (lots of animated characters with high-detail on screen at once, for example)?
* A well-written and structured design?

Or will they not even consider a demo from a developer with no trackrecord? How about smaller publishing companies?


My two cents is this:
Your only reasnoble chance is to complete a shareware game like the vast majority of small (what GG or Indiepath would charge for an Indie rather than Enterprise lisc, ~200-250,000/year) indie. If it is casual, you may be able to get a deal with a portal if the game is of sufficent quality (the production values is going up and up, so I'm not sure if that will hold true much longer). Or, like most niche retail games, do your own marketing/publishing as cheaply as possible.

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The Project Offset team has licensed their technology to Red 5 Studios. This may not constitute a traditional publishing deal, but it sure constitutes reliable funding and further advancements of their original technology.

LINK to Press Release

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Quote:
Original post by Razorguts
The Project Offset team has licensed their technology to Red 5 Studios. This may not constitute a traditional publishing deal, but it sure constitutes reliable funding and further advancements of their original technology.

LINK to Press Release


/me does a little research at their web site and a few game sites to look up bios to match the names.

The three people had been working more than full-time on the project for 18 months ... (that's about 10,000 work hours for the math impaired, or 5 full-time years for one person) ... before putting out the video clips that initially got them a bit of recognition and funding.

Then they brought in three people who had already won international awards in game development. Also, they brought in as a director (ie: funding) somebody who had a moderately impressive title "Lead Technical Artist" in previous corporate work along with a nice list of AA game credits, and others with fairly robust game industry history.

The Project Offset team had 19 employees and other sources of funding before being licensed by this (moderately big) project.


The salary for 19 people (probably 13-15 geeks and 4-6 support staff for cleaning, phones, accounting, legal, and other stuff) in a year is going to be over one million dollars, and that's before you start buying hardware and software, pay for insurance, have an office, and so on.


Getting back to the OP, this does not fit the originally wanted description of no track record, almost no initial cash, with conceptual art.

What does fit the originally wanted description is three people working their fingers off and putting 10,000 work hours into a project hoping and praying that it will succeed.

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Quote:
Original post by Razorguts
The Project Offset team has licensed their technology to Red 5 Studios. This may not constitute a traditional publishing deal, but it sure constitutes reliable funding and further advancements of their original technology.
The first does not necessarily guarantee the second. It is often the case that an early stage company like Offset will license their tech to another company on a "future royalty only" just in order to generate PR and start building a client base.

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