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Odds of success as an indie publisher rather than a dev?

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Greetings all,


I've often wondered this very subject and thought I'd get some input, hopefully from someone familiar with game development and game publishing.


Lets take an ideal situation where I have absolutely no trouble in raising stable operations capital.


Just a little background. My strengths as it stands is not directly related to the low level coding and development side of the development process, but with coming up with high concept design documentations, assisting in technical documents, and aiding in sound development via both recording and directly mapping in engine using game sound tools, along with other business related necessities (company filing, head hunting, etc.)....in other words, the clean up work :/. 


Weakest strength by far is "coding". I certainly lack the skills to develop a full game on my own and while this could be learned, time and money is better spent in finding additional help (or...paying to learning to code, model, animated, blah blah blah).


Now I have options:

A) Find people interested in the work and create a small team

B) Hire an existing team with a credible name

C) Suffer hell and learn and do everything myself -_-


If I take A, I'd essentially be acting as Developer and Publisher (since we're considering an ideal money situation...but yes I realize that I could just be the developer and hunt for a publisher). We'd retain maximum earnings, however we might run into some trouble if we don't have a strong legal infrastructure to back us up. However if I'm considering B, I'd essentially be just the Publisher; we'd front money to teams and/or other projects of interest to put under us...similar to a music label and retain publishing rights to the work.


Thing is, with the move of more and more teams getting away from major publishers in favor of self publishing and smaller teams, is there a future in games as a new publisher who ONLY does publishing and not development? I much like the idea of hiring a team and working downward on a concept I, the publishing company have created, but what are the drawbacks?

What are some of the difficulties facing a games publisher (besides money)? Recommended formal experience going in? What about sales earnings between both the dev team and the publisher? 


Tried my best to write this. I hope it makes enough sense. Thanks all :)


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You want to be a publisher, like EA just in small ?

Well, real publisher will carry almost all of the financial risk and will be responsible for the #1 selling point: marketing.

Most games will not break even and there are some super-hits which will hopefully cover the loss of all the other titles. There is a reason why some big publishers died in the last years, even with good titles (eg THQ).

So, the real question is: Why do small teams reallyself-publish ?
Answer A: Hey, they wanna make more money...
Answer B: Eemm.., well, no publisher is interested to bear the risk...

Making money with a title is 99% marketing and a good publisher will be we excellent here. So, if you want to be a publisher and you want to make money, you would need to be excellent in marketing, networking, raising capital...

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Ashaman73 hit the nail, well smashed the nail, with the statement that 99% of the work for a game to be "successful" boils down to marketing. Marketing, the act of getting eyeballs on your product and hopefully converting some to sells, is key to being a dev or a publisher.

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On the other hand, if you do have those skills and can find a way to get enough money to fund it, I imagine it could be a much better option than trying to learn the programming skills yourself. Better spend your resources where you know you can make them count efficiently.

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A + B) Do you have money, or are you good at getting investors to give you money for ideas? If yes, you will find that people will want to work for you, and that you will no problem hiring existing teams.


If you have no money and are no prodigy salesman, you will most probably struggle with both. Depends if you already have made a name for yourself in game development... if you are a nobody, you will struggle finding professionals wanting to work for you (after all, will you be able to pay them salaries at the end of the month?), and the hobbyists and newcomers might shy away from working with you as you seem to be the "idea guy" (no matter how much value you or I think that a good project manager can bring to a project, for many you are not doing any tangible work).


C) Well, if you hate game development this much, it might not be for you.

Did you try coding? You didn't like it? At all? Then you might want to leave coding to someone else.

Do you have any talent for art? Being a good artist can make you very valuable for a coder that is looking for help on art.


Don't think that "paying for learning" will get you much farther than just learning yourself. Other than having a stronger incentive to stay on the topic (after all, you paid for it), it will not teach you much more than the internet and free tutorials will.


"paying for talent" is a good strategy, if you have lots of money. Do you have a well paying job? Well, if you have money to burn, you can invest that money into your game. Just make sure you understand the risks (you most probably will loose most or all of that money)... treat it as a very expensive lottery ticket, and you might get close to the risk involved.




Trying to move into the publishing business NOW seems to be just as risky as trying to finance your own game. Publishers are basically getting shortcutted from both sides, with the platform holders not that eager to take on publishing responsibilities while giving devs all the incentive to selfpublish, while more and more are devs tired of working with publishers and are rather taking on the risks themselves, instead trying to minimize the cost.


Again, without money and a good name, you will find it difficult to make it in the business.



About "developing my own ideas" - Its what we all want... yet few, outside of the smallest Indie devs that have only a few people working on a game, or the biggest of big shots that head studios with money to burn can just freely develop their own ideas. Most others are working within very narrow constraints...


If you want to develop your own ideas above anything else, and you are not heading epic, or valve, or any other big studio with money to burn yet, you will need to go the Indie route. That means, unless you at least have money to burn, you need to bring some relevant skills to the table, else you will get nowhere.



Last bit of advice: "Odds of success..." - Odds of success in game development are always rather small. Most games fail, some will never be finished, some will fail in the market. That isn't the end of the world, if you PLAN ACCORDINGLY... hence why you should treat all money invested into games as money you just lost. In about 9 out of 10 cases, that is mostly true. So never invest ALL money into a SINGLE idea.


This holds true for the selfpublishing dev as well as a publisher! You are expected to take on the risk, you will pay for the failure. Your development studio will most probably be paid per milestone, so unless they mess up, you will have to pay them (which they most probably will only in a way that you still have to pay them, as they honored the wording of the contract).

If the game is not making a RoI, that is now your problem, not the developers.

Edited by Gian-Reto

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xtreem, you wrote a lot of unnecessary words, if this is your real question:




with the move of more and more teams getting away from major publishers in favor of self publishing and smaller teams, is there a future in games as a new publisher who ONLY does publishing and not development?


Yes. There is a past, present, and future in that.


The title of your thread also asked about the odds. The odds are not great.


If those are not your real questions, you need to rephrase your question(s). I ignored a lot of the other stuff you said, because it had no bearing on those (which are ostensibly your real questions).


Now then. If you want to become a publisher yourself, you have a lot of work ahead of you, beginning with the all-important step of gaining several years' experience within the industry. You need to know the industry before you start a business.

Edited by Tom Sloper

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disclaimer: I'm not in the industry, just a hobbyist, so I'm probably not the best source of information.


My strengths as it stands... business related necessities (company filing, head hunting, etc.)

Removed all your development related abilities to focus on this, since this appears to be the reason you're thinking about getting into publishing.

Being able to do these won't make you a good publisher. Publishing is all about getting the product "out there", making people aware of it and wanting to buy it. It means advertising online, putting out ads on TV (or in games that rely on ads if you don't have national TV ad time money), etc.


Recommended formal experience going in?

Advertising and promotion experience would be what I expect most people are going to look at. This is probably the most important work for a publisher.
You're also going to want a formal-looking business: an office, employees to handle phones and emails, etc. I can be fairly safe expecting a team of developers working out of a garage to make a game, I have no such safety in expecting a publisher working out of his garage to sell it.


What are some of the difficulties facing a games publisher (besides money)?

Does this mean you have a reasonable amount of capital, or are expecting to be able to raise it easily? If so, option A or B might be more worthwhile than functioning solely as a publisher, especially since you apparently would be able to help out with the business side and some menial tasks as well as financing. If not, money is probably going to be your biggest issue.
But since you asked - people coming to you with bad games, people coming to you with potential million-dollar games that look bad at first inspection, development teams running out of funds or falling apart before completing the game, dealing with fallout from releasing buggy games, distribution, egotistical or greedy developers thinking you're getting too big of a cut and trying to cut you out after you've done your job and gotten their product out there (and the ensuing litigation), all things I can see happening.

Edited by nfries88

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