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  1. The full interview with Pixelbite was originally published on the LocalizeDirect's site. The creators of the “amazingly animated” Space Marshals, Reckless Racing, and Xenowerk, Swedish studio Pixelbite is launching its tactical mobile strategy game Xenowerk Tactics today. LocalizeDirect briefly talked to Pixelbite co-founders Mattias Olsson and Anders Blom about their new game, game localization secrets, and their ad-hoc game testing on the couch. LocalizeDirect: Tell us a bit about your new game - Xenowerk Tactics. Anders: It’s sort of a mix between our previous games Space Marshals and Xenowerk. It’s built on the story of the Xenowerk but Xenowerk was more of a shooting and action game, this one is a bit more strategic and tactical. There is a strategy element where you manage a basecamp, upgrade and recruit new operatives, and then you send then into the field, and in the field it becomes a tactical game for you. What inspired you? Mattias: It’s a mix of many games. We were inspired by games like Darkest Dungeon and XCOM, especially for the base management and recruitment parts. If we could get the player to care for the recruits the same way we did when playing those games it would be great. To hopefully achieve this we added unique traits and mutations to make each recruit feel more unique and valuable. For the combat side of things, we took inspiration from various RTS games and old-school RPG games like Baldur’s Gate. What markets performed best for your game Space Marshals? Mattias: We don’t know why but Chinese market liked us. We had some publishers looking at us before we were listed (1st and 2nd round), and they told our game and the theme wouldn’t work in China. And then we were nominated for the game of the year on the App Store. Now China is one of our best regions in the world. We also hope it’s gonna be success for Xenowerk Tactics. Space Marshals was a P2P game. Besides China, what are other regions that performed best in terms of revenue and downloads? Mattias: The US, Russia, South Korea, Germany, China are definitely top 5 for us. To continue, check out the entire conversation. Images: Xenowerk Tactics, Pixelbite View full story
  2. The full interview with Pixelbite was originally published on the LocalizeDirect's site. The creators of the “amazingly animated” Space Marshals, Reckless Racing, and Xenowerk, Swedish studio Pixelbite is launching its tactical mobile strategy game Xenowerk Tactics today. LocalizeDirect briefly talked to Pixelbite co-founders Mattias Olsson and Anders Blom about their new game, game localization secrets, and their ad-hoc game testing on the couch. LocalizeDirect: Tell us a bit about your new game - Xenowerk Tactics. Anders: It’s sort of a mix between our previous games Space Marshals and Xenowerk. It’s built on the story of the Xenowerk but Xenowerk was more of a shooting and action game, this one is a bit more strategic and tactical. There is a strategy element where you manage a basecamp, upgrade and recruit new operatives, and then you send then into the field, and in the field it becomes a tactical game for you. What inspired you? Mattias: It’s a mix of many games. We were inspired by games like Darkest Dungeon and XCOM, especially for the base management and recruitment parts. If we could get the player to care for the recruits the same way we did when playing those games it would be great. To hopefully achieve this we added unique traits and mutations to make each recruit feel more unique and valuable. For the combat side of things, we took inspiration from various RTS games and old-school RPG games like Baldur’s Gate. What markets performed best for your game Space Marshals? Mattias: We don’t know why but Chinese market liked us. We had some publishers looking at us before we were listed (1st and 2nd round), and they told our game and the theme wouldn’t work in China. And then we were nominated for the game of the year on the App Store. Now China is one of our best regions in the world. We also hope it’s gonna be success for Xenowerk Tactics. Space Marshals was a P2P game. Besides China, what are other regions that performed best in terms of revenue and downloads? Mattias: The US, Russia, South Korea, Germany, China are definitely top 5 for us. To continue, check out the entire conversation. Images: Xenowerk Tactics, Pixelbite
  3. This article was originally posted on LocalizeDirect's blog Ever thought about expanding your game to the MENA region but not sure where to start? Try Turkey first. It’s very much a mix of East and West, it is also the most developed games market and the video game centre of MENA. Previously Turkey attracted mostly Asian publishers, now, Western companies include it in their expansion plans too. KEY TAKEAWAYS: Turkey is the most developed games market in MENA and #18 in the world. Console and PC games generate slightly more revenue than mobile games. Localization to Turkey requires human input and QA due to numerous suffixes as strings with placeholders should be completely paraphrased (and, surprise, machines are still bad at doing that). What’s covered? Turks are fond of games. Why? We have a few interesting numbers Who is targeting Turkey? The most popular game genres Why are successful games in Turkey all localized? 9 best game localization approaches for the Turkish market How to make a foreign game #1 in Turkey Turkey is a 30 million strong gamers market, full of young gamers (this is more than the total population of many European countries!) Last year, Turkish gamers generated over $850 million in game revenue. This translated into the ranking they occupied in the top 20 most lucrative games markers globally. In 2019, Turkish online games revenues are predicted to grow at 8%, and mobile games are expected to bring 9% more revenue than in 2018. Image source Fun fact: Turkish gamers spend 70% of their time on PC, ranking 3rd after only Poland and Russia. In 2018, PC/Console games generated more revenue than mobile games. Why so? #1 Internet cafes. There are more than 20,000 cyber cafes in Turkey which are visited by 7.5 million gamers every month. This means that even those players who do not have cutting-edge technology at home, can still play complex video games elsewhere. #2 Over the last year, computer games became more affordable due to the numerous promotions on digital gaming platforms like Steam. No wonder Turkey has been called “the video game centre of the MENA region”. Some game brands that target Turkey Thanks to mobile gaming, the gamer user base grew considerably in just a few years. There are 50 million smartphone users in the country, and after the arrival of the popular “Angry Birds,” “Candy Crush” and “Fruit Ninja” games, more and more people started playing mobile games. In 2018, the popularity of video games, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite, boosted the interest in both mobile and online games. Nintendo re-entered Turkey with the Nintendo Switch in 2018 after an absence of many years. Epic Games, Riot Games, Zynga, Netmarble and a number of other game brands have Turkey in their portfolios. What are the most popular game genres in Turkey? According to Gaming in Turkey , Turkish gamers prefer MOBA, strategy, RPG, casual, and esports game genres. Many were attracted by the “Grand Theft Auto” series and easily turned into fans afterwards. If you developed a mobile board game, definitely localize it into Turkish - almost half of all mobile sessions are related to this game genre. Image source Turkish gamers prefer free-to-play games, based on the “micro-transaction” model, when gamers play for free but pay to upgrade their accounts. Competition is an important part of gaming habits too: Turkish gamers love features like “player versus player”. Also, the content and game rules should be accessible and easy to learn. Successful games in Turkey are all localized 80% of the Turkish population don’t speak any other language but Turkish. This means - game localization is a must if you want to win over your target gaming audience. Localizing your game into the Turkish market is easier than into any of the Arabic-speaking countries. Unlike right-to-left Arabic, Turkey in written from left to right which makes it easier from the perspective of UI/UX design. However, there are some Turkish-specific characters. For instance, there are 4 i’s in the Turkish language: dotted and dotless. While the uppercase for ‘i’ in English is I, in Turkish it’s dotted İ. Some Latin characters aren’t used at all. Best game localization practices for the Turkish market Follow the recommendations of our Turkish translators on what to pay attention to in your translation process to ensure top-notch localization, whether it’s a mobile, PC or console game. #1 - Mind language length Cagdas Mandali: “In Turkish, there are many verbs that are made of one noun and one auxiliary verb. Such as, “Accept” is a noun in Turkish when translated alone (Kabul). You make it a verb by adding an auxiliary verb, and it has to become “Kabul Et”. This applies to many other buttons, such as deposit, withdraw, help, continue… The list is long.” #2 - Take suffixes seriously in the placeholders Turkish is the language of suffixes. And if in the regular translations the linguists can customize it accordingly, when it comes to the text with placeholders, it’s a real challenge for translators. Cagdas Mandali: “Say, our text is “Send Energy to {player_name}“. It is clear that the placeholder will be replaced by another player’s name. But, in Turkish, any name will have a different suffix. Depending on the letter used in the last syllable, the suffixes are conjugated as a back vowel or a front vowel. Then, we have an issue of blending letters. “To Rodrigo” is translated as “Rodrigo’ya”, and “To Elly” is translated as “Elly’ye”. “Michael’s” is translated as “Michael’ın” while “Slava’s” is translated as “Slava’nın” (extra “n” is added when the name ends with a vowel). Since there is no legit way of finding a one size fits all translation, we localize it as “Send Energy to the player whose name is {player_name}” or “X that belongs to the player named {player_name}“. Unfortunately, the only solution is to define different placeholder suffixes and also placeholders for last syllables of all nouns, which is almost impossible as long as clients send us only unified placeholder texts.” #3 - Link your game to the local culture References to the local celebrities and jokes will be appreciated although don’t overdo culturalization. If gamers are playing a game featuring Italian mafia, no need to turn it into Turkish gangsters. Collaboration with local celebrities can be also useful. When localizing its F2P title “League of Legends”, Riot Games hired Turkish celebrities as voice actors. It paid off: the game became super popular and attracted thousands Turkish gamers to the Internet cafes to play LoL. #4 - Adjust formatting to the Turkish locale If your original game was developed in the US or for the US audience, change dates, time, decimal separators, currency. Remember The Witcher 3 by CD Projekt that took the hit by localizing the price? Some basic rules: a) Date format: DD.MM.YYYY Example: 17.12.2020 for 12.17.2020 in the US b) Time format: HH:MM[:SS] Ex: 20:00 for 08:00 pm, and 08:00 for 08:00 am c) Numeric format: 999.999,99 with comma as decimal separator and period as a grouping character. Currency symbol positioned after number. Example: 123.455,25₺ vs $123,455.25 Ali Yucel: “We put the percentage sign before the number rather than after it. We don’t use single quotation marks unless it’s a quote within a quote. And our rules for using commas are quite different from that of English.” #5 - Allow mistakes and international words if needed In some cases, the street version of the language would be preferred over the academic one. Plus, many international words became an indispensable part of Turkish daily vocabulary. So to say, there is no need to translate sushi as the “Japanese raw fish dish” - sushi is sushi, full stop. Cagdas Mandali: “One game that I localized features kids - uneducated, rude, swearing all the time. I translated their dialogues in the same manner as Turkish street kids would talk, without attention to grammar, misspelling some words. However, the developers decided to go with the “proofed and corrected” version of the text where those kids were talking like ladies and barons. Luckily, after the texts went online, the developers consulted a 3rd party, and decided to change the already live texts for the “street version.” #6 - Evaluate your in-game content for the sensitive element Religion (Islam) can become a sensitive issue, but there’s always a work-around. Casino games are banned in Turkey although no other games with microtransactions or in-game purchases are at risk. As in many other countries, ultra violent games or those that “undermine” Islam find themselves on shaky ground, especially if they target a young audience. #7 - Translate tutorials and guidelines Turks have trouble finding tutorials or walkthroughs in Turkish. If they don’t understand sophisticated games such as World of Warcraft, they quit. League of Legends gained a lot of popularity after it was localized into Turkish and it still has a HUGE community in Turkey (over 13 million active accounts). Ali Yucel: “To give an example, even at the height of WoW, all non-English speaking Turkish gamers preferred Knight Online over it, because it was very simple, and it didn’t require much knowledge of English. It was simply a hack and slash MMO. Yet, there were thousands of Turkish websites, forums and blogs dedicated to Knight Online.” #8 - QA game after localization Allow Turkish translators and native-speaking testers to PLAY the game to spot any inconsistencies and errors. Usually, professional game translation services have proofreading as part of their localization process, without LQA, they track grammar mistakes rather than language-related issues. Ali Yucel: “Many publishers/developers will pay for the QA of the translations, but not for actually playing the game and making note of the issues there. Professional publishers pay for at least 5 hours of play time, with developer access, and that solves a lot of problems. Sometimes, even the same sentences/expressions will need to be translated differently depending on the context. You cannot always catch that by simply looking at the Excel or MemoQ screen. At least that’s the case in Turkish.” Game localization costs into Turkish start from $0.15/word while Turkish game testing - at €30/hour. #9 - Translate ads and marketing materials Ali Yucel: “I keep seeing Instagram and Facebook ads that were translated very badly. That’s a huge turn off. Even a single line can make a bad impression. It has to sound right, and that’s impossible with literal translation.” How to market your game in Turkey? Now, after you’ve localized your in- and out-game text, how are you going to promote it? As games are entertainment products, they should be marketed like movies or concerts. You’ll need a media plan and, probably, cooperation with a local marketing agency. Influencer marketing, Google and Facebook ads are key if you want to get installs and reach a younger audience. Traditional media can be of use too. For instance, to promote its game Paramanya/Travelling Millionaire - a fully localized version of Modoo Marble, South Korean mobile game company Netmarble shared a fake news story about a mysterious man spreading money all around Istanbul, and involved fake anchors to report on it. Screenshot of one of the fake reports. Source: Youtube The campaign went viral and even made its way to a popular TV show when the truth was revealed. As a result, Paramanya became the top grossing game in Turkey (and later in Saudi Arabia). Make Turkish gamers discover your game now and book your spot at the top of the MENA region. Contact us to discuss Turkish localization services, your title potential or play with the game translation tool to get the quote estimates for MENA localization.
  4. 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. Distribution 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. Ratings 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. Development 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. Advising 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. Financing 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. Porting 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. QA 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. Talent 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 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 Marketing 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. Trailers 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. Community 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. Events 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.
  5. Publishing 101 | Publishing 102 | Publishing 103 New year, new advice! My name is David Logan, CEO of Akupara Games, and I’d like to start the year with some more insider details on game publishing. Last year, I wrote the first entry for a series of articles to help guide developers throughout the decisions surrounding publishers and the release of their games. If you haven’t read that yet, I highly recommend you do so before continuing on. You’ve decided “Yeah, a publisher is a great fit for our project,” but now you’re interested in how exactly you decide which publisher is best for you. In this article, I will be detailing the tactics you should use while you are on the search for the best publisher. It’s time to roll up your sleeves, crack open a notebook, and throw down with some homework. Research First and foremost, you need to know your options and who you can consider as a publisher. Each publisher is a snowflake, most beautiful, and each different in their own ways. Let’s discuss how to go about finding the right one. Talk to Developers The most helpful tactic is to talk to other developers who have worked with publishers Ask about their experiences and try to get the most candid and honest feedback about working with the very publishers you may be considering Discuss the actual people involved in producing the games as mileage will vary with different producers from the same publisher Ask for recommendations It helps for other developers to understand where you are coming from and what you need/want for your project Read Online A useful and easy tactic if you can’t get in contact with fellow developers Find testimonials of clients who have worked with the publishers to make a better educated decision Set time aside to search for any available information and read the websites of potential publishers Resources to find Publishers: SteamSpy Free and Paid services available Steam only AppAnnie Paid service Mobile only Indie-Friendly Publishers by Eugene Kisterev PC & Console focused Indie-Friendly Publishers by gambrinous Video Game Publishers by Wikipedia Mobile Game Publishers by Hady ElHady Mobile only Mobile Game Publishers by Ane Fallarme Mobile only Meeting Publishers Consider taking some time to go to conventions and networking events to meet publishers in person. It’s a great way to get face-to-face time with lots of publishers at once, and find those who are actively seeking new projects Great for not just meeting publishers, but other developers, investors, and press Going to live events can be expensive, but worthwhile if you maximize your time there. Book as many meetings as you can beforehand, so you have a full schedule. Don’t expect just to meet lots of connections on the spot This strategy allows you to talk about your game and showcase it to others to get some feedback for that extra polish you’ll want when you finally approach a publisher Resources to check out: Video Game Business and Marketing Microconference April 15, 2019 Online video call matchmaking services Without you needing to travel, they take the same idea of meeting lots of new connections at conferences and bring them to you digitally MeetToMatch – The San Francisco Edition 2019 March 20-22, 2019 Meet those in the industry located in San Francisco GDC March 18-22, 2019 Game Connection March 18-22, 2019 Can schedule meetings to sign deals Game Performance While shopping for a publisher, look at the performance of the games worked on by your candidates Scores aren’t necessarily indicative of the publisher’s efforts or contribution to the project, so you’ll want to see the marketing efforts put into promotion Take into account the times the game was marketed to you – if you were the correct demographic Note any unique or interesting promotional tactics that may have been utilized Consider the buzz and hype generated by the game as a sign of the marketing efforts from the publisher; big points for press coverage on popular gaming sites Extra points for getting the game featured articles and interviews Consider if the game was featured in digital storefronts Look into what services the publisher provided post-launch Are they still providing additional content for the titles? Are problems and bugs stated in reviews being addressed? Will the publisher be supportive in live-ops and be involved with community management? Generally, most successful publishers will fall into this category because the game will fail if they don’t support live-ops and post-launch content Post-launch of the popular title Stardew Valley, former publisher Chucklefish was responsible for implementing the multiplayer update to the game while the developer focused on creating for the game’s first major content update. Preparing Questions By now, you’ve talked to all your friends and connections. You’ve done hours of research on the Internet about your options. Maybe you’ve narrowed down a list of publishers you’d like to talk to and you have your spreadsheet of notes ready. You want to be prepared, so you brush up on what services you might want from a publisher. It’s time to reach out to these publishers and chat. However, before you do that, have some questions in your mind to ask during these conversations. Listed below are some questions you may want to ask: Communication What time zone are you in? What channels of contact do you use? How often can I expect to be in contact with you during the campaign? Release/Sales/Revenue How long will you support our title post-launch? What are your relationships like with distributors such as Steam/Xbox/Switch/Apple? Who handles post launch merchandise DMCAs, trademarks, and copyright? Conventions Which conventions do you go to? Do you cover the cost of the travel, hotel, booth, and swag for conventions? Who will be showcasing at conventions – the publisher, developer, or both? Translation & Porting Do you support multi-platform releases? Who handles porting to other platforms? Which languages will you support for our title? Specialties While looking around for that publisher just-for-you, pay attention to the specialties of the publishers; not every publisher will be the right fit for you. It will be most conducive and helpful to your working relationship if the publisher is well-equipped to publish to your needs. Here are some things you’ll want to consider: Platforms Keep this question in mind as you search around – is your game designed for a desktop, console, or a mobile release? Maybe all three? I don’t recommend bringing your mobile-only game to a publisher who has no experience in helping to release a mobile game Vice versa, a publisher that has exclusively released mobile games may not be able to help you release your game on every current console Glu Mobile is a platform-focused publisher for mobile gaming. They have an extensive library of mobile-only games based on existing IPs and games partnered with celebrities/influencers. Monetization Models With big differences and theories behind the different monetization models, you need to pick a publisher that knows how to release a game based on the monetization model of your game Audiences won’t be happy if a title is released that deviates from the publisher’s typical model. Imagine trying to sell an up-front cost premium game with a publisher, when they’ve conditioned their audience with only free-to-play titles A publisher who has only released premium games may have minimal knowledge on how to bring users to and market a title that has in-app purchases, or a subscription based model Though not an indie game, Nintendo’s Super Mario Run provides a wonderful example of how a monetization strategy can alienate or confuse your market that is accustomed to freemium models or premium games at a lower price point. Genres & Niches Similar to thinking about the platform needs of your game, consider the history and experience of publishers and if they align with your genre and niche needs Publishers will have developed an audience with their users, so it’s helpful if your game aligns with the rest of their catalogue Not all publishers will have the knowledge, resources, or tools to market all types of games E.g. A publisher with a large library of fighting games may not necessarily know how to bring out the best of your horror or first-person shooter game Nightdive Studios has built up a reputation for themselves for bringing back lost games that are no longer available by acquiring the rights to re-release, remaster, and update them for modern platforms. Their audiences can expect to see older games like those of the System Shock series of the 1990’s, which have greatly influenced the horror and first-person shooter genre. Other Games Released Being able to look at their catalog of other games, you will have a good sign of what their successes are like Their other games will individually have their own following of players, so this is something that can used to your advantage Similar to genre, publishers should have dedicated efforts to creating a community among their player base that will allow for a good starting point in releasing a new title A great contribution to Overcooked’s exposure was at E3 2016 when publisher Team17 placed the game’s booth next to their most anticipated title of the convention – Yooka-Laylee. Everyone came to see the game everyone knew about, but were easily pulled in to see the game no one knew about. Single vs. Multiplayer As with many of the previous points, does the publisher you’d like to work with have the experience to release your game if it’s multiplayer, especially online multiplayer? Multiplayer games require maintaining and engaging with a community of players more frequently and consistently Single player games may have bug fixes and occasional DLC added, but multiplayer games will require live-ops support, long after launch Stream-ability Some publishers care about whether a game is consumable for streaming With the increasing presence of online influencers, the success of games are often affected by streaming influencers Does the publisher advise on integration with streaming, and make an effort to have their developers create plugins or extensions that work with Twitch or Mixer? In the release of tinyBuild’s game, Punch Club, this publisher capitalized on Twitch and its chat function to give users a task: beat the game before it can be released. Coupled with a concurrent stream to race to the end, Punch Club secured featuring on Twitch. Development – Their Involvement You know best about your game and the team behind it; it’s vital for you to be aware and upfront about what you can and can’t successfully handle on your own in development. If you must outsource development needs to a publisher, you will definitely need to look into publishers who are able to offer you those skills whether through their own team or hiring the right people for you. Publisher is Hands-On with Development This is a great option if you are a small team full of talent, but you may be missing some key elements If this is your first foray into the industry, you may want to consider a publisher who can assist with advising and shaping your game A strong publisher will have a toolbox of knowledge, resources, and contacts to ensure the success of your product A hands-on publisher may work very closely with you along the way in how they see it necessary, offering suggestions or changes Perhaps you are set on the programming of the game, but only have placeholder art assets, and need a visual facelift From art, to programming, to sound, to almost anything in development, the right publisher will be able to fill in the gaps in your team In our own case, Akupara Games was responsible for the programming overhaul, addressing existing bugs, porting to mobile devices, and recomposing and recording all of the audio for Keep in Mind: Remastered. Publisher is Hands-Off with Development For a developer that feels comfortable with where their game is at, but just needs the support of a publisher to take the game to market, this is just as practical The publisher will still provide standard support and marketing efforts to get your game’s name out there This allows for the developer to maintain the most creative integrity This is great for those who are very sure of their creation and would not want external influence Approach Not every publisher works the same way. Just like how not every developer needs the same things from a publisher. Consider what methods a publisher may use in your campaign to help inform your decision. Custom Campaigns One-of-a-kind campaign that is unique and tailored to what makes your game stand out You can expect efforts to pay back in dividends as publishers may offer up some out-of-the-box ideas that will have people talking about your game The downside is these often take chances, which may not always pan out Standard Campaigns Looking through a publisher’s portfolio of titles and their associated campaigns, you may feel that nothing seems like it deviated from one another However, this may be a useful indication of what you can exactly expect with your campaign You’ll be hard-pressed to find a developer who goes out of their way to seek out a publisher who will only do a standard campaign. However, as the developer, this is something you will need to weigh the importance of. Long-Term Relationship This section is really case-by-case for you developers out there. You will need to ask yourself if you’re looking for a publisher that is strictly business, or one which you can see developing a good long-term relationship in the future that may extend outside of just business and work. Do you want your publisher to see you as just a client, or do you want something that goes the extra mile? Perhaps if you’re lucky, you will find that special publisher that you will keep coming back to, project after project. Let’s talk about how to build a strong relationship. Publisher Raw Fury has built up a working partnership and relationship with the developer Noio since 2015 to release three games in the Kingdom series together. People Start off by finding a publisher who has a team of people that you get along with During initial conversations, examine what it feels like when you talk with each other Consider if you would feel comfortable candidly bringing up any concerns you may have Personality Traits Do your personality traits complement one another? Think about your communication styles Finding a publisher is like dating. Both parties must be willing to communicate and work together to raise the baby that is the game Offer a problem you may have and see if you agree with their response Financing At last, we’ve arrived at one of the final things you’ll need to consider while you’re talking to your potential publishers. Money. This can be the game changer or even deal breaker. What is the role that money will be playing in the production of your game? Do you need it? If so, where is it coming from? Here are some things to think about in terms of financing in talks with a publisher. Provision Will the publisher offer financing? Financing can alleviate a lot of developer concerns, and help developers devote more full-time work to the game If you feel a publisher is a good fit and they don’t provide financing, but you still require it, consider other routes outside of a publisher for financing If they won’t be providing any financing, it is a fair question to ask them for any advice on how to acquire what you need In fact, while a publisher may not provide financing, they may be able to provide the resources and services you need to acquire them Should You Accept? Consider the downside of accepting financing A publisher requires a larger revenue, often with a recoup up front If you need a little more information on this topic, definitely take the time to check out my first article in the series, where it outlines and expands on financing. Conclusion We’ve covered the jumping off points for thinking about your game from a business standpoint, so now it’s time for you to start working towards finding the best publisher for you. Hopefully after this you’ll be able to identify a list of publishers who could fit your needs! In our final article in our game publishing series, we’ll talk about actually pitching your game to publishers in – “What Publishers Look for in Games”. If you have any questions after reading this, or feel something is missing, 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.