8 things for indies to start a productive conversation with publishers

Our company Apelsin Games has started as an indie studio, so we can relate to many of developers’ concerns about games, working conditions etc.

Now we’re publishers, this business scheme allows us more flexibility in decisions and makes some kind of ‘headhunters’ of us.

I am one of the ‘main hunters’, I spend much time searching for indie projects and writing emails like “Hello, guys! Nice game, would you…”. Also, I visit exhibitions and try to make the most of it constantly asking developers the same questions. I decided to put them down so that devs would have the opportunity to prepare themselves better and the talks could be more productive.

1. The name of the game and the studio (obviously)

If you have a business card to write on — perfect.

2. Platform

Mobile, PC, consoles

Helps to understand whether there’s any sense in further communication between dev and publisher. If you have a mobile game, pc publisher will cut the dialogue and save everybody’s time or will continue the conversation by talking about expanding it to Steam or whatever.

3. Team members

Their number and scope of work are especially valuable if you’re trying to get investments in development.

4. The current state of development and time you spent on it

Alpha, beta, ‘polishing’, released etc.

Helps to evaluate your skills in development and be realistic with promises to finish the game in two months (honestly, that actually might not happen in half a year; the good news is it might not be a problem for a publisher).

5. Inspiration

The Witcher, XCOM, Darkest Dungeon, LoL etc.

The understanding of the games you have as a reference assists the publisher to evaluate your plans for the game, the direction you’re going and goals you *in your mind* would like to achieve.

6. Engine

Unity, Unreal, Game Maker etc.

Some technical questions might arise at this point, however, the engine you use also signifies the level of Mastery in the team, your ambition and adequacy of the timings.

7. Monetization

Pay-to-play, free-to-play, in-apps etc.

In other words, m-o-n-e-y. A clear vision on how to earn money with the game can save a lot of time and efforts from both sides. If you have a vision (maybe it’s not completely final, but you have it) of the process, you automatically transfer from ‘enthusiast’ to ‘down-to-earth enthusiast’ which is most of the times better for business. But of course, it depends on publisher’s goals.

8. Release deadline

It is important for the publisher to have all variables (how much people were working for a certain time to get the current version of the game based on the engine) to estimate the management and planning. Current and future.

This is my check-list before going into deep details and talks about terms of partnerships, reviewing UX/UI and deadlines. I also try to record a video of the gameplay just to keep in mind how everything works.

Hope it helps to start a consistent and successful dialogue with the publishers for all the indies out there!

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Marketing/communication strategist in a gaming industry @ Riga, Latvia (from Moscow, Russia)

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Ekaterina Prikhodko

Ekaterina Prikhodko

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Marketing/communication strategist in a gaming industry @ Riga, Latvia (from Moscow, Russia)