Jun 21

Casual Games Exclusive vs. Self Publishing

Tag: Business,Casual Games,Codeminion,Game DevelopmentMaciek @ 12:28 pm

Lately we are doing a lot of stuff that is new to us. Most important is that we are now self publishing our games under the Game Club Cafe brand. This is different than with Magic Match, as this game was published on an exclusive basis by Oberon Media, who later purchased the entire IP (intellectual property) rights to the game.  There are days when we regret selling Magic Match to Oberon, but generally we think that it was a fairly good decision business wise.

Back in 2005 we didn’t have the knowledge and resources that we have now so publishing Magic Match on our own would be very difficult. We were approached by Oberon representatives soon after showing first screens from the game. At first we were very skeptical about Oberon’s strong faith in the inevitable success of Magic Match, but soon we realized that they knew what they were doing. To cut the long story short Oberon did a hell of a good job launching the game on all major portals and promoting it for many months. If it wasn’t for them, Magic Match would probably not spawn two sequels (Magic Match: The Genies Journey and Magic Match Adventures) , web games, mobile phone versions and some localized versions. Oberon also managed to publish all of parts of the game in retail in the USA. Of course we were very inexperienced and we made many mistakes negotiating the IP sell agreement (for example we didn’t secure our right to have our company logo on the covers of the boxed game), but at least we are receiving royalties on all those derivative works.

You are probably now wondering, why we have now decided to self publish our games, especially after our cooperation with Oberon was so good and profitable? There are actually many reasons to that. First of all we wish to gain the knowledge about the pros and cons of self publishing so that we have firsthand experience in both approaches. The second reason is that we are hoping to publish our games much better than Oberon or any other publisher would.

Back in 2005 Oberon was a fresh startup and they desperately needed a strong title that would become a flagship product for their portfolio. And that’s where we shown up seeking a publisher for Magic Match. As you see, everything might have been very different if it wasn’t for the good timing on the both parts. Normally it is rare to find a publisher willing to heavily invest in the promotion of your title. Today it’s even more difficult as the publishers have a huge pile of games to choose from and they usually try to divide their marketing attention between many titles rather than focus on a single hit title.

Another thing is that today the biggest publishers don’t like each other. There are many dependencies that might not be visible at first look. For example if your game is being published by BigFish or by Oberon it won’t be added to any of the channels owned by Real (RealArcade, GameHouse, Zylom, etc.). It works vice versa as well, so if you want your game to appear on BigFish or Oberon game centers be sure not to go exclusive with Real. Of course going with a smaller publisher or talking directly to all distributors you still have the chance to launch your game on all the channels, and that’s what we are trying to do.

But publishing is not only about launching your game on different distribution channels and negotiating deals. To monetize the full potential of a title you need to develop many derivative works that work in a synergic way for your success. Internally we use the term “branching”, as the amount of derivative works tends to grow almost exponentially during the post-development cycle of a project. With our current games (Saqqarah and StoneLoops) we have ambitious plans as we want to create many localized versions of both games. In fact we’ve already got 7 language versions of StoneLoops ready (English, Polish, French, Italian, German, Spanish and Russian) and they are currently being deployed on various distribution channels. For example the Spanish version of StoneLoops was launched yesterday on BigFishGames. In fact we’ve even decided to make a Japanese version of StoneLoops! We are also developing flash webgames, mac versions, level packs, we are also working with retail publishers and negotiating porting of our games to mobile platforms such as Nintendo DS or mobile phones. I hope that we manage to do it all swiftly and that it all pays up. After all the ultimate goal is to have more knowledge and resources so that we can develop better and bigger games and I only hope that regardless what people write about our current games we will be up to the task!

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4 Responses to “Casual Games Exclusive vs. Self Publishing”

  1. Evil Dan says:

    Thanks for the great post. Congratulations on the decision to self publish. I had been working for a regular commercial game developer, but I’m now branching off to start my own thing. I have been spending the past couple years reading a LOT about business/marketing/entrepreneurship and was thinking to self-publish right from the launch of our first game. What input could you give me as a newcomer on both the development and publishing sides?

  2. Maciek says:

    @ Evil Dan. I won’t give you any advice on the development side as we regularly tend to go over budget and over schedule with our projects ;). On the publishing side the best advice I can think of is to ALWAYS check all possibilities before signing anything. Never sign a deal with the first company that approaches you. But I’m sure that you know it already. Self publishing is never easy and you will have to give it some time before you find the right things that work well in your case.

  3. Mert says:

    I’d love to play Saqqarah on NDS.

  4. Gum Disease Symptoms : says:

    i think that self-publishing is a tedious task because this would reuqire several skills that need to be mastered over time”;*

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