What does a game publisher do?
In this article, I am going to talk about game publishing: who is a game publisher, does your free-to-play game need one, what do publishers do in general, and what you need to successfully pitch your game.
Who is a game publisher?
A publisher is a company that publishes, promotes, and markets its own games or games made by a third-party developer.
For a third-party developer, a publisher plays three different roles:
- the role of a “thermometer”: the publisher can clearly see at what stage of development the product is at the moment;
- the role of a consultant: it gives possible options for the development and says when and what metrics to pay attention to;
- and the key role is a mentor. The publisher can give the team the whole market review, form expectations about at what point the product is ready to scale, what is in store for the company, and suggest which way to look further.
Does your free-to-play game need a publisher?
The general answer is “yes, it does”. If you need more audience, then you need a publisher. You don’t need it only in the following cases:
- If you make a game for your friends and family only.
- If you make it for a small established community and there is no chance that someone else might be interested in your game.
- If you launch on Apple Arcade. This service by Apple does all the promotion and co-funding of games. If you want to release your game on Apple Arcade then it is better to do it by yourself, without the publisher’s support. Although Apple hand-picks games, it’s easy to get there. Yet in the future, we may see some publishers specializing on Apple Arcade only.
If your game doesn’t match these three criteria, it means you need a publisher.
What do publishers do?
It’s been a long time since publishers have manufactured physical discs with games and advertised them in game journals. In the age of digital distribution, they are delivered through simple downloading and publisher’s work shifted towards more complicated tasks, like:
- Work with community
- Technical support
- Ad campaigns management
- Ad monetization
The kind and the volume of support which publishers lend to developers highly depends on the stage of the game development and on the team needs. If the project shows promising metrics and the team has more ideas of new games, the publisher may even buy the game and release it as it’s own.
How to pitch your game to a publisher?
If your game doesn’t have any metrics yet, the publisher may help the developer with a marketing company and testing. It usually takes from one to two weeks but gives a good enough overview of the basic early metrics.
If your game doesn’t have any metrics yet and it’s impossible to acquire them, in this case, the punisher may take a closer look at the team. Is it an established and well-knit team? Is it well-known to the publisher? What games does it have in the portfolio?
So, basically, if you want to pith your game to a publisher you need good metrics and/or good team.
Good luck with game development!