Insight: 2015 is the year of the publisher

In an age where any developer can be a games publisher, Sold Out boss Garry Williams discusses why studios are increasingly teaming up with sales and marketing specialists.

Longevity in the games business has seen us witness numerous ‘life changing’ gaming ideas and emerging business models. With the latest disruption coming in the form of independent developers and publishers, creating smaller games for digital platforms.

The more things change, the more we feel the business stays the same. So Sold Out predicts that 2015 will be the year of the publisher.

It seems that anyone now can be a publisher – any two-man development team can release a game themselves.

But be careful what you wish for. Developers have always been good at making games, but rarely as good at publishing them. Publishers exist because they take the costs, deliver the sales, take responsibility for all commercial decisions, along with business risk and discovery logistics.

Historically, publishers knew how to deal with retail buyers and ordinary customers. They took care of non-glamorous activities such as age rating, stock management, and the chains of title ownership. They also had to deal with really ugly stuff like write downs, returns, recalls, stickering, overstocks, understocks and the dreaded ‘price protection’.

Some of these things might not matter in the digital world (at least not yet), but some of the basic principles still remain. One of the most important aspects is that ‘traditional’ publishers were always set up to be businesses. Developers were essentially the recipients of the patronage of publishers – not really a business in the same vein. It’s funny when you look at the mobile world – the companies that are run purely for capital gain are brilliant at self-publishing with their analytics, metrics and massive marketing spend.

"We hear talk of ‘user acquisition’,
but what happened to ideas like
customer satisfaction?"

Garry Williams, Sold Out

With the growth in Steam and digital console models, finding someone that can help you become a publisher may seem more complex. These days we hear talk of ‘user acquisition’ but what happened to old-fashioned ideas like customer satisfaction? We hear talk of ‘daily actives’ and ‘whales’ but what happened to ‘customers’ and ‘fans’?

We are looking to help good games sell in a climate where generally only noisy games get sold. Winning awards is great but winning sales is even better. Sold Out’s mantra is simple: be the best you can be with your game. Unlike yesteryear, developers retain the IP rights, including the right to digitally publish if they want to, while Sold Out takes care of the physical sales. Let us take away some of the grief so you can focus on more of the fun.

When digital publishing on console platforms emerged, Sold Out was one of the first companies to have ‘new gen’ publishing agreements for independent titles with platform holders. A number of leading developers have discovered
that with some help from us they can become publishers without losing any IP and without the hassle of logistics, while adding new revenue streams from
which they take the lion’s share of the rewards.

In the end, the game is the star, the developer is our friend and the market response will be our judge.

About MCV Staff

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