Yesterday, industry veteran Mike Rose (pictured right) announced his new publishing company, No More Robots, which aims to use a data-driven approach to find new and exciting indie titles to bring to market.
The timing of the announcement meant he was a little too late to join our indie publishing roundtable, which you can read in full in this week’s MCV, but he joins a growing number of firms such as Team17, Sold Out, Rebellion and more in their quest to guide smaller releases through the tricky waters of gaming’s digital storefronts.
What makes No More Robots stand out, however, is Rose’s "unrelenting enthusiasm" for finding the very best indie games money can buy.
"I talk to developers every week who have signed with publishers, and then found that the publisher just has no interest in being truly involved with the game outside of slapping a Steam page up and taking a percentage," he tells MCV.
"What I’ve always done is work closely alongside developers, help them lock down the best bits about their games, and then provide them with assistance and enthusiasm throughout development. It’s difficult to understand just how important this is without seeing it first-hand, but I think it’s just as important as any of my experience, data or contacts."
The extreme biking title Descenders, developed by Dutch outfit RageSquid, will be No More Robots’ debut game
Speaking of data, Rose already has plenty of experience compiling sales figures from his days as a journalist at Gamasutra, where he put together multiple talks and articles about how games sell.
"This new data I’ve been collecting far surpasses anything I’ve gathered before, and is allowing me to see exactly what sells, which genres are dying, whether VR is actually making any money, and far more," he explains. "I’ve always been a big fan of sharing data, so my plan is to compile what I’ve found into useful chunks and put it out there over the coming months."
For now, Rose only plans to publish titles digitally, but says that bringing titles to retail certainly hasn’t been ruled out. "If a title I publish does well enough that a retail version makes sense, then sure, that would be lovely. But for smaller studios, retail is realistically a nice addition if you’ve already found success."
This is where indie publishers like No More Robots come into play, says Rose, as gaining a customer’s trust and creating a loyal sense of community can really help titles fly.
"The way I’ve seen it for a while, is that a lot of the best indie publishers right now are essentially acting as curators for players to rely on. When Devolver puts out a new game, you know there is going to be a level of quality to it, and so you come to rely on and trust them. At a time when there are hundreds of games released every day, it can be incredibly daunting for players to find good stuff in-between the waves of not-so-good stuff, so having curators like these can really help."
Descenders will launch on Steam and consoles very soon, says Rose
Rose isn’t just looking for one particular type of title, either. " I’ll know it when I see it," he says. "If you look back through all the games I’ve signed in the past, there isn’t really a key element that connects them all. It’s simply that in each case, I saw something in the way the game looked, or the underlying design, that made me think, ‘Yep, this is the one.’”
As a result, Rose is planning to make extensive tours of events like Gamescom, EGX, PAX and more to find new titles to sign, and will be playing particular attention to the Nintendo Switch.
"Switch is definitely a platform I’m watching, and I’ve already been in touch with Nintendo to make sure No More Robots is involved. By the time Christmas rolls around, and Mario et al has happened, there are going to be a whole lot more Switches, and plenty of Switch owners looking for more titles to play."
PS4 and Xbox One user bases are obviously booming as well, but Rose warns that higher audience levels doesn’t automatically mean higher sales figures: "Many devs might assume that more units and players equals more potential sales, but it just doesn’t work like that at all because of one big factor – there are way more games than ever before too.
Descenders will put its community of players at the heart of the game, with beta sign-ups taking place on the game’s Discord channel
"As far as I’m aware, sales across all platforms are at their lowest for years, and 99 per cent of developers releasing games right now are seeing struggling sales figures. Knowing how to make games sell is more important than ever right now."
The same goes for digital storefronts like Steam, too: "There are just too many games released every week now for the storefronts to be effective in any way. You used to be able to release on Steam, and know that you would sell at least x copies. Now there is just no way you can rely on someone else[‘s platform] to do your marketing for you. If you release on Steam and don’t try to make people care, you’re going to sell zero copies."
To help give his titles the best start possible, Rose says he’ll be going all out come the start of next year: "I’ll be ignoring Christmas, and then going full pelt starting from the beginning of 2018.
"Most of my biggest successes came at the start of a year, when players have finished all the triple-A stuff they bought over Christmas, and triple-A studios have burnt themselves out of the Christmas period. That’s when smaller studios should strike."