Publishing platform Gambitious has been bringing indie titles to market through its network of certified investors ever since its formation in 2011. But today the company is entering a new phase of its life along with a brand-new name to boot.
Now known as Good Shepherd, the company still offers publishing services on top of its successful investment platform, but co-founder and chief creative officer Mike Wilson (pictured right) tells MCV it was time for a new lick of paint to reflect its growing ambitions.
"It's a really big moment for the company, having just raised significant capital right before E3, and we've been able to add several super experienced new people to the team, so it felt like the right time for a fresh start," he says.
"We also have several games in the pipeline that we feel like could be label-defining titles, and we wanted to get our new name, look, and team out there ahead of those."
Good Shepherd will also be "working aggressively" to expand its 100-strong investor network with its newly-expanded team: "Our proprietary profit sharing model for qualified investors has proven consistently successful over the three years we've been publishing as Gambitious," Wilson continues.
"So we're still operating as both a publisher and an investment platform and working to make sure that both the indie developers we work with all over the world – and these heroic new games investors putting their trust in us – are having a great experience in working with us as the sort of bridge between the two. We consider ourselves stewards, or 'shepherds' of both the projects and the investments made. Everyone has to win for this to work sustainably, and that's our mission.
For Gambitious' current partners, however, it's still business as usual, as all of its existing titles will now be published under the Good Shepherd label, including those currently in development such as Italo Games' action adventure Milanoir, WildFactor's strategy sim Machiavillain, Sobaka Studio's top-down action title Redeemer and UK studio's Pixel Spill's space adventure Outreach.
"I think everyone we're working with is excited about this time and to see what we can do with more resources," Wilson explains. "We've accomplished quite a lot with very little over the past few years, and we're all eager to turn it up a notch.
"So all of the titles currently in the pipeline, both previously announced and those we're just announcing this week and next, will move over to the new label. Our outstanding partnerships with the various platforms that have enabled us to get this far remain the same."
Outreach, developed by UK studio Pixel Spill, is due out on PC later this year and sees players uncover the secrets of a Cold War Russian space station from a Soviet perspective
Good Shepherd will also be sticking to its tried and tested publishing strategy, too, with independent developers remaining its key focus going forward.
"We will evaluate any opportunity on its own merits, but we are remaining mainly focused on the indies who really need this new capital, in the sub-$1m budget range," says Wilson. "We find this range to be the most fiscally conservative and consistently successful for us as a small company as well, and the shorter-term investments make for quick, happy returns to keep the investor momentum going."
The type of investors coming to Good Shepherd, however, continues to evolve with each passing year.
"We started with literal friends and family, and it's grown from there to a little over 100 mostly very happy investors," Wilson explains. "We are now getting inquiries from larger investors who are less interested in choosing one title at a time, but want to invest in a portfolio of games, and we are adjusting our offerings to suit those people as well. It will be interesting to see, once we add the next 100 investors, how many of them are gamers versus people who are just interested in the consistent cash flow of quick returns."
Wilson admits the company hasn't had "any real breakout hits" during its six years of operation, but he's still immensely proud of what they've achieved.
"We've had a great run without much in the way of people or money resources. We've shipped 14 original titles as Gambitious across eight digital platforms and nine of those earned out in the first year, several within the first month or two post release.
"We have been very patient and methodical about growing the investor network, trying to make sure they have a great first (and second, and third) experience so that they tell their friends. We also invest in each game, both as a company and as individuals, with the same terms as these new investors, which I think has been a big part of the success, as you can bet we're leaving no stone unturned to get to profitability, regardless of how strong a game comes out of the chute."
For the titles that haven't performed so well, Wilson says it's simply a symptom of the increasingly challenging circumstances surrounding digital publishing.
We consider ourselves stewards, or 'shepherds' of both the projects and the investments made. Everyone has to win for this to work sustainably, and that's our mission.
Mike Wilson, Good Shepherd
"Some of them are a slower burn and really require a lot of catalogue management expertise to get them into the black, which is a very important part of the service we're offering to both developers and investors," Wilson explains.
"But it's tough out there! There's lots of new competition [in digital publishing], seemingly ever increasing. I think a lot of indies are finding that they are more interested in good publishing help than they might have been in the beginning of this indie wave – mostly because of the discoverability issue, but also to have someone managing the title years beyond its initial release, which as I said before, is often the necessary key to finding success out there. The long tail of digital is real, but you have to work at it."
On the whole, however, Wilson is optimistic about the wider games investment space, and sees a particularly bright future for smaller indie devs.
"There are a lot of great options out there for developers now, maybe more than ever, at least on the indie side of things. It's very tough for mid-sized studios out there, though. It's a great time to be small and nimble."