Kiss is a company built on the principle of making the process of getting games to market as painless as possible.
The firm was founded in 2012 by industry veterans Darryl Still and Peter King. In the past Still had worked at Atari and launched the publisher's ST, Jaguar and Lynx consoles. Meanwhile, King worked at Activision,helping to launch Call of Duty in emerging territories.
We had dealt with each other, and always ran up against bureaucracy. So when we decided to start a company together, the biggest thing was that we wanted it to be red tape free,” Kiss' CEO and publishing director Still tells MCV.
We just wanted something that was there to serve our customers and partners and was going to be easy. Wedon't really call ourselves a publisher. We are a label on which indie developers can publish their titles. We'rebased on the [English indie record label] Stiff Records model – whereby the indie developer owns their IP. It's their baby. They're the parents; we're the teachers that nurture their games and 30 others in ways that the parents can't. But the final responsibility always goes back to the parent.
All they do is give us their code, we get it listed everywhere and give them a large chunk of the revenue every month. We take a handling fee and a marketing fee. We are 100 per cent convinced that they will sell a lot more units than they would if they were trying it on their own.”
"The developer owns the IP.
It's their baby. We're the teachers that nurture
their games and 30 others."
Darryl Still, Kiss
Developers keeping ownership of their IP is a big selling point for the firm. But while it's a positive now, Still sees this as a risk further down the line – and he's evolving the business as a result.
We're working towards Kiss 2.0. Our start-up plan was to build our catalogue, work with developers and take titles without any investment in them,” he says.
A lot of our devs who have launched games and are really happy with us have then said they have another project on the drawing board, and that they need to go bigger, but they need some investment. We're now working with a few key finance partners and we're starting to invest in the development of titles from indie studios, but giving them a bit more of our experience, and taking a bit more ownership of the games.
In most cases, they are still the main owner of the IP but we're a joint owner. We've done a few titles that were small and required a bit of funding just to finish the game. We're now looking to put a pot of cash together to have a rolling fund-source for our developers if they want it. We're now working with over 100 developers, with more coming on board every day.”
At the moment – while it does have some boxed products – Kiss and Still are focused on selling games digitally.
To be frank, we didn't want to get involved in inventory, and buy backs and returns and all that horrid stuff that goes on at brick and mortar retail,” Still explains.
We've just seen how much more straightforward it is to launch games digitally. We've got box partners, and we publish some of the titles with our development partners in boxes, but the margins are much smaller and they have to wait quarterly for the money.
It's more hassle than being able to get a game on Steam. We've got a very small office, we don't have huge warehouse facilities or anything required for storing inventory anywhere. We don't have to worry about that anymore.”
And though known for its PC titles, Kiss is branching out towards a few new platforms.
We're part of ID@Xbox, we have three titles there. We're working on the same three titles – and another game – for PlayStation.”
He concludes: We also have Kiss Mobile, so we're dipping our toes in the mobile market, tentatively, because it's not our key area of expertise. But we're staffing up with people who know what they're doing.”