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Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by thomasmahler, Jun 22, 2010.
No... no... that's just indiegamer
You aren't going to get $300K from a bank or a VC when you have no income, no collateral, and a very risky business plan in a super-crowded market.
Publishers: Even in the event that they somehow graciously bestow upon you a deal, you will have nothing to use as leverage. You will happily give them your IP, accept a strict milestone schedule, change your game concept at their whims, etc.
If this will really "redefine the genre" then you should make a shit-hot demo level, get all the gaming sites/blogs to buzz about it, and then try to get them to come to *you*
the fact that you work at Blizzard alone probably enough to convince a VC to pour some money on your project.
I remember watching this:
in the end he got some funding from VC, even what he have is just a flythrough demo.
This probably freaks out the guy with the anger problem again (who seriously needs to chill), but I do think that's why we'll have an easier time talking to publishers / getting some financing.
If your team has a very good track record consisting of some of the biggest IPs and some of the best portfolios in the industry you ought to have an easier time getting people to listen to you, taking you seriously and wanting to work with you compared to (Oh, I'll regret this... but the internets is fun) being a dude whos biggest title in 25 years of professional work was Carmageddon (BAM! How do you like them apples? )
All kidding aside, I'm getting a lot of very good, informative PMs and I very much appreciate the comments here, even though it's insane which turn this thread took - which I probably should've anticipated, posting something on an internet forum
Thanks to everyone who's been taking this seriously and who was willing to send info instead of playing the ego game.
Ignoring the ins and outs of who can go fornicate with what from the discussion so far, I'm very curious to know why you are asking this question here rather than hitting up your industry mates. I mean I've been out of the industry for over a decade and did very little of note when in it, but if I wanted to get some contact with a publisher then you can be sure I'd start tapping a few virtual shoulders.
You should make a few phone calls, send a few emails and rake over facebook and linked in and ask who knows who. If your game is the no-brainer you think it is then it shouldn't take too long to find a few people with lines into publishers who will pass on the good news.
Oh, I am - and I am getting some results, but since this is the first time we're doing this, it'd be good to get as much info as possible - and this here is yet another resource.
There still aren't a _lot_ of people I know who took this direction and I think there's a pretty big gap between publishers that support the big titles we worked on and publishers that actually also are interested in supporting indie games. When it happens, it's usually still the exception.
So far, almost everyone I've been talking to who went the indie way has been telling me not use a publisher at all but to self-fund, because most of them find it hard to find a reasonable deal.
Anyway, if you've got more info, fire away.
I'm going to be a little more direct here, in light of the above... You really need to talk to someone who has experience with a published deal. I don't mean any offense to ecruz, but no position in dev (especially QA) can prepare you for the kind of madness that goes on in the business side of things.
Again, no offense to ecruz but "the fact that you worked at Blizzard alone..." is total horseshit. No publisher worth its salt is going to make crappy corollary evaluations like that ("well he worked at XYZ, so he's a sure bet!"). That's the kind of logic you'll see on Kotaku or Slashdot, not from a real-deal sales guy with years of experience.
I've had plenty of experience on the AAA side of things (and I even worked with Jay Patel for a couple years doing graphics consultation for Blizzard... Did you ever work with him?), yet I absolutely listen to and learn from many people here, including Applewood, regardless of track record. If they have experience either self-publishing or working with a publisher, then that experience is valuable.
I don't mean to take the fun out of going indie for you, but indie business is still a business and needs to be treated as such. Being a part of a world-class cinematic team is great, but it teaches you nothing about business; the kinds of things you need to know before dealing with these people. In fact, it's kinda funny because I was going to suggest you start out by trying to write a project proposal. You'll probably be surprised to find that a lot of the comments you made in this thread are ABSOLUTE NO NOs in a proposal.
Learn to respect the business side of things as much as you respect programming, art, and design. They really are equally complex, equally necesarry, and you might even find business to be equally fascinating (as I have!).
Anyway, keep us filled in on how things are going. I'm interested.
I totally agree with this and I did actually found a studio to make an AAA game with several industry vets with multiple high profile AAA titles under their belts few years back before going indie. There are so many ways things can go south regardless of how experienced the core team of the project is, thus, like I said, the experience alone doesn't buy you a publishing deal. You really need to show an already working & proven game development machine to potential publishers where they can invest on to scale things up, not just some dreams. So you should start asking yourself, where do you get the money for that.
If you plan to go indie, it's all different ball game from being a small cog in a big AAA game dev team. It sure can be quite an ego booster being a part of a big AAA title, but when you go indie, you are a n00b in the business like Applewood said. I have personally worked on several big hit titles in the (relatively recent) past in in-house studios of few publishers, but for getting my indie game shipped hopefully with some moderate success I sure can use all the help I can get from these guys. So it's not clever to start burning bridges you potentially have to cross if you decide to take that route
Indeed. "I worked on starcraft (or whatever)" probably gets lots of internet kiddies pumped, but anyone in the know understands that everybody works somewhere and the true test of ability is actual contribution level. Hard to make a personal impact on a team of x hundred.
If you were a somebody on the Blizzard team, you should already have all the contacts you need and doors should've already opened. If you were random employee #276 then it means nothing at all, so I hope you're not relying on this to help. How come you are not still there btw? Isn't their project still running?
Anyways, you're clearly more worthy than me, because I only run a company whereas you worked at one. So I'll just say absolutely good luck with your endeavours and I hope you do well. Post back here in a year to tell us all about it, yeah?
I like it just fine. If I wanted to spend several years being a drone on a massive project my CV would've gotten me that job, but not all of us judge success by how big your employer is. When your own studio parallels the one you worked at, you'll get some serious amount of respect, even from me.
I'm only going to reply to this thread once because it's leading nowhere. Guys who actually run a successful business are not on forums like this, they create games, make deals and live on it. There are exceptions to the rule however, and on this forum there are a few guys who do make a living of it, and even fewer guys who run a small business with some employees. They are the reason why I keep visiting this forum. Having worked for a small game developer, I know how extremely, insanely hard it is to keep a game company running for multiple years.
If I had to guess who is the best person to answer your original question, it would be Applewood, because he's probably the one with the most experience on that topic. If you choose to ignore his advice, then it can only mean you're not seeking advice but looking for confirmation of your own thoughts. You will probably get lots of that because forums are full of people like you.
If the Valve guy that's giving you advice is Gabe Newell, that I would listen to it, if not, than take the advice from Applewood, but I'm sure you won't. And to be honest, I don't care.
Just had my first round of phone interviews with the usual suspects Again, thanks for all the help guys, even if this thread has gone a little crazy, there's definitely some good info in here.
And thanks Dan, I'm reading through your site, there's a lot of good info in there. Thanks for the links!
I just want to add that I'm really enjoying this thread.
For me, Applewood's all-caps were the highlight
We enjoy reading angry debates though
I'm not chipping in because I concentrate on self-funding and self-publishing, and not in the FPS genre, so my experience isn't going to help here.
@Moose, thanks for the reworking of his quote
I can understand how it would seem that way when you only see a tiny part of the picture. Carry on reading my site and talking to others in the industry and once you understand more about the business side you will see that it is not reasonable or unreasonable - it is just business and it works like any other business. Risk versus Reward is a phrase you will hear a lot over the next few months.
If you start a jelly bean business you will need to get premises, equipment, hire staff, buy ingredients and all of this before anyone pays you any money. You fund this from your own savings (your risk) or you borrow from the bank (your risk - almost certainly requiring a personal guarantee) and as a result of taking the risk you get the reward. You end up owning a business which (hopefully) earns you money. Alternatively you could get an investor to give you money (their risk) but any investor (other than your rich aunt Mavis), putting money into any form of business will expect to own a sizable chunk. They are taking the risk and will expect a sizable chunk of the reward. Now you may think that is unreasonable but its just basic business/economics and the investor certainly doesn't see it as unreasonable.
Now apply that to the game development business. If you want to make a living from game development then it is a business and it operates according to the same business/economic rules as any other business. If you fund your start up and make your game you own it and get all the reward. On the other hand if you want/need an investor (publisher) to pay the majority of the costs then it is entirely reasonable for them to have the majority of the reward. That means owning the IP, getting the biggest slice of the revenue and possibly even owning a stake in your company. You may think that is unreasonable and you may well be right but the fact is that the publishers don't think it is unreasonable and they have the cash.
If you want someone to invest in your jelly bean company you need to do more than tell them you know your good at making beans. Even making a batch at home wont be enough to convince them. You need to show them that you understand the business of jelly beans. That you understand the market, that your costs are realistic, that your price point is realistic for the marketplace, that there is a demand for what your selling and you need to back that up with actual data and not just "I think". Having a great product simply isn't enough. You need to make a compelling business case to go with it.
Game development is the same. Telling publishers you think you are good simply isn't enough. Even showing them your demo will at best get you the idiot contract where all the clauses are in their favour. Saying "that is unreasonable" simply isn't a valid negotiating tactic. What is reasonable is whatever they can get you to agree to. If you want to transform that contract into anything worthwhile you need to make coherent business arguments backed up by numbers.
OK we obviously want this thread to stay civil and on topic as it is interesting and informative but at this point I have to give you a bit of a slap. Either you really don't know anywhere near enough about the business or you are being lazy in your research, because none of the examples you give actually disprove what I have said.... in fact quite the opposite.
Sorry but you can't claim something supports your argument by just saying "somehow". What were the deal terms, who funded it who owns all the IP....
Rocksteady are an even worse example....
1. Rockstead was NOT unheard of before Batman. They were a proven studio having already made Urban Chaos for Eidos.
2. No, the fact that they got a deal for Urban Chaos doesn't support your argument. Some very quick research shows that....
They had to give up the IP for Urban Chaos to get the deal (searching for Urban Chaos at http://www.ipo.gov.uk/tm/t-find/t-find-text/ show Eidos own the IP).
A non-exec director of Rockstead was also General Council for Eidos/SCi (http://www.rocksteadyltd.com/company-directors.html). This fact tells me that SCi either had a clause in the deal that gave them the right to sit on Rocksteady's board and watch what they were doing or that they owned part of the company.
Bingo! this Press Release reveals that Eidos owned a 25% stake in Rocksteady.
In short Rocksteady was never actually independent. They were part owned by Eidos from the get go. They gave away their IP and a chunk of their company to get a deal.
What about them?
1. LBP was not their first game. They made Ragdoll Kung-Fu - which was self funded not publisher funded.
2. RDK-F was exactly the sort of game I advised you to make - small enough for their initial (non) team to make without having to sell the farm
3. But even after that success guess what.... they weren't able to keep ownership of LittleBigPlanet - A search of the US copyright database (http://cocatalog.loc.gov/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?DB=local&PAGE=First) shows that Sony own the copyright (ditto all trademarks). They had to give up the IP to get a deal.
If you want more check out the development agreement between Spark and Activision to see what sort of terms big publishers have in their contracts (http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20070112/spark_01.shtml)
What % of the total cost do you want the publisher to pay? 70, 80, 90%? Why should they give you all the money you need to start a company and make a game which may have massive long term value as IP and not have any ownership?
What you believe is irrelevant because it is based on zero knowledge/experience of the topic (the business of publishing) and as such has no place in this discussion. The only thing that is important is what you or I know from experience or from proper research.
Is it possible to build a developer that owns its IP? Yes, I have been doing exactly that with Strawdog Studios over the last few years - but you aren't going to do that via a fully publisher funded deal as a new start-up. To have any hope of keeping your company and/or IP you will need to have significant (50%+) skin in the game or else follow a different route and spend several years making games that have little or no IP value to earn money before starting on interesting IP. Companies like Icon Games have taken this second approach, doing Pool and Snooker games for small publishers who are more risky to work with but as a result more willing to give in on issues like IP ownership (of a Pool game that has little intrinsic IP value). Having built up the company over several years doing that they are now able to self fund/publish games that have more brand/IP value.
Awesome post Dan!
Yep, awesome post Dan, many thanks!
I'm not looking for a full-funded deal, no. I've been paying for the title out of my own pocket so far and I intend to do so for a while, at least until we have something that we could publish on the AppStore.
But I still think that even when we've almost finished the game and want to bring it to all other platforms that having a publisher come in and do their job in terms of publishing, marketing and also investing their own money to up the scale of the game and for promo material (we'd love to make small shorts that show the games appeal in a humorous way) could be a huge, huge help in terms of sales.
I've been reading up on all of this and I'm talking to a lot of people right now, most of which tell me not to go with a publisher at all or if so recommend this one publisher that I've already been in contact with. It seems like it's very hard to get a reasonable deal, even if you do have something on the table that could become a valuable and profitable IP.
Don't you think that, at this point, most publishers underestimate the downloadable games market? It's by far not as hard as it used to be anymore to self fund and publish games by yourself - publishers cold very well get burned by not building up good relationships with smaller developers that could still rake in enough cash over time.
Not being willing to take any risks at all at this point seems like it would be absolutely the wrong strategy looking forward.
Entrepreneurs cannot be averse to risk, but entrepreneurs can be smart about the risks they take and how they confront them.
OK. Put yourself in the publisher's shoes in the following conversation.
Me: I got a great idea for a game! It's awesome! It's huge! It's going to revolutionize the genre!!
You: Interesting. What genre?
Me: Maze games.
You: Maze games?
Me: Yeah! Maze games! Pac man was a maze game, and that's one of the hugest games of all time!
You: So what's different about your maze game?
Me: Well, it's just like pac-man, but instead of being a big yellow eating thing, you are the GHOSTS! Huh? Huh? Did I tell you? It's HUGE! Oh we're gonna be RICH!
You: Really. Have you ever made a game like this before?
Me: Well, no. But I used to work in the mail room at Namco.
You: Um... Okay. What do you need from us?
Me: Oh, just a couple million. You know, for marketing and development and cool stuff like a talking clock - I always wanted one of those.
You: And what do we get?
Me: DUH! You get to HELP ME MAKE THE GREATEST MAZE GAME OF ALL TIME!
You: What else?
Me: Well.... you can get your money back, with interest I suppose. And a percent of the sales and stuff.
You: What about the IP rights of this incredible game?
Me: No. You can't have that.
You: Majority share of your company?
Me: No you can't have that either.
You: So basically, you want me to pay for your game, fund your company for... how long?
Me: Oh, I dunno, couple years I guess.
You: Okay, you want me pay for your game, and to fund your company for two years and in return you're offering me nothing except a percentage of the sales and my initial investment back?
Me: Yeah! Isn't it great! You're gonna regret not getting in on this! Whaddya say?
Well... whaddya say? Would you pony up the money?
Yeah. I wouldn't either. That's kinda what we're all saying.
If your game really is all that and a bag of chips (and I sincerely hope it is, because I love great games) then you shouldn't be worried about finding a publisher. You should be worried about completing your first port of the game and making a truckload of money that you can then use to port it to other platforms and make even more money. Simply put, you won't need a publisher if what you're saying is true.