Featured How to publish mobile game, and avoid making my mistakes

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by litebox, Apr 20, 2019.

  1. litebox

    litebox New Member

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    Hey game devs, I would like to share my story of a game launch. I would like to tell about traps, lie in wait for indie-developer while he works with publisher.

    Story of my game has started in 2015 – I’ve started learning Unity3d, and as a result I made my first (actually, second, which I’m not shy to show) game: Out of Brakes – runner, where player drives a car and must avoid obstacles, while speed constantly increases:
    image.png
    Development took about a year. Then I decided to launch it by myself: I thought I made super-duper-awesome game, killer of Crossy Road and so on. I thought I didn’t need a publisher and game will be a hit as soon as I press “Publish” button. Well, that was a good experience: I could throw a stone in the ocean storm - the impact would be the same as self-launch. This experience was very helpful, and I started to think more practically: we often hear success stories from here and there, and we think we can repeat them easily, missing a lot of details and complexity by the way, focusing on results - success.

    Thus, wiping tears from face and analyzing situation I understood 3 things:
    1. Safety in numbers - develop game by yourself - it’s fun, but not very productive
    2. I need a publisher - he can value the game unprejudiced, and advice on what should be improved, he can create a marketing strategy and increase chances of featuring
    3. I need to continue creating games in the same genre and setting - this shortens development time and produces results quicker, thereby decreases risk of fails
    I took these points into account while developing next game - Blocky Racing:


    This time the game was developed by two people, game was based on original Out of Brakes – this allowed us to focus on gameplay, and evolve runner into racing game with tracks, rivals and car’s upgrades. When development was done, we started looking for a publisher.

    Eventually, triumph of indie-developer: after dozens of press-releases, negotiations and rejections the publisher was found, agreement signed, game released and even featured in AppStore - we were over the moon! But, as we soon discovered, fly of ointment awaited us in the future.

    Few words about publisher: Malaysian publisher NexxStudio, that specializes on mobile casual games. To all appearances NexxStudio consists from one person - Mr. Ken Neth Wong.

    After the game launch (January 2018) pace of work increased: work on bugs, work on new features and so on.

    As well, we were waiting for 2 months period from launch date – approximately at this time publisher should send us first Report about income and expenses, and we could get our first earnings. And from this point the most interesting part has started: publisher began to delay with Reports. At first, he wrote that Ad Networks didn’t provide him data about earnings still, then - that he was on game conference and didn’t have time to calculate income, then - that he was super busy with launching of another game and so on and so on. At the same time, we actively worked on patch releases: “make haste while the sun shines” - said publisher… we awoke in September of 2018 - we realized we needed help.

    We found a lawyer, and when she read the contract, she became horrified: neither point of contract defended developer’s rights, and on the contrary: 100% points of contract defended publisher against developer.

    In this situation the lawyer advised us not to make any sudden moves, and try to negotiate. Pace of development started to slowdown: publisher was giving us the runaround about Reports, we were promising him new builds. At the same time NexxStudio got notification from developer of another mobile game: they claimed, that title Blocky Racing breaks their TM of game Blocks Racer, and that we should remove or rename our game.

    We started work on new patch: we were changing title Blocky Racing to Blocks Racing, and publisher was assuring us that he will prepare all Reports, calculate all earnings and send us our share. He sent us advance $4k as a gesture of goodwill. We listened open-mouthed, launched a patch, after that publisher got in touch with us a few times, and in December of 2018 even wrote, quotation:

    “I’ve missed the few deadline that I've set and given you. Can you give me one more weekend to address it? Otherwise we will terminate the contract and in turn you are free to republish it (you will still be entitled to the money owed to you). Hope that's a fair self declared ultimatum”

    Of course, the weeks went by - no more actions from publisher’s side, and he stopped communicating with us at all.

    From this situation we draw a few conclusions:
    1. Draw up contracts with a lawyer - it helps to avoid many problems
    2. Discuss list of changes you have to implement before launch, and state them in the Agreement: publisher promised us that we would launch the game in 2-3 month period, but in reality it took a whole year, and most of the time we were waiting for his feedback
    3. Know all the answers - when you see problems, don’t work by inertia, do something over inaction
    4. Sadly, but there are a lot of bad people in the world - they don’t play by the rules and we need to keep this in mind
    Thus, it’s been over a year from the launch date. The game hasn’t been updated for a long time, monthly earnings drop to $1.5k.

    It has been an apathy period, I thought I need to condone with failure, and move forward: do the things I like, develop new games and choose publisher smartly next time. Gross income, based on data from App Annie is about $50k. This is not the amount of money to go to Court - I thought.

    But, at some point of time I realized, that this is MY game, MY intellectual property and MY wasted time, and I realized it’s worth fighting for.

    I want to achieve next:
    1. NexxStudio should remove game from stores and stop benefit of my game
    2. NexxStudio should pay our share from game earnings
    3. Popularize consequences of my work with NexxStudio and Mr. Ken Neth Wong to community
    Our lawyer worked up next strategy:
    1. Send Claim Letter to NexxStudio: we notify Mr. Ken Neth Wong, that he violates the Agreement, and if he does not perform his duties during a month, we break the Agreement unilaterally
    2. If NexxStudio ignores Claim Letter, we break the Agreement and notify publisher about this
    3. Agreement states that all claims should be considered only by California Court, USA. In this case we need help of Law Firm from USA, which could act on behalf of my name against NexxStudio, and proceed affair to the Court as a last resort
    4. What NexxStudio is doing with developers is a fraud, and we are looking for Malaysian Law Firm to help us to expose this and stop it
    Two first points of strategy are already done, and didn’t give any result. I would not like to apply this affair to the Court, because it could take a lot of time and money, but I want to get what I have fairly earned. And I want to stop NexxStudio from making money on developers, like me.

    I'm convinced of one thing: the worst scenario, that could be - is doing nothing. I hope this post will draw attention of developers, like me. I’m asking you to help me spread this information. I think, this experience could be helpful for everyone. Thank you all very much!

    P.S.: Original Post on Reddit
     
  2. Crichton333

    Crichton333 New Member

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    That was solid, the game looks great. Found some screenshots on the web but too bad its no longer available for download. I guess they removed it in the end.
     
  3. litebox

    litebox New Member

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    Thank you, Crichton333. Yes, our first small victory: we forced publisher to remove game from stores.
     
  4. JessieZhou

    JessieZhou New Member

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    If you are interested in publishing it in China, I'd like to offer you localization and promoting strategy while you keep the charge of the game.
     

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