Welcome to Quick Dev Insights. A series of bite-sized interviews with people who work in and around the games industry, from indie to AAA. A full list of these interviews can be found here and you can follow my Twitter to find out when new ones are released!
Publishing Indie Games with Jeff Giasson
Hi! I’m Jeff Giasson. I am the owner/founder of Meridian4, an indie game publisher. Meridian4 was started in 2004 with the goal of helping developers in Europe bring their games to North American retail chains like Wal-Mart, Gamestop, Best Buy, etc. When Steam entered the scene we were quick to see the future of digital distribution. In fact, Meridian4 is partner #17 on Steam. Moving forward I am helping developers to get out of the mindset that Steam is the be-all. There are other options, in conjunction with Steam that should not be ignored.
Do you think all game developers need a publisher, can or should they release games on their own?
I don’t think indie devs need a publisher IF they are willing to put in the effort to market their game. Unfortunately, I see far too often that devs wait too long to get the word out about their game. The moment you draw something, code 1 line, should be the trigger to start marketing. If you need help, or would rather concentrate on development, or if marketing isn’t your cup of tea, then the right publisher can help.
What do you like to see when people pitch a game to you?
I look for these key things:
- The look. Is there something unique that grabs my attention. This can be screenshots or concept art, but I believe a video is best.
- The feel. I want to play. If you have a demo/vertical slice, include it. If there are areas with bugs, placeholders, etc don’t stress. The right person should be able to see past those. Include a ‘known issues’ doc if you’d like.
- The budget and timeline. Are you asking for funding? How much? For what? For how long?
- Competitors. I like to see if the devs have thought about marketing. For me, a good indication of this is if they’ve bothered to identify their competitor KPIs.
How have you seen/experienced publishing games on Steam change over the years?
The short answer is; a lot! In the beginning, you spoke with the same person to present games, discuss launches, promotions, etc. I get why Steam had to move to automation, but I believe they lost something along the way. Steam is a machine now that has lost some of its personality.
Another major change came when Steam opened the floodgates and allowed access to any game. Unlike today, way back Steam curated games that were to be sold on their platform. Allowing access for all, in my opinion, watered-down Steam as any and all games (as long as you pay $100) can get on Steam.
At the end of the day, however, Steam is a private company and it can do whatever they want. But it is now more important than ever to diversify your income streams, meaning do not rely on Steam alone to generate revenue from your game. There are many options out there, take advantage of them!
How does having your own experience in making games help you when it comes to publishing other developers?
I can relate. I’ve been there and seen it all so I know when talking with a dev, whether they tell me directly or not, if they need extra help, time off, a little push, or someone that will just listen. No matter the profession it is very easy to get bogged down in the trenches. Sometimes you need someone to help you take stock of the project's priorities.
What are some of the common mistakes you see indie devs make with their marketing / Steam page, if they are going it alone?
Not starting marketing immediately and consistently right at the beginning of development. And that starts with getting a Steam page up right away. Remember that your game page is fluid meaning that once your page is approved you can change it as frequently as you want. So get something up that is presentable asap and then tweak it. Now every single post, article, video, etc you point people to that page and ask them to wishlist.
Where to find more about you / things you're working on?
Yeah, I’m pretty bad with social media. The best places to find me are