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Banner Saga publisher opens up business for more indie projects

Just as game developers have been splitting off from larger corporations to go independent, so are a few professional game publishers.

Kris Graft, Contributor

February 28, 2014

2 Min Read

Just as game developers have been splitting off from larger corporations to go independent, so are a few professional game publishers. Steve Escalante, formerly of Bethesda Softworks and Zenimax Online Studios, is the general manager of the young "indie" publisher Versus Evil, out of Austin, TX. Founded in September last year, the publishing house's first game is a notable one: Stoic Studio's critically-acclaimed The Banner Saga. Now, following the commercial success of The Banner Saga, Versus Evil is announcing that it's opening up its publishing services to all indies who might need a hand with business development, distribution, marketing and other tasks. "Independent developers are all about being out from under the control of [outside entities], and in control of their own destiny," says Escalante. "In the past, when publishers were talking to studios about a publishing deal, you start talking about [developers] giving up those freedoms -- giving up control over the marketing, control over the development, control over the features and control over the IP. Giving up those things does not spell 'independent.'" Like indie game developers, Versus Evil's plan is to stay small and nimble, and to keep overhead at a minimum with just three on staff. Escalante is joined by director of marketing Georgina Verdon and community director Lance James, both of whom also come from larger companies such as Trion Worlds, Electronic Arts and THQ. Though self-publishing is much talked about, and fierce DIY-styled independence is admired, for many, there is still a need for publishing services. And the small publishers can be less intimidating to small studios. Companies like Devolver Digital publish games from small teams, and are small themselves. Then there are companies like Nicalis and Positech that not only publish games from indies, but also make indie games. Escalante said Versus Evil deals with royalties on a case-by-case basis, but there is still a fairly standard rate, depending on the services dev partners require. And the revenue share for developers is more than double of what Versus Evil gets, he says. Versus Evil doesn't own any of the properties it publishes, and Escalante says he doesn't really want any. That could just complicates matters, and the team would rather focus on PR, marketing, business development and distribution. Versus Evil is planning to release its next game "very soon," says Escalante. A few other agreements are in the works with developers around the globe. Versus Evil is aiming to release four or five games this year. "We can make sure we can give solid royalties. We're going to make money," Escalante says. "Will we knock the world down? No, but these [developers] will do great, and be able to fund their next game from their share. And hopefully we can do this for other games … and hopefully work with [our previous partners] again."

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