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4 min read
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Earn a living, quit the App Store

there's too much insanity in the app economy. Look for green pastures by partnering with a publisher

The infinite loop

For indie devs, often times it goes like this

1. Have a game idea
2. Build for iOS and Android
3. Launch by tweeting, blogging, reaching out the Kotaku

One of two things can happen

  1. The game takes off, you claim to be the indie who "made it", and start hanging out digitally with Notch and AdamAtomic. Stop reading this post if you're in this category.
  2. The game doesn't take off, you starting doing free-app-days (FAAD), price manipulations, etc.

After the initial FAAD euphoria, if the game still doesn't take off, your game gets piled under 1000 new games that are published each day. 

"Tough luck", we say. But we want to keep making games, because that's our passion. So we go back to the drawing board and start over, head held high.


Quit the loop

and enter the games publishing industry. 

It's similar to the book publishing industry: authors write kickass novels, find someone to publish them. Author collects a royalty each month, lives happily ever after.


But the whole point of the App Store is to remove the publishers!

Well, it was in 2007. Not so much in 2012. Especially when we've got 1 million apps in each app store around the world. How do you even reach your target audience?


Marketing isn't myth

If you look at the top 20 games on the App Store, they're mostly heavily-marketed social games with VC funding. They're able to maintain their rankings because there's a crack team dedicated to spending money on ads that bring in new players, which convert to dollars via in-app purchases. 

How do you compete with that? By having a "unique" game that nobody's played before? Not going to help much after the first 1000 downloads.

People say great games rise to the top. That's true. The problem is, virtually everyone has a great game now. The smarter developer says, "I'll gather a pile of cash, and use it to smother the competiton".

Not everyone has a pile of cash sitting around. But everyone knows someone who's sitting on cash. *Cough* Publishers.

OK, how do I find my sugar daddy?

Exactly like this

  1. contact publishers
  2. sell them licenses to your game
  3. collect upfront payment, and royalty checks after that

It this worth my time?

I can quote an example from my 3 mates who made Kingdom Rush. They partnered with ArmorGames, a huge games publishing portal. Kingdom Rush was already a great game by itself, but the marketing arm at ArmorGames coated the game with genius. Kingdom Rush is the #1 strategy game on the iPad.

More numbers please?

At our startup, marketJS, we often get developers coming in and selling 4-figure game licenses, collecting the money upfront, and cashing in on 4-figure monthly royalty checks. The beauty of partnering with publishers is, you can always negotiate on a deal.

On an exclusive license, you sell to one publisher at a higher price. On a non-exclusive license, you sell at a lower price, but to unlimited publishers. Some publishers want to split the revenue, promising you X dollars per download or in-app purchase. Everything goes.

Let the marketers market

Being indie developers, it's tough to build a great game AND market. It's like training to be the gladiator AND selling tickets to the colosseum at the same time

The publisher knows how to market your game, where and when. They've got the stats, the people, and the money. You created the awesome masterpiece, and now let the publisher handle the rest.

Give games publishing a shot. If you feel choked up in the app economy, find a publishing partner who'll help you succeed.

PS: My next post will be about HTML5 games, and how Wooga made a mistake by leaving the space.

About our startup

marketJS connects game developers with publishers. We started with a razor sharp focus on HTML5 games, now supporting developers from multiple platorms





 

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