What's the point of a mobile game publisher?

On mobile where you can easily self-publish a game, there appears to be little point in asking a publisher to jump onboard with your project. We ask Chillingo why anyone should bother going with a publisher on mobile.
In a mobile ecosystem where anybody can easily self-publish a game for the world to download, there appears to be little point in asking a publisher to jump onboard with your project. Yet there are still plenty of massive mobile game publishers who have multiple games in the App Store top rankings -- so what exactly are these companies offering developers such that they can have such notable success on iOS, Android et al? Chillingo, a subsidairy of Electronic Arts, has previously published plenty of notable titles. Cut the Rope, Contre Jour, DrawRace 2, Anomaly Warzone Earth and Swords and Soldiers have all been released under the Chillingo publishing banner, and gone on to receive reams of downloads. So I put it to the company's COO Ed Rumley -- what's the point of going with a publisher for your mobile game, when it's so easy to self-publish on the various platforms? "There are many reasons and they go beyond sales and marketing," Rumley answers. "We don't simply take a game from a developer and upload it to the App Store... we assign a team of people to complement the developer's existing resource and skill set." This may include producers, graphic artists, advertising specialists and monetization managers, notes the Chillingo boss. "We also dip into the resource of the wider EA organization when necessary. It's really a case of sharing our knowledge based on years of experience."

"Everyone is different in the indie development scene. Some developers are flat out against the idea from the start. For some it's based on past working relationships with publishers."

Rumley is also keen to point out that there's a big difference between self-publishing and self-distribution. "Yes, you can get your game on the App Store or Google Play with relative ease, but simply hitting upload has next to no chance of making your game a success," he notes. "I applaud indie self-publishing success, but it's a competitive space and with 100 games in the top 100 games, you can do the math." Those studios that are planning to self-publish on mobile need a foolproof strategy, he reasons, and having a plan outside of being featured by Apple or Google is essential. This is why Chillingo relies on cross-platform marketing and advertising for its games, rather than crossing fingers and hoping the front page of the App Store beckons. Contre Jour.jpg"These things are simply not an option for many indie developers," he says. "We like to think we're here to better the chances of success." Some developers are just flat out against the idea of having a publisher, he adds, perhaps based on past experience with publishers, or since they want to work at their own pace and follow their artistic vision more closely. "The worst thing a publisher can do is enter into an agreement where they can't bring value to the table," he says. "Ultimately, we work for the developer: they don't work for us." Get more insights on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing on our special digital publishing page.

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