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Wooga: Being a developer will make us a strong publisher, too

Gamasutra speaks to Wooga CEO Jan Miczaika about why it's booting up publishing functions, how they work, what they're looking for, and why its developer background will be a real asset.

Christian Nutt, Contributor

August 9, 2013

4 Min Read

Prominent Berlin-based casual game studio Wooga has recently announced a new publishing program that it is pilot-testing with Copenhagen-based Tactile Entertainment for its game Airheads Jump. According to COO Jan Miczaika, Wooga is "first and foremost a game developer, and that's not going to change." But that is precisely why he feels the company will make a good publisher. Around Wooga, the management team saw "internal resources and capabilities which smaller developers can use: marketing, customer care, localization, community management, knowledge about free-to-play and monetization." They decided to make them available to external developers too, something the company's structure made possible. The goal is to plug these small, external teams into the Wooga machine the same way its internal game teams do: "We treat a game coming from the outside the same way we'd treat an internal game," Miczaika says. "They use our BI tool, we have Facebook groups where people bounce off ideas, give feedback, and so on. It's very closely integrated. "It's not completely altruistic, but we thought we have a lot of stuff -- resources and knowledge. How can we help these people?" Like other comers in this space -- Yodo1 and Facebook also just announced their own publishing efforts -- this is very much about empowering discovery in an incredibly crowded space. "There's great indie teams out there," says Miczaika. "Just the App Store has become very challenging. The top is kind of frozen right now. You see the companies over and over. User acquisition is getting more expensive. We estimate there are 4,000 new games coming out every month."

Working With Wooga

Wooga's approach is a far cry from the "obsolete" traditional publishing model, which Miczaika describes as: "a developer makes something and throws it over a wall to a publisher." For Airheads Jump, Wooga worked "a lot on the metagame, on the polishing." "What is important to me is that we're a developer, first. Which doesn't mean that publishing is less important, but it has a lot of ramifications," Miczaika says. "One thing we make very clear which is maybe something which is also different from other publishers -- we say explicitly the product lead has the final say, we give input and we have an opinion, but it's the same way for our internal teams and our external teams. Whoever has the vision for the product has the final say." Of course, that person also carries the responsibility for "making it work," says Miczaika. Wooga offers input based on its understanding of player tastes and analytics, and then says "you can deviate from this if you want." "We help them make an informed decision based on analytics and prior A/B tests. [But] I think having the final say is very important," Miczaika says.

What Wooga Wants

Miczaika says that Wooga is looking for "primarily mobile" developers from around the globe offering "everything from gameplay prototypes to games which are in progress." "I have one guy who's dedicated, who goes to all of the indie developer conferences and looks at a ton of prototypes," Miczaika says. He says there are two main criteria to building a relationship with Wooga: 1. "The concept, or the prototype, has to be promising." 2. "We really closely look at the team to see if these are people we want to work with, who share a similar idea of making games, and that's important." Miczaika's goal is to build long-term relationships. "[Airheads Jump developer] Tactile, they have a whole pipeline of games coming up. The agreement that we reached, while it's not legally binding, is that we'll do multiple games together, and I think that's a perfect scenario." There is, of course, the business question. Up front, there's this: "we don't fund," so don't come to Wooga asking for money. "Generally, it's a rev split, but also a very, very fair split," says Miczaika. "The best way is everyone makes money and everyone is happy." "We take a very long term approach to building a company. Gaming is such a small and well connected industry that if you want to be in gaming for 10 years or more, you have to treat people fairly, you have to stick to your word, and just build a sustainable model where everyone's happy," Miczaika says. For more information, visit Wooga's publishing site.

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