At the GamesBeat event a few weeks back, Benchmark Capital’s Mitch Lasky stated that publishers were originally “a response to scarcity of shelf space,” a dilemma that doesn’t exist in the mobile/social space. Gaming Insiders founder David Kaye echoed that sentiment during a panel at Casual Connect yesterday on modern publishing, citing “attention” as the new resource developers are fighting for.
Although that’s something publishers can (and do) help with, we live in an age where it’s possible to go it alone. Kaye pointed out things like social distribution, platform promotion, press coverage, and cross promotion from existing games as promotional avenues developers can freely use to their advantage. Open-ended platforms like Facebook and iOS that enable developers to employ tactics like these have done a lot to shatter the monopoly that traditional publishing methods once held on the industry. Gone are the days when publishers had total say in which games saw the light of day.
But Kaye and fellow speaker Michael Witz (Founder and CEO of Mob Science) didn’t just spend a half hour calling publishers useless. In fact, Witz acknowledged the fact that a publishing deal can take your game places you may not be able to take it independently.
“If your ambition is to reach markets a bit further afield… you should consider working with a publisher who specializes in that region,” he said.
Witz also contacted a handful of publishers – including Atari, SCE, Gaia Online – in an effort to better understand what they currently do and how much work they put into helping out developers. In the mobile space, publishers tend to offer on average a budget between $100,000-$250,000 for a game. They can also provide outside input and suggestions, though that isn’t something every content creator is interested in.
In the eyes of Kaye and Witz, the platform holders have become the new gatekeepers. Companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple now have the biggest say in what games are released, and they have a vested interest in getting as many to market as they can. As such, it’s a fantastic time to be a developer — especially if you want total control over every facet of your product.
With so much change afoot, and the definition of publisher growing more nebulous by the day, one has to wonder what, if anything, they’ll do to adapt.