Recently I got some questions about the game markets and distributing your game.
What markets are there? Where can you sell games? what are the more profitable areas etc… As an indie getting a game to EBgames is not as easy as other avenues I am sure.
There are different ways to get your game to customers. It is hard to say which are the easiest or hardest way to reach customers: different ways suit better for others. the same way it is difficult to evaluate which are the most profitable ways to distribute your game. There are developers who have made millions by self-publishing, there are also game developers who haven’t seen a cent even with a big real game publisher. Getting in top 10 game in any category is hard no matter what you try. It is important to note that different distribution channels offer different benefits: portals for example can be a great vehicle for casual games to reach their target market – self-publishing a casual game is not impossible, but the most profitable casual games are sold via portals. On the other hand, there are game developers who strictly self-publish their game through an eCommerce service. These developers do all the development, marketing, advertising, game promotion by themselves. On the other hand, there are developers who have only made games and sold their shareware game rights to a publisher. These developers get one time fee which they use to fund their next project.
One way is to self-publish in the net. This is a very common way for game developers to start selling their game. There are several eCommerce providers which usually take a 10% fee for their services and each provider might have little different services (like affiliate services, registration key generators etc.). Some eCommerce partners: BMTmicro, eSellerate, Plimus, Share*It! and RegSoft. I personally use eSellerate and I’m happy with their service. Plimus or BMT Micro are fine options as well. It depends what you need and want. To be able to self-publish your game you also need to have a web host and handle all marketing and advertising (among many other things) by yourself.
Other way is to contact (shareware/indie/casual) game publishers. There is lots of competition between the publishers and it’s hard to say which are the “best publishers”. PopCap can publish your game. GarageGames can publish your game. Indiepath can publish your game. And there are many others to choose from. I don’t know which ones are the best. You have to check them and ask from them. You can ask recommendations from people who have dealt with them. Some publishers offer non-exclusive deals along with exclusive deals, and can take anything from 30-70% from net/gross sales – depending on publisher.
(Big) game publishers usually finance the game development, sometimes by paying to the developers and sometimes by paying an internal staff of developers or a studio. Some of the largest publishers in the world are Activision, Atari, EA and Vivendi Universal. Getting to develop with these publishers is a tough job and requires years of experience. The development costs are counted in millions of dollars, compared to thousands of dollars (or even some hundreds!) independent game developers can use. It’s worth noting that independent developers aren’t considered independent anymore if they have a big publisher behind them.
Physical retail stores: it’s possible to make deals where developer usually gets an advance payment and/or share of the royalties. The deal is made between a developer and a retail store. There are different ways to approach (ranging from direct phone calls to press releases). Usually these deals are made separately for each country. These deals can bring some fast cash flow for a short period of time, but aren’t perhaps the best long term solution.
Popular way to publish your game are the game portals. Portals are increasingly popular way to get exposure. They offer various games and have massive amount of players. Their fees typically range from 50-65% net sales. Some popular portals: Arcade Town, Big Fish Games, GameHouse, Grab, MiniClip, MSN, Pogo, Real Arcade, Reflexive Arcade, TotalGaming and Yahoo Games
Content delivery systems: Valve’s Steam offers a solution for distribution. Darwinia used this method to get in the market. Steam was the first attempt of a big company to distribute games digitally. There are more coming.
It isn’t right to say which one is the best distribution method – in fact, it would be quite impossible. It depends so much what you are doing: casual or other games? Development only? Development and publishing? What are your goals for your company? For new and more advanced game producers I recommend looking more closely (1) self-publishing, the (2) portals and perhaps the (3) retail deals. I believe the portals are essential for casual game developers, but the first option is fundamental goal for anyone who is going to build business. I believe learning marketing decision, distribution models and business strategies are vital for anyone who is going to build their own success story. I believe there are people who recommend differently, but I believe that if you are trying to achieve business success then learning to build business along with building games is very important.
Hopefully this article gave you some perspective about the possibilities of game developers to reach their customers. There are various ways to build your business, and these distribution methods offer some options to combine and choose from.