How to Publish Your First Indie Hardcore Game

The publishing path for casual games can be a pretty straightforward: you can concentrate on getting your game to portals such as Big Fish Games to publish your game and make sure you get them quality games over and over.

But what if your game is not a casual game?

What if you have created your dream strategy game that you really enjoy playing, and would like to get it out to the market? This article brings some ideas what you can do with your hardcore game.

Find a publisher interested in hardcore games
Sounds easier said than done, but there are quite many publishers that concentrate on non-casual games. They may publish all kinds of creative games ranging from hardcore strategy to flight simulations to role playing games and more. Here’s couple of them:

  • Matrix Games – a publisher of different genres ranging from strategy games to sports. I recommend checking them out in case you want them to help you with your hardcore game.
  • Meridian4 – a publisher that came to my attention when friend of mine from Frozenbyte told that their hit game Shadowgrounds (and the sequel) used Meridian4 in publishing the game in certain areas of the world.
  • Steam – Valve’s Steam might not be the easiest place to get in to, but their solid player base and technology should be considered anybody who does development for hardcore gamers.

Ask around in different forums (such as indiegamer.com or game producer forums) to find other sites.

Do certain amount of self-promotion
Depending how you want to get the word out of your game, and whether you want to do some self-promotion (to gain publisher interest), you might want to self-promote your game. It is optional to use these systems, and with a help of good publisher you might not need to do much self-promotion at all.

I’ve used my company’s own GameRelease.net system to promote this website and the games I’ve been producing. Due the press release distribution my Hightailed & Highpiled games made it to the PC Zone gaming magazine. After making a Dead Wake game press release, the game was presented in PC Gamer US zombie issue not long ago. I’ve also got journalist and publisher interest thanks to making the press releases. While press releases can be “hit or miss” type of promotion (you gotta have a good story to tell, or they are waste of money), they can work well if done properly.

Since I operate the system I’m biased to recommend GameRelease.net, but at the time of writing there’s around 50 other companies who have access the system and seem to think pretty positively about it.

There are other press release services that you can use, so do a little bit of research create and prepare to make some press releases about your product. Even if your primary aim is to get a publisher, a well done press release can attract not only journalists but different companies who might want to deal with you.

What can you expect from publishers?
There are no any strict rules that would be written in stone, and publishers tend to offer 30-50% deal. That amount can be from net profit, so expenses such as bandwidth or processing fees might be counted first.

I think there’s some guidelines that people could think about when approaching a publisher. I didn’t invent these guidelines: these are something I’ve seen other people experiencing and something I personally follow:

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is: Not always, but a healthy amount of skepticism is fine. Promises are easy to give, so when a company makes an offer for you take your time to check out different forums and see what other people say about the company. If nobody has ever heard about the company, then I’d be cautious until I see cash (and I mean cash: not only on bank account).
  • US companies can be as crooky (or good) as “foreign” companies: Let’s face it. There are good companies and there are bad companies all over the world. Some big companies might be ripping off small indies since they know “they can get away with it”. Some Russian companies might pay well for you to get game for them. I wouldn’t pay too much attention to the nationality. There are honest (and dishonest) people everywhere.
  • Don’t pay too much attention to percentages, it’s the $$$ amount that counts. 100% out of zero is nothing, but 20% out of million is better. In the end you should be watching how much $$$ the deal brings, not concentrate only to the deal percentage.
  • Don’t make exclusive deals (unless you get paid well in advance): I think this is very important to remember. If you make a 2-year exclusive deal for 70% and realize that the company is doing nothing to make your game sell, you are in a bad situation. I would never make an exclusive deal unless I’d be paid a really well in advance. By “well paid” I mean maybe 80-90% of the sales I’d expect to ever see.

Bear in mind that these are just guidelines, not something that necessarily applies to your situation. If I were you, I wouldn’t read just one blog article to make up the decisions about my game. I’d read the article and then ask around other people for more ideas.

Good luck with your game release.