Insider Tips on How to Get Your Indie Game Published With a Publisher
I’m an indie developer who has had multiple games hit the Trending Searches and Top Charts with millions of downloads and tons of revenue under my belt. Earlier this year I decided to take all of that knowledge and real world experience and start a game publishing company. Since we are now getting a lot of submissions, I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned being on the publishing side of the fence, as it relates to you getting a publisher to notice and hopefully sign your game.
While my DOs & DON’Ts List might be particular to me and Storm Watch Games, some of the points should also apply to other game publishers.
DO Create an amazing game! I know it’s easier said than done, but it needs to be said.
DO Create an amazing game that can make money. Even though we help our games with monetization strategy and optimization, some people create games as a hobby or as a personal expression of their art and don’t care about or think about how their game will monetize. We love those games as players of games, but as a business, there needs to be a way for the publisher to get a return on their investment or they will go out of business. Publishers going out of business will make baby unicorns cry and nobody wants to see that.
DO Include the name of your game somewhere in the subject line. Subject lines like “Game Publishing” or “Game Submission” without the name of the game are too generic. See our Game Submission E-mail Template for more details.
DO Tell us the name of your game. Seems pretty simple, but we get a lot of submissions that forget to name their game.
DO Tell us your name. You’re submitting your game to a business so provide a real contact name.
DO Send a game play video. Not just a 30 second trailer, but an actual longer video of unique game play.
DO Send a game trailer.
DO Send a screenshot or icon of your game. In a sea of submissions, a good visual will help your submission be remembered.
DO Label all of your files with your name and the name of your game. The name of all the collateral you submit should contain the game name you submit in your e-mail. That way when I’m looking through a batch of submitted videos, I’ll easily be able to follow up with the developers of the ones I like.
DO Keep your submission e-mail simple. There is no need to go into a long story about the origins of your game, or your background, or how well you think the game will do because none of that will matter if your game sucks. Just provide the most relevant facts in your first e-mail. If there is interest from the publisher, you can follow up with more information. I posted an example Game Submission E-mail Template here.
DO Have an iOS version. If you want to be on mobile, you really need to be on iOS. Some publishers focus primarily on iOS games, so if your game is only Android, you’re making it a little harder on yourself.
DO Be flexible or open to ideas. We never publish a game without giving mass amounts of feedback on creativity, game play, monetization, graphics, icons, back-end, etc.. If you are 100% convinced that you are the best thing since Pokemon Go and you’re not changing one line of code or one graphic because your game is perfect, or if you’re not open to new ideas, some publishers may not want to work with you.
DO Be patient. There are tons of game developers and only a handful of publishers. Even though all of our releases hit the top of the charts, Storm Watch Games is not as well known as some of the major publishers like Ketchapp, Chillingo, EA, etc. yet we still get at least a few dozen submissions per week. You can imagine how many submissions the bigger publishers get. Just because a publisher hasn’t immediately responded to your e-mail doesn’t meant they aren’t interested. We respond to 100% of game submissions. When we have time we even give feedback regardless of whether we plan to sign a game or not. That takes a lot of time so be patient.
DO Submit games that are already live. A lot of people ask if we’ll consider games that are already on the App Store. Some publishers may not but I say yes. However, there is a different standard for live games. Be prepared to have details and numbers ready when you submit a game that’s been on the store. You should have answers to questions like…
- What ad networks are you currently using?
- What analytics service are you currently using?
- What push notification service are you currently using?
- How many downloads does your game currently have?
- When was your game first released?
- What is your ARPDAU?
- What is your Day 1 retention?
- What is your Day 7 retention, if applicable?
- What is your Day 30 retention, if applicable?
DON’T Forget to include the name of your game in the subject line of your submission e-mail. Subject lines like “Game Publishing” or “Game Submission” without the name of the game are too generic.
DON’T Submit a TestFlight Beta invite from a name different from your submission e-mail without stating that in your e-mail. If your name is Blue but your developer TestFlight name is Cheese, we won’t know they are both the same person and thus we won’t know how to get in touch with you.
DON’T Label your video “demo” or “gameplay” or “v1” or anything else generic. The name of all the collateral you submit should contain the game name you submit in your e-mail. That way when I’m looking through a batch of submitted videos, I’ll easily be able to follow up with the developers of the ones I like.
DON’T Be a jackass. The publisher / developer relationship is a long term one, if done right. There are way too many games out there being submitted for a publisher to want to partner up with somebody they don’t like. Yes, I technically could publish a game from somebody I didn’t like, but if I’m going to bust my ass trying to make a developer rich, I’d like to know I was doing it for a good person. Some publishers may not care, but I do.
DON’T Think that publishers owe you anything. This goes with the don’t be a jackass rule above. If you have the attitude that publishers barely do anything to earn their money, don’t waste your time contacting publishers.
DON’T Submit your game to publishers if you are already deep into negotiations with another publisher. If Publisher A wants to sign your game but you say you can’t do it yet because you’re still negotiating with Publisher B, it doesn’t make you look good.
DON’T Submit a game that was created from a template from a source code site. If any publisher wanted to publish a game like that, we could just buy the template ourselves.
DON’T Submit a simple Buildbox game that looks like all the other simple Buildbox games. If you pick a Buildbox preset, change the colors and hit export, that game is not worthy of getting a publishing deal.
DON’T contact the publisher one hour after they’ve accepted your TestFlight invite asking why they haven’t contacted you about publishing your game yet. Yeah, that’s happened before.
DON’T Send links with short links. Just send the raw link. No bit.lys or anything like that.
That’s all I have for now. I might revise this list as more comes to mind.