Publish your game
Phil Elliot, Director of indie Publishing at square enix West, Details What it takes to get your game noticed by a Publisher
Why is it important to look for a publisher or seek publisher support?
It’s important to start out by saying it’s not impossible to succeed without a publisher. If you have a game that already has people talking, and there’s a good awareness of it, you have a great head start. The reason for working with a publisher (or similar) normally boils down to one or both of two things: investment and marketing.
One thing that’s important to remember is that success is never guaranteed, even with a big publisher on board. The benefit of working with partners is to optimise an opportunity – but a lot can change in the games industry in 12 months (see 2017 as an example…) and it’s normally at least that amount of time between signing a game and releasing it.
Is self publishing viable in this market?
To be frank, it’s probably only viable for a small number of teams at this point. There are indies who already have a great following and reputation, and in fact some of these – who were probably releasing games six or seven years ago when there were far fewer releases – are becoming mini-publishers themselves.
The thing that really matters (other than the game being interesting/good, of course!) is that people find out about it, and have enough information to make a decision to buy it. There are numerous ways to get attention for games today – press, streamers, content creators – but if you’re a small, lesser known team with an original IP, then make sure you have somebody working on building that awareness from day one. Go to events, meet press, build relationships, and get your work out there.
The more you do at the start, the better position you’ll likely be in when it matters the most.
That said, there will always be those games that capture people’s attention and probably succeed more alone than they would if they were signed to a publisher.
Very rarely do these come from nowhere to be an overnight sensation though – so if you do self-publish, it’s wise to plan what you’ll do in the event the game fails. And even if that happens, if user reviews are good, keep pushing as much as you’re able, because sometimes all it takes is one influential person to pick it up and rave about it.
What advice would you give for creators looking to write their first pitch to a publisher?
This might be different for different people, but speaking personally I want as much clarity on what the game is going to be as possible. The more you can demonstrate what the finished article will be like, the surer I can be that we’re on the same wavelength.
Try to have as much visual material as possible, and if you can show capability by having a vertical slice or game demo, that’s great. The most impactful pitches might only feature a very small piece of gameplay, but if that piece is at finished quality and really polished, it shows me what you’re capable of and what you’re expecting to create.
Many teams won’t be at that point when it comes to pitching, but in many cases you’ll only get one chance to impress – so do everything you can to make it as strong as it can be.
What do you look for in a game at Square Enix Collective?
This is something that’s changed a bit in the last few years, as we’re affected by the number of releases, just like everything else. The good news for gamers is that the standards of games has steadily increased – though this just pushes the bar higher for developers coming in.
So we’re looking for something that will stand out – maybe that’s in terms of originality, or perspective, or subject. But we don’t have a specific list of genres or settings we look for; we try to judge every game on its own merits.
"YOU'LL ONLY GET ONE CHANCE TO IMPRESS - SO DO EVERYTHING YOY CAN TO MAKE IT AS STRONG AS IT CAN BE" PHIL ELLIOT