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Chillingo: Ruthless mobile platform has "no room for anything except perfection"

Chillingo: Ruthless mobile platform has "no room for anything except perfection"

Wed 28 Nov 2012 8:03am GMT / 3:03am EST / 12:03am PST
MobileBusinessPublishing

COO Ed Rumley explains why independent developers need a mobile game publisher

Chillingo bills itself as "The Premier Games Publisher" and not without reason; in its ten-year history the company has published such hit mobile titles as Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. Acquired by Electronic Arts in late 2010, Chillingo continues its mission of publishing the best mobile games from a wide variety of independent developers. GamesIndustry International had a chance to talk to Chillingo's COO Ed Rumley about the state of the mobile games market and how publishing mobile games is changing.

Rumley makes the case for developers to publish mobile games through Chillingo. "Lots of people talk about the role of a publisher because it's easy to put a game on an App Store nowadays," says Rumley. "We always remind people there is a huge difference between self-publishing a game and self-distribution. The role of a publisher like Chillingo is to do far more than just upload a game onto an App Store. Today's market is extremely competitive, there are dozens or hundreds of games launching every day whether it's on iOS or Android or Windows. Our role is to help navigate this minefield."

"The number of independent developers that are coming to Chillingo is up 15 to 20 percent over last year"

Ed Rumley

The increasing number of games on the market has definitely had an effect on Chillingo. "What we are seeing today is an increased amount of developers who are coming to us on a daily basis," Rumley says. "The number of independent developers that are coming to Chillingo is up 15 to 20 percent over last year. Which is either a testament to the great work we're doing, or it's the recognition of developers that they need help in the market."

Customer acquisition costs are increasing in the mobile marketplace, while the number of games continues to grow rapidly. Independent developers are finding it harder and harder to get a substantial audience for their games, and Chillingo is ready to help. "The barriers to entry are getting greater and greater," Rumley says. What does Chillingo do for the developer? "Half of our role is getting a game ready for market. By that I mean making sure the balance is there, making sure the game is fun, and making sure the monetization is correctly implemented. If you don't get that right, you're not going to have success acquiring consumers in the first place. The market is far more competitive today than it was even two or three years ago. If you look at the fragmentation in the markets, it's even greater. That's where I think Chillingo really comes out because we help navigate that for indie developers."

1

Catapult King.

Fragmentation is a bigger issue in Rumley's view than just the variety of hardware and software amongst Android devices. "I think there are deeper levels of fragmentation than that," Rumley adds. "We always say, 'Fragmentation is our friend.' It's this complexity of markets which is why indie developers are increasingly using us. The fragmentation comes in not only business models - people talk about pay per download, paymium, and freemium games, and free-to-play games - all these different kinds of business models, but then there's the fragmentation of hardware. On top of that you've got fragmentation in distribution, which is where Chillingo works very closely with EA to make sure we have very full distribution. As an example, we can take an Android game and distribute it to well over 200 carrier channels around the world."

The global distribution picture for mobile software can be complicated, according to Rumley. "On Android, you may want one business model for Google Play and a different business model for the carrier market. That's all to do with the billing SDKs and the complexities that brings. That's why we're here, to talk to developers and say here's what we can do. We look at their games as brands, and how do we monetize this game over the next 24 or 36 months. As an example, Feed Me Oil, which we launched around two years ago, we've continued to work with the developer and that game now appears on Windows Phone 7 and Android, and it's broadly available."

These games are not just one-time events, and Chillingo's involvement continues as the game does. "You can have a strategy, but until a game is live you really don't know what you're going to have to do," Rumley offers. "You have to look at metrics, and the consumer is king in our eyes. Chillingo assigns a producer to every single developer that we partner with. That producer will stay with that partner for the life of the product."

"We're not seeing a reduction in the amount of developers, we're just seeing better and better quality content"

Ed Rumley

Publishing for tablets brings some differences that need to be addressed, Rumley acknowledges. "From a product perspective, we always want to work with the developer and make sure their product is appropriate for the platform. As an example, you want to utilize the largest screen size, and you want to make sure the buttons are reachable with your thumbs - that they haven't just been placed proportionately with the iPhone version or the S III version."

What are the biggest challenges for 2013? "People in the market talk about freemium, and where does pay-per-download stand, and it's all about freemium and monetization of apps. Monetization of apps will definitely be something we're keeping a close eye on," says Rumley. "What we want to do is publish games which consumers want without feeling they have to keep getting into their wallet. There's a fine line there. If you look at a game like Storm the Train, which launched a few days ago in the App Store, Storm the Train is currently in the Top Ten free charts around the world and has a perfect balance of monetization. I think that's the trend we're seeing; it's just very difficult to get the balance right. The market's changing. Independent developers certainly don't have enough experience. We're in a very fortunate position that we're part of EA, so we can talk regularly to our colleagues at EA Mobile and share best practices. I think the monetization of apps is a big challenge."

2

Storm the Train.

Developers looking for a magic formula to make sure a gem does well will be disappointed, Rumley believes. "I don't think there is a magic formula; just experience. The business development team is looking for content that has certain things in particular that we feel are appealing to the mass market. We're platform/genre agnostic; we're looking for that curb appeal in a game, quality and everything else we feel is going to drive that game to the top of the market. It isn't a simple equation of two plus two. Chillingo is ten years old as an organization and has always been involved in mobile content. There's not many companies with the amount of experience that we have. If you look at our producers, they've worked on incredible hits, ranging from Angry Birds and Catapult King and Feed Me Oil. We've got an incredible depth and range of experience, and it's that experience that makes the difference."

Rumley sees a steady improvement in the games Chillingo finds. "Hardware is clearly improving, and one of the trends we're seeing is the quality of work coming out of the indie market. You only need to look at an iPhone game today versus the quality of an iPhone game five years ago; you may blur them together in your mind, but they are significantly different. That's because the hardware that's in your pocket now is just staggeringly powerful. There will always be better and better games, but more and more developers are coming to Chillingo. We're not seeing a reduction in the amount of developers, we're just seeing better and better quality content.”

"The California Gold Rush of app fever is gone, and developers need help now"

Ed Rumley

Despite the increasing number of developers Chillingo is seeing, the company won't be publishing more titles. "We're publishing fewer games, but we're publishing on more platforms," Rumley said. "The bottom line is the market is extremely, extremely competitive and there is no room for anything but brilliance." The days of throwing together an app and tossing it on the store in a few weeks are long past, Rumley adds. "The California Gold Rush of app fever is gone, and developers need help now."

There are many more companies approaching mobile game developers and offering more and more services under their umbrella, but Rumley doesn't see them as serious competition for a publisher like Chillingo. "It's certainly not a problem which we face today," Rumley says. "These tools have been around a while. I could write a book today, but it doesn't make me an author if I was to put it out as an ebook. I can hire an agency to go chuck a press release out there, but it still doesn't make me an author. There are people out there selling certain services, but you need a big collection of these services to make you potentially successful. If I look at the Chillingo organization, what we do is expand the indie developer's organization. If you look at a game like He-Man from a large organization like Mattel, what we're doing is assigning QA resource, creative art direction, a sales team, PR and and marketing, and producers. Their team has virtually grown very rapidly. Most companies we deal with just like making games, and they don't want to publish them."

3

Feed Me Oil.

Chillingo is still seeing new developers entering the market, according to Rumley, though many of their games come from developers that are already partners. "We get a huge amount of the games that we work on are from existing partners or from developers we've never met before but are introduced by existing partners. Games like PuzzleCraft, that's a game that came to us and I'd never heard of the developer, and it's done exceptionally well. These companies just keep coming out of the woodwork, it never fails to amaze, the amount of developers out there."

For developers who are contemplating getting into mobile games, Rumley has some advice about polish. "I would say, when you think the game is finished, have another look at it and do another month's work on it. Then when you think it's finished, do it again. It's a ruthless platform and there's just no room for anything except perfection."

46 Comments

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
Excellent article containing many gems.
Chillingo are the great British publishing success story of recent years and by some measures must be the biggest game publisher based here.
Certainly their success is a mirror opposite of what has happened to the British consoles publishers.
To a large extent they keep their light under a bushel and let the products talk for themselves. They have really mastered the art of app marketing.
And this is so true about FTP mobile games: "there is no room for anything but brilliance."
Mobile games to succeed need to be made to far higher production values than console games.

Posted:A year ago

#1

Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer

482 293 0.6
Yea I'm going to pass on that. It's been proven too many times that you don't need a publisher at all. Yes they can throw money at marketting but, word of mouth has already become far more important than traditional ads and it's already been shown that the new social media set don't even tend to look at them.

Posted:A year ago

#2

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
@Peter Dwyer

The most powerful marketing tool available for mobile games is cross promotion. This is why indies are at a massive disadvantage. And why publishers with a big catalogue out there are at a huge advantage.

Posted:A year ago

#3

Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer

482 293 0.6
@Bruce

You miss the point of being an Indie at all. It's not to end up in the pocket of a publisher and yet again go into the cycle of compromising, relying on them for funding and then ultimately loosing all control of your own companies direction. Money is important sure but, if it's just about the money, then you're in the wrong business.

Posted:A year ago

#4

Ben Gonshaw Game Design Consultant, AKQA

28 29 1.0
I'm enjoying this conversation a lot. But even penniless indies need to make ends meet, and that means getting app downloads.

Peter's passion is pretty infectious, but with 120 games submissions to itunes EVERY DAY the struggle is not making the game, it's getting the word out. That's been the major challenge for about 2 years.

Cross promotion is the strongest, least risk/highest success rate method to getting noticed. It doesn't mean that you can't launch your own social campaign, but it's a far riskier way to attempt to stand out from the 3200 games released each month.
(ok, so that number includes updates, and resubmissions. It doesn't say how many were approved: source)

Posted:A year ago

#5
Someone might consider me biased as our game is in Chillingo's stable, but I truly think that our game would have not garnered nowhere near the 2 000 000+ downloads without Chillingo. Word of mouth is extremely important as Peter said. The likes of Chillingo can use just that, in the form of cross promotion, reaching millions of gamers. I have also noticed that media picks up on your stuff more easily if you are with Chillingo and I guess that goes for the likes of Bulkipix etc. too.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Kim Soares on 28th November 2012 11:20am

Posted:A year ago

#6

Rodrigo Contreras General Manager, Gamaga

9 6 0.7
@Peter

I'm an indie too and, IMHO, failing to recognize that partening with a publisher has many advantages is just a HUGE mistake. I'm not here just for the money, but I have come to learn that publishers have a lot to teach us... as we have too. Not only how to promote the game, but what exactly is "brilliance".

Posted:A year ago

#7

Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters

528 788 1.5
"Half of our role is getting a game ready for market. By that I mean making sure the balance is there, making sure the game is fun...
How utterly arrogant. Basically saying indies are incapable of making a game fun by themselves?

Posted:A year ago

#8

Jason Avent VP, Studio Head, NaturalMotion

139 140 1.0
Chillingo are a great company and it's good to see success. But do they really have a magic formula that's worth 30-50% of net game revenue? From a quick look at the app store, it seems they've published over 300 games. How many of those are successful?

Posted:A year ago

#9
Popular Comment
The jury is still very much out on whether publishers are as relevant as they think they are on the mobile platforms.

@Bruce Sir you're full of canny insight and enthusiasm about your subject, then you go and say something as clunky as

"Mobile games to succeed need to be made to far higher production values than console games"

Even you know intuitively that as you've phrased that sentence it's not true, logically it can't be true. Seven years into the cycle of a rapidly dwindling console market, to suggest that its possible to get big sales by coasting it - rather than having to work extra hard to squeeze every scintilla of quality from your game - is just silly on its face. I would go into the list of games that are staggering achievements on any platform but you already know them.
What I suspect you mean is that mobile games are more 'customer attentive' what with metrics and being designed for IAP etc - and as business people are always encouraged to pander to their audience, you see this as an extra ounce of superior sauce in the mix of mobile in comparison to console games. Fair enough. But - drum roll - many devs don't see new ways to make people pay as being hugely creatively relevant, though we accept of course why its fantastically relevant to the financial/sales folks.

As game developers we cannot be focused on making new ways to make people pay, because our audience is not driven by finding new ways to shell out. They are after an experience, and if we listened to you when you talk about anything other than sales, we'd be like all those other UK dev studios who caught the business bug, phoned it in creatively and went the way of all flesh.

Posted:A year ago

#10

Rodrigo Contreras General Manager, Gamaga

9 6 0.7
@Dave

What I think they mean is making sure the game is a product. This is not always the case. And 90% of indies don't make products, they make games. And we, indies, tend to be really arrogant our self by just saying that we are all capable of making the perfect game. Just check the app store and you'll see that's not the case.

So, considering that, he is not saying indies aren't capable... he is saying 90% of us aren't. And I agree.

Posted:A year ago

#11

Rodrigo Contreras General Manager, Gamaga

9 6 0.7
@Jason

I agree. Though I agree with the author's bottom line, I think Chillingo it self is not a good publisher. The fact they publish so many games say so. They don't have passion for them, as they self generate predation. Also, releasing so many is just a probability game. They must be saying "one must succeed, right?" And, last but not least, over populating the app store with their games will only benefit their cross promotion platform.

Thinking about it, if you increase the number of games you publish, you decrease your risk to fail. Is just "logical".

Posted:A year ago

#12

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
@Barry Meade
Mobile games are mostly free but otherwise very cheap. They are disposable. And there is an immense amount of choice. So a game has to give an excellent experience with every click from the app store onwards. I have (obviously) worked on the metrics for the funnel and it is frightening how many people you lose and where/why you lose them.
With console games you have the punters $60 in your pocket before they even see one second of game play. So lots of people end up buying lots of turkeys. I know this because of all the secondhand games in Game, often just a couple of days after release.
The nice thing about mobile games is that you are continually working after release to improve the user experience. So a given game just gets better and better. Console games don't have this luxury.
So mobile games need to be better from day one. Then they become even better.

As Eugene Evans was quoted in Edge: “The lower the price, the better your product needs to be,”

Posted:A year ago

#13

Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters

528 788 1.5
Popular Comment
With console games you have the punters $60 in your pocket before they even see one second of game play.
Game demos. Youtube videos. Reviews. You know, those things you constantly ignore every time you make this point because they don't support what you're saying.
So lots of people end up buying lots of turkeys. I know this because of all the secondhand games in Game, often just a couple of days after release.
Because the amount of money they get for a trade in drops off rapidly the older the game is. Plenty of people buy a single player game, play it for hours and hours as soon as they get home until they finish it and take it back to the shop as quickly as possible to get more money back than if they'd taken their time. Then get another game and do the same thing. It doesn't necessarily mean it's a turkey, it just means some people cram their experience into a short period of time. It says nothing about the quality of the game, just maybe the longevity.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dave Herod on 28th November 2012 2:04pm

Posted:A year ago

#14

Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd

321 748 2.3
Jason has made a very good point. Chillingo's network is fantastic. But in spite of the interview saying they want to release fewer games, their catalogue looks like they're taking lots of small bets in the hope of getting another Cut the Rope.

Edit: And last time I checked, GAME's shelves were stacked with second hand games irrespective of their longevity and quality. It's the retailers' business model.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Robin Clarke on 28th November 2012 2:28pm

Posted:A year ago

#15
Popular Comment
@Bruce "Better": you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Posted:A year ago

#16

Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer

482 293 0.6
A publisher can't make your game better. They will simply advise you on what sells for them. In that simple input, they will begin to steer your game into that direction.

You'll start to hear stuff like
"People like fun fluffy characters".
"We've found that our Y style games sell really well and your game X could so easily be a game of type Y"

Don't get me wrong. A lot of indies would love to have a publisher hyping and promoting their games but, I don't think many realise just how much control you need to give up to do so. Even then there is zero actual guarantee of success.

Posted:A year ago

#17

Christopher McCraken CEO/Production Director, Double Cluepon Software

111 257 2.3
Popular Comment
Yes, let's build up the exclusionary publisher system all over again, but this time...let's sell it as "look, we're helping indies!"

You'll excuse me if I call it for what it is: a bucket of turds. It's a way of turning "indies" into "dependies", it's flogging the very system that led to the indies rising up in the first place. It perpetuates a system that is a cancerous tumor. If a game is fun, and someone puts even a moderate amount of effort into promoting it..it can and will succeed.

And that simply must scare the willies out of the big AAA houses. Just like the rise of home recording and independent music scared the RIAA. Just like the independents making films and releasing to youtube scares the MPAA. Same story, different rabid dog. Big publishing concerns will always be around, they will always expound upon these very same things: look at X, and how much success they had! You need us! They only ever offer you two choices: go with publishing with us, or never make any money.

But, the third option, the one they want to avoid you thinking about is: you can self publish, or aggregate with portals. You can do your own marketing. The web is wild and open. You don't need a publisher to secure shelf space at a store anymore. Million Dollar Marketing is nice and all, but it is possible...with some work...to be successful without it. Minecraft, Puzzle Pirates, Tibia...Habbo Hotel....oh yeah, everyone talks about Angry Birds. Big Deal. How about Runescape? Dofus? Examples of folks that started small, marketed themselves with savvy and forethought...and are still kicking, beholden to nobody really because of slow, controlled growth. It should be noticed that people who have runaway growth often wind up in untenable situations. (Zynga anyone?)

You can build your own games, and market them successfully. What you wind up with is slow, controlled growth, which long term is better managed, and you get to keep making the stuff you want. Oh yeah, you also own your own success. But you know, if you want to make a million dollars over night and sell out...that's cool too. What else has Rovio done since Angry Birds? Other than release reskinned/new editions of the same game ad nauseum?

Spare me the diatribe about how AAA can help indies. This is more of the same drivel. The sum of it is: AAA trying hard to co-opt the indie games sector for their own. Pure and simple. You can embrace it if you like, but if you do...at least know what it is you're going to hug.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Christopher McCraken on 28th November 2012 4:11pm

Posted:A year ago

#18

Adrian Cummings Founder and Owner, Mobile Amusements

21 7 0.3
Quite simply er no I don't think so. Thank the lord some of us developers can choose our own destiny and not work for the man any longer.

Posted:A year ago

#19

Anthony Chan Analyst, CPPIB

92 85 0.9
In seeing much of the conversation here, it seems indie developers believe themselves to be martyrs of the gaming world. It is quite an arrogant position. At the end of the day, developers need publishers to help push sales. Games do not just sell themselves. Youtube, word of mouth, viral, and other methods of marketing need to be coordinated by those who are professionals at that.

A good game might sell. But a mediocre game that has a marketing engine to "brainwash" the masses WILL sell. Especially if there is a solid franchise with solid marketing.

The mobile gaming market is not what it was before. The advent of iOS made the concept of mobile gaming accessible and best of all fresh. But we are beyond that "fresh" stage. Developers looking to capitalize now are in for an awakening if they feel a good game is enough. Good games don't top Android market's or iTunes top 100 on release. Good games with a proper marketing engine do.

So as Adrian displays animosity for the "man", he can also pray to Lord that his blood and sweat is as well recieved as say, the next installment of Angry Birds or some other console derivative for mobile.

Posted:A year ago

#20

Christopher McCraken CEO/Production Director, Double Cluepon Software

111 257 2.3
It is quite an arrogant position.
Arrogance is assuming one system can fill the needs of everyone ... provided they sit down, shut up, and to do what they're told.
A good game might sell. But a mediocre game that has a marketing engine to "brainwash" the masses WILL sell. Especially if there is a solid franchise with solid marketing.
Arrogance is assuming the customers are rubes, dupes and idiots. Cows to be milked, using the incantations of your false gods. Namely "Monetization plans via metric driven sales".

Arrogance is sacrificing fun, and playability for the sake of building more dead end skinner boxes.

Indies do not need this. They aren't martyrs either. They're just waiting for the comet to wipe out this latest batch of dinosaurs who have grown old, tired and too slow to move, or react to what players actually desire: fun games, reasonable price, and non insulting and easy ways to get said products.

Arrogance is ignoring that, in favor selecting a bigger bat to beat what is clearly a dead horse even more.

Posted:A year ago

#21

Anthony Chan Analyst, CPPIB

92 85 0.9
@Christopher; Nobody is saying that you have to treat your customer like "rubes, dupes and idiots". But the shareholder does say, don't piss the investment away into the toilet. Nobody says to "sacrifice fun, and playability for the sake of building more dead end skinner boxes", and being with a publisher does not necessarily mean that 100% of the time.

And through your "non-arrogance", you may have to wait another millenia to wipe out the dinosaurs. Black Ops 2 just added another achievement on its wall, and Take-Two is proclaiming their GTA franchise to be a measure of excellence or brilliance.

Gamers are like spectators at a horse race. Once in a while they will bet on an underdog, and some even swear by them. But most of the gamers, the silent majority, make their voices heard with their wallets. They bet on the winner, the safe bet. So statistically what chances do indies have against the "sure wins"? Indies can sometimes even the odds with somebody who gives them a boost, namely a publisher. I look at the publisher as the "big man" behind the game. They know the game, they sometimes cheat the game, and they can be unscrupulous. But they work. Indies who swear by the honor of the sport, who refuse to sell themselves to the "big man", they are truly martyrs. And your "fans" the few who swore by you, will continue swear by you at your grave, all the while claiming it was the "big man" who destroyed you. Martyrdom at its finest.

Posted:A year ago

#22

Adrian Cummings Founder and Owner, Mobile Amusements

21 7 0.3
What can I say, I did my time I don't need another publisher to milk my cow, I can milk my own thanks and its fat enough thank you. This article is like step backwards in time to an outmoded era where suits dictate and others follow. Never again me I have my own agenda and money.

Posted:A year ago

#23

Matt Walker Production Coordinator, Capcom

41 23 0.6
Just curious - to all of the "indie" side being represented here - having gone indie, have you found at least enough monetary success to keep you afloat? (Honest question.)

Posted:A year ago

#24
This is the beauty of mobile development...

Some people are building a business and are purely focused on making profit. This includes publishers.

And guess what... some people are interested in making a GAME for others to play. Fancy that...

Really want to get rid of publishers? Create a not-for profit publisher (i.e. break even) that does the same work for a tiny cut.

Posted:A year ago

#25
Yes, well, would Rovio had the success they have without Chillingo? We'll never know for sure I guess. Maybe I'm capitalist pig but I'm trying to make a living from the games we make, to feed my kids and pay the mortage and so are our employees. If I some day have enough money not to worry about it, I'll be first to develop all kind of games that have no commercial angle at all. Experimental stuff, digital art, you name it. But until then, it's about making profit like in any business.

Posted:A year ago

#27

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
@Adrian Cummings

What Chillingo did on Angry Birds got the game (and Rovio) up to a critical mass that then allowed them to self publish effectively.

The fact is that the $99 cost of entry into the app store is an illusion. Create and publish a game and it will join the hundreds of thousands with less than 100 downloads. Do lots of social and video work (competing against over 100,000 other publishers) and you might just push it up to 1,000 downloads.
The big publishers like Gamesloft, Chillingo and Gree can do a cross promotion across all their catalogue of published titles and get a guaranteed download of a new game in the hundreds of thousands. I watch the mechanism at work on App Annie. When they turn on the big cross promotion switch the game rapidly charts and makes the front page of the app store. When they turn the switch off (by moving on to the next title) then the game they promoted into the charts has to live on its own merits. Some fall away fairly rapidly, some stay up. The publisher has a production line.
The cross promotion tool is so powerful that the big app store publishers have largely pulled up the drawbridge behind them. It is incredibly difficult to compete against them. They have the magic solution to the visibility problem.

Now as to indies. Very, very many people in the game industry have fantastic ideas inside them that have been suppressed by the console business model and the suits that run it. The $99 publishing fee and tools like Unity allow them to realise their great ideas. Either in their spare time from a daytime job or by leaving their proper job and living off their savings and anything else they can beg, borrow or steal. Their problem is that when they publish they hit the brick wall of visibility. But this is not to decry the massive contribution they are making right now to the flowering of creativity in gaming. These people are advancing the industry at a phenomenal rate. And very, very occasionally (once in more than every ten thousand) one gets noticed and breaks through. This is what keeps the hope of every indie alive.

So when the Oliver Twins at Blitz, with around half a century of video game industry experience between them, created Kumo Lumo they went to Chilling to publish it for them. It is easy to see why.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Bruce Everiss on 29th November 2012 10:19am

Posted:A year ago

#28

Jason Avent VP, Studio Head, NaturalMotion

139 140 1.0
"So when the Oliver Twins at Blitz, with around half a century of video game industry experience between them, created Kumo Lumo they went to Chilling to publish it for them. It is easy to see why."

Old habits die hard. : )

According to App Annie, the highest position in the Top Grossing chart that Kumo Lumo got in the US on iPhone was 577 and 125 on iPad. I've seen quite a few self-published games reach those not so dizzying heights and better. I still don't detect much of a magic touch here. : )

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jason Avent on 29th November 2012 10:27am

Posted:A year ago

#29

Adrian Cummings Founder and Owner, Mobile Amusements

21 7 0.3
You should work for Chillingo Bruce and not Kwalee perhaps, you seem to extol their and others virtues very well indeed :) I'm not anti-Chillingo and have indeed worked with them in the past before EA ate them it seems - great biz back then at least. I prefer to march on now though to the beat of my own drum and have done very well from it since the app store first opened. I think I represent the true indie whom is independent of the big boy publishers perhaps, some of us just don't need them to survive and I've survived 25 years as an indie as a whole and every year on the app store so far. Do Kwalee self publish or do they rely on some marketing/PR guru such as yourself to work with bigger publishers to turn a profit from their products? Content is King in mobile, always is and was i.e. the more you have the easier it gets. I have a lot it has to be said.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Adrian Cummings on 29th November 2012 10:33am

Posted:A year ago

#30

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
Chillingo got Kumo Lumo onto What's Hot in the App Store in 91 countries. And into Games>What's Hot in 129 countries.
On iPhone it reached top 5 for Adventure in 1 country, top 5 for Family in 3 countries. It made top 100 Overall in 3 countries, in Games in 8 countries, in Adventure in 45 countries and in Family in 58 countries.
In the USA iPhone charts it made #39 in the Family chart and #52 in the Adventure chart.

The Chillingo production line at work and vastly better than 99.99% of indies do with their first title.

Posted:A year ago

#31

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
@Adrian Cummings
You prove my point. You are one of those who have pulled up the drawbridge behind them!
At Kwalee we are working on a number of tactics to gain visibility for our products and to break through, hopefully to join you. One of these tactics is creating outstanding social games with original mechanics.

Posted:A year ago

#32

Adrian Cummings Founder and Owner, Mobile Amusements

21 7 0.3
Well good on them and respect to that but the whole article just sounds like another carrot dangle to attract developers into a publishing agreement with Chillingo. Great for some and perhaps not so great for others. Some of us don't want to follow your mantra Bruce and similar ramblings from others. Heard it all before mate in times long gone by. But good luck to all really whatever/whomever they choose! - Bye.

Posted:A year ago

#33
So according to Bruce's reasoning consoles are a much better bet than mobiles as it's much easier to stand out from the crowd? For indies anyway. At least the platform holders give them some support.

It just seems like the same old rules to me... get in as early as possible on any platform launch so your content stands out as much add possible.

Posted:A year ago

#34

Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd

321 748 2.3
There's always a risk when a publisher has a golden goose or two in their catalogue that everything else is treated with "not invented here" syndrome - not properly understood and not invested in if it doesn't work out of the gate. I've heard lots of stories of console developers (and some indies) getting into bed with publishers that aren't interested in knowledge sharing or building brands and act more like highly bureaucratic distributors.

Posted:A year ago

#35
Popular Comment
I accept of course that everyone has a different experience, but a big problem I saw with the publisher model, and of Big Studio Development too, is that it's a hugely complicated and wasteful system geared around a reality that 90% of all games produced are of borderline quality. The truly tragic part is that there's no discrimination - a shit game will cost the same staggering amount as a finely crafted game. The two main reasons I can see for this are that yes, some devs aren't serious enough, but also its because execs rarely know what good looks like - and they have most of the power and all the money. So, resources get sprayed all over the shop and are then crowbarred into the development teams by an enormously oversized, overpaid, overpowered bureaucracy. It burns through colossal money and manpower for exactly zero guarantee that it will all be worth it.

So combining huge money and OTT management with a mediocre dev team who have enfeebled goals creates a perfect storm of Average, and at amazing expense. And unless you're making the game of a huge licence, Average may as well be total and utter shit. This is the natural disaster facing most devs for most of their careers - watching years of hard work and huge expense disappear over a cliff, over and over again.

This is what causes publishers to tell their developers, their shareholders and the press that making games is 'hugely complicated' and 'staggeringly expensive' and 'amazingly difficult to predict'. They love that shit. After 20 years of making games, I don't believe it's true - I believe they make it true, because the system they are invested in is hugely flawed.

We made our game The Room with exactly zero marketing dollars, zero PR, no publishers, no investors. We had no exec pressure from above nor were we squeezed from the side by publishers. We had no back end metrics, no in-app-purchasing, no social aspect to our game whatsoever. We focused on making something really well and hoped Apple would feature it, and from nowhere we went to No 1 all over the world in 24 hours when nobody had even heard of us.

The game cost us the wages of three guys over six months to make. I'll have a hard time ever going back to believing what most of the industry still thinks: making a great game is just so hard. It's not, it's just expensive and fucking tiring under the current system. Publishers need to get wise, the balance of power between them and devs needs to change, and us devs need to go back to our source: make great stuff, or learn how to make great stuff.

Posted:A year ago

#36

Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend

261 577 2.2
I see a war coming and I know which side I am on.... Viva la Resistance!!

Posted:A year ago

#37

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
@Barry Meade

So it all happened by magic? Are you not perhaps being a little disingenuous?
There seems to be plenty of marketing activity:
http://www.fireproofstudios.com/blog
http://n4g.com/channel/the-room--games

Posted:A year ago

#38
@Bruce I think it happened because we tried very hard to make a good game, in my view the most important factor in any success. But let's just say it was down to the exposure - a strange and funny idea - any press we got was simply me on my own with an email account. Now you're welcome to accept that this "hugely complicated" work i did with the send button is worth 30-40% of all profits, a binding contract, arbitrary deadlines, constant pressure and occasional spurious requests for the entirity of development - plus maybe your IP - but I don't.

But thats a caricature of my argument anyway, I know your just ribbing. My point that publishers are maybe not as needed anymore as they think they are does not mean the work of publishers is redundant, more that thanks to Apple and Unity you may no longer need them to do it. But I am also saying that a way to get publishers off your back is to make something good enough that you don't need them, or at least don't need to snap your heels to their orders.

It's all about the work, and that's the thing that I feel is always left out of our endless cycle of debates and articles and lectures and conferences. The surest way to success and freedom is to be great, and many of us who are independent (esp coming from the studio system) have learned that lesson and are trying to get there. Like I said at the start, everybody has their approach, the dogma that there's one rule for all is what needs a counter balance.

Posted:A year ago

#39

Jason Avent VP, Studio Head, NaturalMotion

139 140 1.0
Those aren't great positions really Bruce. An app store segmented chart success is a bit like saying this is the best pepperoni ever on this particular pizza today.

Posted:A year ago

#40
Dealing with publishers is probably the core reason I'm no longer in the games industry today. So many horror stories from hard working developers seeing YEARS of work blown away by incompetent publisher decisions.

Of all the companies I know and have worked with there is only one I would call a success story and they got there by dumping publishers and work for hire and focusing on quality, 100% ip owned games.
That company is Firemint btw... and it's some what ironic they are now owned by a publisher!

Posted:A year ago

#41
At AppyNation we are learning every single day. Most of what we have learned, we unlearn. There are so many companies starting up and telling us that they can do for you, provided we agree to play 20,000 something, dollars, Euros, Pounds who knows. Most of these companies have names that have been forged around made up words (we are probably guilty of that as well) given all the URLs are taken. But we are relentless about researching, talking, discussing and working out what works and what does not.

What's really cool is working with the games developer who are also the partners in the business. Its taken a while for all of us to gain each others trust but now we have done this now we share, collaborate and work together in a brilliant way. Founding principles were always simple. The games developer always owns the IP and takes the lion share of rev. The 'publishing ' process is always transparent and we never hide what we do. The games developer chooses whether to put their game into AppyNation. We spend some money and loads of our time on localisation. promo videos, key words, media comms, social media and deployment on all the online mobile stores. If this is publishing so be it For me it is about working together, having fun, working on great games and hopefully making some money. Over time, we will get the last bit for sure. having spent all my career in the old world, the last 2 years have been the best. It must be like those old explorers, like Drake, Raleigh or Hawkins. I just hope I don't lose my head ;-)

Posted:A year ago

#42

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

896 1,337 1.5
>> Just curious - to all of the "indie" side being represented here - having gone indie, have you found at least enough monetary success to keep you afloat? (Honest question.)

Plenty in our case. Our main game isn't even in the top 200 anymore and we're still bringing in enough money to pay seven top-drawer developers indefinitiely (ish). All this scaremongering by the publishers is just the usual "it ours way or no way" bs. Here's a couple of reality checks:

1) Those with an agenda will tell you there are 20 brazillion games coming out per minute. The reality is that if we're talking proper, high production value, serious attempts, it's more like a couple a week.

2) They talke like a "success" means top 25. The reality is that if its you and an artist mate, you will live quite comfortable from sales of a single game for several years by being at position 1000 on the chart.

3) Those trying to find a reason to exist will imply that advertising is important and cross promotion is even more important. They're right, but the most important of all is word of mouth and you can start that as easily as they can. Get on forums and have something to talk about.

4) If your game is good enough that a publisher wants in on it, step back and think what that means. Have a bit of faith in yourself.

5) I am not anti-publisher, working with one now in fact. Just make rational choices as they happen and don't assume that A is always right and B) is always wrong. But do avoid anyone pushing 300 titles - 290 of those guys heard the same spiel you did, but do you think they're getting their 30-50% worth?

Posted:A year ago

#43

Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.

2,270 2,439 1.1
Some games/devs need a publisher and some don't.

Circumstantial.

Posted:A year ago

#44

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

896 1,337 1.5
@Bruce
>>
Chillingo got Kumo Lumo onto What's Hot in the App Store in 91 countries. And into Games>What's Hot in 129 countries.
On iPhone it reached top 5 for Adventure in 1 country, top 5 for Family in 3 countries. It made top 100 Overall in 3 countries, in Games in 8 countries, in Adventure in 45 countries and in Family in 58 countries.
In the USA iPhone charts it made #39 in the Family chart and #52 in the Adventure chart.

Don't want to piss on your fireworks but we beat all that with our very first title and don't really look on it as a "hit". As an unknown indie company made up of people who avoided big firms most of their careers so weren't (and still aren't) known individually either. At the start we didn't even have very good press contacts - still largely don't. We just had email, an account on touch arcade and a damn good product. (pardon the hubris). And that's all you really need.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 30th November 2012 11:35pm

Posted:A year ago

#45
Well said Paul

Posted:A year ago

#46

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