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Sold Out going digital

Publisher specializing in physical versions of indie games expands to handle digital distribution

London-based Sold Out has built its business making physical versions of high-profile indie games like The Banner Saga and The Escapists, but the company's ambitions are considerably grander. As CEO Garry Williams told recently, Sold Out is changing its remit, aiming to be both a digital and physical publisher of games.

The first such title under the company's new direction will be announced next week at Gamescom. Williams suggested the company has wanted to expand into digital publishing for some time now, but had to delay the plan because it had difficulty growing enough to just keep up with demand for its physical business. He also dismissed the suggestion that this move could be read as a vote of no confidence in the physical market's future.

"We have always suggested that people avoid the pitfall of thinking in terms of 'either/or' in these two markets and take advantage of both digital and physical revenues and their respective consumer reach," Williams said. "The move into digital for Sold Out is overdue and more about offering a fully rounded business, rather than 'chasing markets.'"

One interesting wrinkle of the move is that it will put Sold Out in more direct competition with some of its traditional partners. The company handled physical versions of Frontier's Planet Coaster and Elite Dangerous, as well as a host of Team17 games (The Escapists, Yooka-Laylee, Overcooked, and others), but those companies are perfectly capable of handling their own digital publishing. Additionally, Team17 has its own indie publishing label.

"It's not a one-size fits all approach," Williams explained. "Our boxed retail partners such as Team17 is where we aren't looking to directly compete - we don't have their resources and that's what makes them unique. Likewise, with Frontier we don't compete with their model either and they are publishing 100% of their own content in digital.

"Sold Out will continue to deliver at retail as that's a big part of our business and our deal with Rebellion (Sniper Elite 4, Zombie Army Trilogy) dovetails nicely into that. At the same time, we have been recruiting experienced staff at Sold Out to utilise our publishing knowledge in what is an increasingly crowded market so that we can best help others in the digital sector increase their skills and drive further sales."

Sold Out will invest in games where it makes sense, Williams said, but isn't looking to fully finance development on projects at the moment. So if throwing around money isn't the plan, how will Sold Out compete in a crowded market of digital publishers?

"When you have an open, fair and balanced business relationship based on mutual respect and trust, you can compete with anyone who may lack these qualities," Williams said. "Our track record speaks for itself and our partners do, too. Our value will lie not just in PR, marketing and finance functions but also in the ability to genuinely believe in a game. We're a partner to developers, we don't try and own the IP, that belongs to the developers. We aim to drive success for their creation through our skillset of experience, transparency and tenacity."