How to Choose a Mobile Game Publisher

by GameHouse

How to Choose a Mobile Game Publisher

Once you’ve built a great game, the time will come when you need to decide on a mobile game publisher to help bring your app to a wider audience and (hopefully) help you earn the income you deserve. But there are many factors to consider when choosing a mobile game publisher that go beyond the revenue split.

When most developers think about whether to sign up with a mobile publisher, they tend to think about “the deal” first – in other words, they want to know what terms they will have to sign to divide revenue with the publisher. Will the revenue split be 60/40 in your favor? 50/50? Or worse? How can you make sure you get a fair portion of the proceeds of your game – and how can you protect your interests to maximize your app’s profitability for the long-term?

While it’s natural to be concerned about the revenue split, there are several other factors that developers should pay close attention to when negotiating with mobile game publishers. In the long term, these other factors have the potential to have an even bigger impact than the revenue split, in most cases, on the overall profitability of your game and the overall viability of your business relationship with the mobile game publisher.

Here are the questions that every developer should explore before choosing a mobile app publisher:

What level of marketing commitment is the publisher willing to make?

Publishers should be willing to be specific about the investment that they are willing to make in promoting your app – either in terms of downloads, money, or other tangible metrics. If you are not going with one of the major publishers, and if you are talking with a smaller publisher, niche publisher, or a mobile game publisher that is relatively new to the industry, you will want to get a gut check on whether their marketing claims sound realistic given their assets – how many games do they have in the top 1000? How much traffic are they able to generate daily? If a mobile app publisher is making grandiose promises to you, but has a tiny staff and no proven track record of delivering similar results, then this could be a red flag.

Is my app a good fit for the publisher’s portfolio?

The truth is that some publishers are just better at promoting certain types of games than others. Take the time to look through their portfolio of apps and get a feeling for what they specialize in. Don’t be afraid to ask for examples of similar products that have been promoted in the past. A good, reputable mobile app publisher will also want to make sure that your app is a good fit for what they do – they won’t want to waste their own time and resources trying to promote an app that just isn’t the right fit for their strengths.

Are they fun to work with?

This is one of the most important questions and it’s sad that it is often asked too late. Once you sign with a publisher, you are putting a lot of trust in their hands. No matter how good the terms of the deal or no matter how lucrative the revenue split, it just doesn’t make sense to work with a publisher that has a culture that you can’t fit into. This is often a subtle thing to understand, but with cultural fit, “you know it when you see it.”

Listen to your intuition. Do you enjoy meeting with these people and talking with them, even via e-mail or chat sessions? Do they seem like “your kind of people,” or do you feel a sense of disconnect, however slight? Your business relationship will be more profitable and longer lasting if you feel a sense of camaraderie with your mobile app publisher – you’ll both be more likely to work hard for each other and come up with innovative new ways to be productive and promote your apps. Life is short – try to spend it working with people who you really like.

What’s in the fine print?

Make sure that you get a good attorney to take a look at any mobile app publisher contract before you sign it. It may cost you a few hours of their time, but it will be worth it, especially if it saves you thousands of dollars worth of unfavorable terms or future hassles.

Another reason to enlist an attorney in developing a contract with a mobile app publisher is that you might be able to negotiate a more favorable deal, even if you have to yield on revenue split. Price is rarely the most important sticking point in business negotiations – even if you end up surrendering a few percentage points of revenue split, there is usually a way to craft more beneficial terms in the contract so that you can make more money in the long run, or get paid faster, or get preferential treatment from the publisher in other ways.

There is an old saying in business: “I’ll give you your price if you give me my terms.” Be ready to negotiate with the mobile game publisher on matters other than price – and have a good attorney who can help you understand your options and protect your interests so you can sign that contract with confidence.

Join the conversation. What have you learned from the process of choosing a mobile game publisher? What are the biggest advantages of working with your mobile game publisher? Leave a comment and let us know.

By Ryan Morel

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