To self-publish, or to not self-publish, that is the question

In the dynamic landscape of the gaming industry, self-publishing has been a viable avenue for mobile game developers to bring their creative visions to life.
Self publishing games

One of the most significant advantages of self-publishing a mobile game is the unparalleled level of creative control it offers. Developers can maintain their artistic vision without the interference of a publisher, resulting in a game that truly reflects their original intent.

Without a publisher’s approval, self-published developers are free to tailor their marketing strategies to their game’s unique strengths. With the freedom to experiment and pivot, they can employ innovative promotional tactics that resonate with their target audience.

Self-publishing would also mean the developer can skip all the complexities of searching and negotiating with publishers, reducing the time it takes to get the game to market. Developers can swiftly adapt to changing trends and player preferences, capitalizing on timely releases.

By bypassing traditional publishing models, developers stand to gain a larger share of the revenue generated by their mobile games. This increased profit margin can be reinvested into future projects, enabling sustained growth and innovation.

However, all of the above requires significant investments and resources in place. While self-publishing offers autonomy, it also demands a significant investment of time, effort, and resources. Developers are responsible for various aspects, including game development, marketing, distribution, customer support, etc.

Publishing Pros

“A publisher is a partner that is going to help and challenge the developer with the aim to build a long-term partnership to ship and scale the game in the market.” – Erik Pöntiskoski, CEO at Dodreams Ltd.

The mobile gaming market is saturated with countless titles, making it challenging for new self-published games to stand out. Developers must invest heavily in marketing and user acquisition to gain visibility among fierce competition. In addition to marketing resources and knowledge, Publishers can provide developer access to services that might be too expensive for smaller developers to use or develop by themselves, like local servers, data collection, processing, and analysis services; localization/culturalization support, customer service, community management, LiveOps services, etc. Game developers can focus on game development itself, and publishers can take over other necessary functions of game marketing, distribution, and publishing. Publishers bring expertise in marketing, distribution, and monetization. Self-published developers might find themselves in unfamiliar territory, navigating challenges that can impact a game’s success, while publishers offer a comprehensive approach that has been tested and checked before.

Without the financial backing of a publisher, self-published developers assume the full financial risk of their game’s development and marketing. If the game fails to gain traction, it could lead to financial setbacks.

“Some gaming companies omit markets like MENA when they publish games because a tremendous amount of work is required to be adaptive for the local market. And that is where we can help.” – Miikka Lindgren, VP of Publishing at Sandsoft Games.

As a self-published developer’s game gains popularity, the demand for updates, customer support, and server maintenance can become overwhelming. Limited resources may hinder the ability to scale up to meet these demands effectively.

What’s right for me?

Self-publishing a mobile game offers a unique set of advantages and challenges that require careful consideration. While creative control, faster time to market, and higher profit margins can be enticing, developers must also grapple with resource demands, market saturation, and the absence of specialized expertise. Striking a balance between these factors is essential for navigating the complex terrain of self-publishing successfully. Ultimately, the decision to self-publish a mobile game should be based on a thorough assessment of the developer’s goals, resources, and willingness to shoulder the responsibilities that come with independence in the competitive realm of mobile gaming.

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