Sold Out's Eleven Tips on Publishing Your Game

Sold Out's Eleven Tips on Publishing Your Game
Josh Garrity

By Josh Garrity

May 2nd 2017 at 3:00PM

Physical publishing is alive and well. Sold Out's Josh Garrity tells Develop his top eleven tips for developers looking to get their games on the shelves

In this increasingly digital landscape, many people might overlook the benefits of a physical retail release. Sure costs can be different, the returns aren’t as immediate as selling on a digital storefront and there are many more options that can bring rewards, especially in different markets.

Sold Out has been publishing games for a very long time and if anyone knows what the best advice would be for would-be physical releases, it’s them. Josh Garrity is Sold Out’s digital content manager and he’s got eleven tips for you on what you should do, as a developer, looking for a physical release of your game: 

1. Times Frames

Developers can be unaware of the timings involved for physical publishing. In one conversation I had with a developer they said “We’re focusing on the digital release at the moment, but we’ll come back to you to focus on the physical release about two months before launch, that should be enough time.” Unfortunately, physical publishing just isn’t that simple. It takes six months minimum to get a game on store shelves successfully. So, if developers want to release their game physically day and date with their digital release, they need to start thinking about it and putting the gears in motion very early on. If any publisher says they can do it in two months, be prepared for a lot to go wrong. We want the best for your game, so let’s work together to make sure we’re prepared and have plenty of time to get everything in place. 

2. Previous Success doesn't mean you'll be successful

The video game industry is fickle. A big hit on PC does not guarantee a big hit on console. The reality is, no matter how well reviewed or how many units you sold on PC, you are now racing against the clock to release on other formats. The press and consumers will move on to other titles once their excitement for yours has faded, and it’s incredibly hard to drum up that excitement again once the initial wave has subsided. We’ll do our best to maintain and increase interest in your game, but you must aim to release your game on consoles as near to launch on PC as possible. Strike while the iron is hot. 

3. The impact of last minute decisions

Last minute changes to messaging or details, no matter how small, can derail PR and marketing efforts for your game. On the development side, publishers understand that hurdles will appear and delays will happen. However, if something happens, that will affect the PR plan, we need to know well in advance. If an asset you promised to create for a press release suddenly isn’t looking possible, it can derail a major marketing beat for your title. Without consistent messaging, you’re in danger of becoming just another release on the schedule, rather than standing out about the crowd. We’re here to leverage every asset and angle you have, so let’s knock it out of the park.

You'd be surprised how a game designed for a certain age group
or demographic can perform differently in many territories.

Josh Garrity, Sold Out 

4. Honesty is the best policy

Publishers need complete clarity and honesty from developers. Don’t hide information, because the more informed we are, the better we’re able to react. The best time, is right away, otherwise we might start making promises to retailers and consumers we can’t keep based on previous information. Be honest, and publishers will do their best to help out.

5. Focus on your skill set and bring in experts for the rest

Nobody can guarantee anything, and the reason why we’re successful, is we’re driven by our development partners, and we do our best to deliver. We don’t know how to code, but we do know how to help you develop your game with structures, budgets, advice on marketing, PR and a multitude of other things it takes to get a game in the hands of players. We’ve learned that by listening to others, and taking in as much as we can. If you tell a publisher that you’ll handle all the marketing, PR, storefronts, QA, submissions and a host of other things yourself, without the experience, it’s going to cause you issues. Let others advise you, and help you – because a publisher is invested in not just your game, but your success.

6. Aim for the stars, but be prepared to reach the clouds

Seventy five percent of games never leave early access. Most kick- starters fail. Most games on Steam only sell around 5,000 copies. As a publisher, we’ll make sure none of this happens for your title, but you need to understand the world you’re entering. It took Riot eight years to start printing money. Don’t look at the absolute biggest hits like Mine Craft, and think to yourself that your game will sell these kinds of numbers. Games like that are the exception, and a great deal of luck lead to their huge success. Of course, we want your game to be a huge success, but it’s important to have a degree of perspective and a realistic measurement of what success looks like. 

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7. Don't review your own game

Consumers are not stupid – they’ll recognise a genuine steam review versus a staff member immediately. You will always get found out. Have the confidence in your product, and your publishing partner to generate goodwill amongst players. If your game is good, the goodwill will come, and we’ll be there to help you capitalise on it. 

8. Respect comes with time

Mike Bithell is a well-liked developer, who made a very popular game. He has a following on social media, and developers want to learn from him. Trade and consumer publications will always find time to interview him. Unless you are Mike Bithell, you’re unlikely to get that immediate respect, or as much affection from those you want to talk to. This level of respect has to be earned. Do the talking with your game through coordinated community, PR and marketing, and afterwards, plenty of people will want to talk to you.

9. One territory will not make or break your game

You’d be surprised how a game designed for a certain age group or demographic can perform differently in so many territories. America is undoubtedly your largest market, followed by EMEA, but you cannot discount what we call export territories, or APAC (Asia Pacific). We build and maintain partnerships, so all you need to do is create your game. So instead of doing everything based around PAX, think about E3, GamesCom, GameCity, Rage, Igromir and any other event where you can connect with the community. Think about international press tours, and then ask people like us to do them. The world is your oyster, embrace it. 

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10. Do not bet the farm

The videogames industry is a business. Yes, we're super creative, and some of the most emotional and vibrant entertainment products are videogames. But, you probably want to make some money on the way. Like any ordinary business, unless you’ve got orders coming out of your arse, do not remortgage your house to pay for development. If you’re not getting investment, or the deals on offer don’t pay for what you project for the budget, do not risk everything to make it happen. Be patient, and try everything. If you run out of money during development, a publisher will try and help you, but you’re likely to lose some of the deal you spent so hard working on. Budget, plan, re-budget, re-plan. Take advice, and you’ll be well on the way to having a solid business. You shouldn’t get to the point where a project is sacrificing your well-being. 

11. Don't give up

Sometimes, you'll hit a wall, there will be pressure, and it's likely that at some stage, you’ll be working all night to get a piece of code to do what it’s supposed to do. But underneath all of the hard work, the sacrifices and the strain, there is always a new game waiting to come out. If you believe in it enough, don’t walk away. Make the game you’ve always wanted to. Believe in yourself and the game, and it will come together.