GDC: Rami Ismail on the Big Lie of Publishers, Rethinking Independent Funding | Pocket

Since Vlambeer shut down, Rami Ismail has offered a service to indie developers providing advice, noting, “I realized most of you had the same issues.”

Ismail is optimistic that developers need to rethink the way they think about their business: “Most of you don’t think about entrepreneurship. You want to be game developers,” and noted that the role of business is to survive, not to make games.

Ismail identified fundamental goals, with short-term goals being a priority in creating a game and delivering it without loss, which builds credibility. After proving you can ship a game, it’s important to keep shipping multiple games.

Business cases basically consist of two elements: maximizing opportunities and minimizing risks. Ismail recommends that new developers minimize risk, a role publishers can fill. But he calls for a seismic shift in how indie developers think about that relationship.

The publisher’s big lie

When selling a business case – a game that doesn’t yet exist – developers are evaluated on reputation. Ismail said, “The game is not the value of your studio. How publishers, platforms, and audiences value you is based on your reputation. »

Publishers have convinced independents that they are financing your development. Instead, they buy publishing rights to sell your game.

Ismail said, “The publishers will give you $200,000 and then go to the platforms and ask for $250,000,” supplanting their own risk. He continued, “Stop thinking of money as a human and think of it as a business.”

thoughts of money

Budgets typically range, for small, medium, and large independent titles, from $70,000 to $200,000, $300,000 to $3 million, and over $5 million. But the most important element is making it viable and proving it can make money – Ismail recommends looking at comparable games and their approximate earnings, looking for titles that have made 70 (worst-case scenario), 130 and 300 (targets of publisher’s expectations) percent of their funding.

Ismail points out that the game’s budget has nothing to do with how much developers can charge. The budget is a comfortable salary for you and your team, additional expenses including offices and equipment, and a 30% margin. Why? “Why the fuck not. It’s extra money.