How newcomer Firestoke aims to be the best game publisher for indie devs

A new independent publisher is on a mission to right the wrongs in developer-publisher relationships, challenging industry norms by forming closer, stronger partnerships with creators to empower them and ultimately transform experiences players will enjoy.

Firestoke, based in Edinburgh, Scotland, is the brainchild of Paul Farley, who notably plied his trade with DMA Design and created the first-ever map of Liberty City for Grand Theft Auto. Through this new adventure, Farley and its design director, Omar Khalil, want to partner with studios that offer “compact, accessible and joyful” games for consoles and PC, and plan to do collaborations with these designers as well. happy.

Firestoke’s philosophy is reflected in its name, which represents Farley’s desire to realize the talent of passionate studios. “For some developers, the flame can be lit, but for various reasons it doesn’t burn brightly,” he says. “We want to be the ones to help stoke that fire and allow these studios to reach their full potential.

“Our games will be like a campfire, where family and friends can get together and have fun.”

Firestoke’s goal is to deliver games that positively impact players – those that emphasize rewarding and social experiences, “rather than guns and violence.” Farley says that during the difficult circumstances presented during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was “humbling” to see how games had helped communities around the world.

“We’ve seen kids unable to meet for play dates in real life end up in games like Minecraft, animal crossing, and Roblox,” he says. “These games have become safe spaces; platforms for social connection and friendship, transcending their value as ‘just’ entertainment.

Farley emphasizes the positivity of fall guys, Untitled Game of Goose, human fall flat, What is Golf?, Forager, Overcookedand Among us, which together offer “a significant positive impact on players’ mental and social health”. Firestoke will actively avoid genres that can foster toxic communities, so for Farley, “there will be no room for traditional shooters, RPGs, deep strategy, or complex simulation titles.”

During the process of creating Firestoke, Farley and his team spoke with over 100 developers, hearing about the bad experiences each had with publishers in the past. Most boiled down to three common root causes: a lack of common understanding; few shared objectives; and the rigidity of publishers’ demands.

At the same time, Firestoke also focused on the positives. Farley has taken a lot of inspiration from publishers he admires for their work in bringing small indie games to a huge global audience, namely Devolver Digital (The gate of death, Serious Sam, Ruin) and TinyBuild (ClusterTruck, hello neighbor, Totally reliable delivery service).

“Both are good examples of businesses starting small, staying true to their roots, and building very successful businesses without becoming too corporate,” he explains. “In the UK, we saw how Team17 and Curve Digital leveraged hits to create a repeatable process for finding and publishing hit games.”

Although founded and based in the UK, Firestoke has now opened its doors to developers around the world, fostering alignment of values ​​rather than mere geography – and the team anticipates an exciting first wave of games in the distant future.