The mobile game market is a highly competitive field. All active publishers are in constant search of new projects, using store parsers, system analytics, and scouts who play dozens of different games every day. For that reason, if your project even vaguely resembles something that has market potential, a publisher will find it and come to you with an offer. It can literally be a matter of minutes between placing a game in a store and getting an email from a publisher.
But what do you do if you have uploaded your project to a store and nobody comes breaking down your door? This may be a signal that your game hasn’t interested any of the active market players.
Don’t despair, however. In this article, you will find tips on how to attract the attention of mobile publishers if your game has not immediately become the latest holy grail that everyone is frantically searching for.
To begin with, compile as long as list as possible of potential publishers. You can make inquiries in appropriately themed chats on Telegram or Facebook groups and ask your acquaintances in the industry.
From there, it all depends on the reason why you are looking for a publisher. To find a business partner, sort your list into relevant and irrelevant publishers (according to the genres of project they have in their portfolio), and only write to those who your project may interest.
If your aim is to get as much feedback as possible, write to everyone. Some will almost certainly not answer, or answer with a standard rejection because they do not see your project as suitable for them, but somebody will definitely get in touch, express interest, and provide you with feedback.
Publishers have a lot of different options for partnering with studios, so if you are generally interested in any opportunity to work with an experienced partner, send as many letters as you can. Your project may not hook the company, but it may be the case that they like some particular mechanics (they may propose further testing or development) or art concept (they may, for example, offer you outsourcing work). A publisher may also be interested in your studio’s experience as grounds to propose developing a new game in partnership.
One of the most important moments in your interactions with a publisher is your first contact. The first impression you make may not be definitive, but it should not be discounted. So, you need to present yourself and your project. What can you include in this presentation? The contents will change subtly depending on the conditions under which you’re planning to communicate with the publisher. Let’s take a look.
To begin with, we will look at situations where you want to get to know a publisher at some offline event. First, you need a prototype that can as quickly and clearly as possible demonstrate what your game is all about. Try to make sure that this build looks as good as possible. Furthermore, you need to prepare yourself: be ready to explain simply and precisely what exactly happens in your game, and work out how best to relate the unique features, interesting finds, and the setting. Also, be prepared to answer a whole avalanche of questions. Overall, it is important to show that you have a vision for how the project will develop in the future and what steps you’re planning to take to improve it.
When meeting a publisher, try to soak up as much information and feedback as possible. And try to keep disagreements to a minimum. When you only have limited time, this will spare your nerves and help to leave a good impression. If you only have a few minutes for conversation, time spent on arguing is time wasted. On the same basis, take some kind of notebook with you (or use the recorder on your phone), in order to record all feedback and not rely only on your memory.
If at all possible, try not to offer a publisher too raw a build, especially at conferences. In the hustle and bustle of events, bugs and non-working functions are even more irritating to deal with than in normal circumstances. You will get less feedback, the publisher will form a more negative impression of you, and your acquaintance can get off on not entirely the right foot.
Remember that the publisher wants to see some potential in your project, be it in the art, the animation, or the gameplay. So do not be embarrassed to tell as much as possible about your vision and plans—this information will show the publisher that you are interested in the future development of your project and that you already have some definite ideas.
Try to act like the nicest people in the world. Describe your ideas and your project as extensively as you can, while remaining polite. Even if you have something that is not ready yet, if you make a good impression in person, that can be a big plus and give an extra incentive to the publisher to try working with you.
Pitching via email
If you have not managed to catch a publisher at some event or other (or if you have not even tried), and have instead decided to contact them by email, then your first letter should include as much information as possible both about the project and about your studio. In brief, this is what it is important to describe in your email:
- Your project—the genre, setting, target audience, and stage of development, as well as references.
- Your team—how many people, where you come from, and what your background is.
- Your goal—whether you are looking for just marketing, for consultation, or for investment in the project or in your studio.
Remember your list of publishers divided into the more and less relevant? Now is the time to use it. In letters to publishers whose projects are very different from yours in terms of genre, add a short explanation as to why you have decided to write to this particular publisher. This will increase your chances of getting feedback.
If you feel this is all too much, a little insight from the life of a publisher for you: every day, a publisher receives dozens of emails from developers. The majority of them lack the necessary information or even a link to the game. Writing a good letter is a great way of standing out. What is more, the person who reads your email will feel much more comfortable, meaning there will be a greater chance that they want to answer you and give you useful feedback.
How to write a letter
You have already seen above the basic things that your first email should contain. Now let us look in more detail at the contents in order to help you write an appropriate and attractive introductory letter that will help you hook a publisher. As well as the previously mentioned points, it is important that a letter to a publisher should contain:
- A link to an APK or to your game’s store page (access to the app is practically a mandatory condition. If it is already in the store, make sure that the build is accessible in countries open to the publisher).
- If you have a build that is still very raw, include a presentation with a roadmap for app development.
- Your team’s achievements (track records of your employees, what successful projects you have had, statistics about these projects, etc.).
You should also definitely include information on any metrics you have for your project (if there are any, better just to attach them to your email, but make sure to indicate the source of the metrics and the geo you drew traffic from).
Let us also take a closer look at describing your expectations for partnership with a publisher. What do you want: investment, publication of your project and help with marketing, product consultation, or something else? In order to speed up the communication and agreement process, you can also immediately indicate when it is convenient to call you.
If you need investment from the publisher in order to complete your project, then you must present a financial plan that includes information about the steps still required to bring your project to market, what exactly you intend to spend the invested capital on, and how much money you need (the required sum per month and in total).
Market analysis is also a major plus if you are seeking financing. This should be comprehensive research that includes information about the overall market, your particular niche, and how your project relates to the market. For example, the analysis may contain information about your main competitors, about what makes your game different from similar projects, your USP, evaluation of the first “waves” of traffic, prognosis for the genre niche you are working in, etc.
If, before writing to your “dream publisher”, you have already worked with other publishers, you should mention this. For the publisher it will be one more point in your favor, in that it shows that you already have experience of this type of partnership, and you know what you want and what to expect from working together.
How to perform the first test of your mobile game
Remember that metrics say the most about your project. If you have the opportunity to perform the first test yourselves and come to the published with collated data on your project, then it is definitely worth doing so.
Primarily, everybody is interested in Tier 1 countries (such as the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, etc.). Metrics from countries with less deep-pocketed users (such as Russia, the CIS, the Philippines, etc.) will be less useful and indicative, but if you have them then send them—there is no reason not to. It is best to buy all this traffic on Facebook.
You should base your first advertising creatives on gameplay in order not to distort the metrics you obtain. You can aim for a broad target, and for your first test it is best to buy around 500 users if you can. You can go for fewer, but not less than 100 people. If you have done your first test and got bad metrics, then of course you can simply not tell the publisher about it :)
If you are certain that you can improve your metrics and then perform another test, try to do so. That way, you will be able to show the publisher now just the results of one test, but also developing dynamics. This will demonstrate that you are interested in developing your product and are ready to alter and adapt your game on the basis of the data you receive.
If there are no metrics for the game, publishers will perform tests themselves. But for that to happen, they must be interested in your product. Try to show them the highest quality that your team is able to achieve.
How to prepare your game for demonstration to a publisher
Before you contact a publisher, it is best to make your game as close to being ready for release as possible. Pay particular attention to the tutorial. If you send a build without a tutorial, you are automatically shunting it far down the publisher’s list of projects for consideration. If your game does not explain how it should be played, then it is easier to look at another project that does have a tutorial and leave yours for later.
If you know that your tutorial is not currently working very smoothly and there is no opportunity to fix it quickly, then along with the build send a description of the problems that you are aware of and explain how you intend to fix them.
If you also have some small problems with your product, and the metrics from your fist tests are ambiguous, then you should rely on making negotiations and collaboration pleasant for the publisher. A development manager at a publisher talks to dozens of developers daily, and they will much prefer to communicate with those who are keen to talk to them.
What about co-development?
If you intend to work on a co-development basis (if you have come to a publisher with a team, but without any specific concept, and you want the publisher to propose some potentially successful project to you), then you still need to have a portfolio that shows you are capable of setting up effective work processes and developing a project to completion.
Essentially in this type of situation, you are not trying to sell the publisher on a particular project, but trying to sell your studio itself, and it is therefore important to place the emphasis on your team. Explain who works for you, what your team’s strengths are, what genres you have experience in, what projects you have all worked on previously, and what results those projects achieved. If you can find references for current pilot projects and planned projects in the publisher’s portfolio, that would be ideal. But bear in mind that these should specifically be genre references and not direct copying. Plus, if you want to get paid for development work, then draw up at least a rough financial plan for the project.
Now it is time for a list of typical questions that publishers ask teams. To be fully armed, you can prepare answers to them in advance:
Questions about your team:
- How many people work in your studio?
- Where is your studio actually located (how convenient will it be if studio and publisher are situated in completely different time zones)?
- What projects have you previously worked on?
Questions about your project:
- How long have you been working on this project for?
- What stage of development is it now at?
- What is the target audience for your game?
- Have you made any moves away from industry standards (perhaps you have tried using some unusual mechanics, in which case it is also important to explain your reasons for deciding to do so)?
- What engine is your game built on? Are there any built-in SDKs?
- What projects did you use as references?
- Metrics for the project: retention d1, d3, d7, d28 (if available), CPI, ARPU, number of ads watched per user per day
Questions about the financial side of the project if you are looking for investment:
- What is your studio’s burn rate?
- How much money do you need to launch your project?
- Which investment options are you considering: full financing, additional financing, investment + publishing, or only investment in development?
Be prepared for the fact that if you are asking for investment + publishing, the publisher will expect to take the majority share of your project’s profits (the investment in marketing is dozens or even hundreds of times greater than the developer’s investment in the project).
If you are looking for a publisher for your mobile game, then we would like to hear from you, so drop us a line.