Competition in the mobile game market is growing every day, and it’s harder for hyper-casual developers to stand out from the crowd and monetize their games. In this article, Daria Udodova, business developer and publishing manager at Ducky, discusses finding the perfect partner, pitching a hyper-casual game and making it to the top charts.
The competition is growing, and the mechanics and gameplay of games are getting tougher. The chances of releasing a successful product are no longer as high as they used to be. Hyper-casual teams are now coping with a massive amount of preliminary work alone.
What is the role of the publisher?
A hyper-casual publisher is a partner who helps developers bring a game to market: creating a marketing strategy and even helping with the development process if necessary.
Most publishers perform game marketing tasks: buying traffic, ASO, creative creation, monetization, competitor research, and product analysis.
Self-publishing games are worthwhile only if the development team has enough experience and resources to increase traffic and promotion. Still, it is much easier and faster to achieve the desired result in close cooperation with a publisher.
How to find a publisher for cooperation?
There are several steps in the process of finding and working with a publisher:
- Start with research. Find detailed information about publishers in the marketplace that seem appropriate. Pay attention to the public presence of the publisher’s employers, find out the company’s latest public statements, check goals, etc.;
- Make a list of contacts. Make a list of 5-7 publishers that are suitable for the company’s ideas;
- Examine each publisher’s portfolio. This will give an initial idea of the company’s profile. Check out the cases published on blogs. Don’t judge by the publisher’s in-store accounts: most projects are listed on spare funds before games are released on soft launch;
- Establish contact with publishers. The size of the publisher determines the formality of the process. In this case, novice developers will not get proper attention from the publisher, but contacting reputable publishers protects the team from risks;
- Work with several publishers at once. Choosing a business partner who understands the project, needs, and goals is better. Selecting the first publisher is difficult, as the team is hesitant to choose a candidate. Some developers prefer to start working with several partners at the same time and make a final decision after some time;
- Study the collaborative process and then sign the papers. Every publisher’s approach to building a workflow is different. Some offer to sign early, while others wait for preliminary project metrics;
How to communicate with a publisher?
Pitch provides the publisher with information on whether developers can work together productively. It also reduces the time for both teams. Points to add to the pitch are:
- Team structure. Talk about the team: where they come from, number, specialization, duties of the workers, date of creation, and experience in developing projects together, if any. A publisher also needs to know where the team members work geographically: in the same city, in different cities, or even countries;
- Experience working with publishers. Indicate in the pitch whether the team has worked with game publishers. Share the name of the previous publisher and the reason why the cooperation was terminated;
- Project information. Send a link to your Google Play Market, App Store account, or a folder with several gameplay videos or APKs;
- Game metrics. Specify in which countries the game is available. Screenshots from recent marketing tests and analytics will also be helpful. Include CPI, Retention Rate D1, Retention Rate D7 and Playtime metrics.
Don’t draw a pathetic presentation with many text and asset examples for hyper-casual game pitching. Developers send this information in a formatted email if there are no other pitching requirements on the publisher’s website.
How hyper-casual developers determine the right publisher?
There are markers to look out for in the process of working with a publisher that won’t show up as surprises:
- The beginning of the collaboration. The development team is assigned to the publisher’s manager or producer. The secret to teamwork is how the publisher develops the relationship with the team. Developers need to pay attention to the workflow with the publisher as both parties dive into their first projects;
- Assess whether the publisher seeks to understand the team thoroughly. A competent publisher will better understand the team’s structure, goals and preferences. This is critical because the publisher will decide what future project concepts to offer the developers during the collaborative process. This choice will be based on the composition, desires and skills of the development team, which are unique in each case;
- Feedback analysis. Use each meeting with the publisher’s representative as an opportunity to grow the team. Feel free to ask lots of questions. Developers need feedback for the next steps and introspection. Ask on what basis the producer recommends certain concepts and analyze the answers. An experienced publisher will openly argue suggestions appropriately, politely, and persuasively.
When to Present a Game to a Publisher
The ideal time to pitch the game is the sooner, the better. Don’t hesitate to contact the publisher to discuss the concept idea and get prompt feedback.
Speed is vital, and getting analytical data is crucial to a hyper-casual game’s success. Publishers organize dozens of tests daily, researching the market and trends to determine which sets and mechanics have more potential in terms of market popularity.
The earlier in the development journey a team has access to such market data, the quicker they understand trends and take steps to create a game that will top the charts.
Sometimes developers ask if it’s too early to approach a publisher if the game hasn’t yet been compiled and published. The answer is no. If the game already has at least one level and the team recorded a 20-30 second gameplay video, that’s enough for a CTR test.
Most developers tend to try to bring the project to perfection, but you need to test MVP and get the primary metrics: CPI, Playtime and Retention Rate faster. This will help assess the project’s competitiveness and understand what steps are essential for the next iteration.
What to expect after testing?
The publisher contacts the developers and gives a detailed report on the result, where he points out the strengths and weaknesses of the project. Publishers can organize communication with developers in different ways.
After testing, the Ducky team concluded that an effective way to keep in touch is weekly face-to-face meetings with developers to discuss current test results and the list of projects planned for further development.
Developers must remember a few things when working with a publisher to find reliable and experienced business partners. It is also essential to understand at what stage it is helpful to take the hyper-casual game to the publisher and what to expect after testing.
Regardless of the initial test results, each team reviews the experience with the publisher. The collaboration continues if the developers feel that the publisher’s approach and vision are close to their own.
Ducky believes in working with teams and has seen growth results in 4-6 months of work, launching commercial projects and the level of growth of teams’ expertise.
Budding hyper-casual teams shouldn’t be embarrassed by their lack of experience in analytics and game promotion and procrastinate in approaching a publisher just because of this.
In the race for a hyper-casual hit game, the one who prioritizes speed acts quickly and learns from experimentation, data, and market experience wins. If the development team goes to win with the publisher, the faster and more efficiently the collaborative workflow is organized, the closer the success will be.