How do publishers evaluate Indie Games!

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Zamil searching for the perfect Mobile game

Getting the right Publisher is critical for your Indie Games success. There are two ways you can drive downloads to your game.

First one is organic downloads through PR, Store Feature and App store optimization. Second way is paid advertisements.
Right now, Games like Clash Royal has pushed the paid install rate for US, almost $3 per user accusation. And most indie games have a Average Revenue per user bellow $0.15, making paid installs unviable for us.

So coming back to organic downloads, when you are a new developer- it is unlikely that Apple Store and Game Magazines like TouchArcade or PocketGamer shall recognize you, Unless you have previously worked in a Big Game Studio or won awards like Indie Prize. And ASO is dead now, so they are your only hope! But good news is publishers have that connection, they can help you to get the credibility you seek and when time is right- you can start on your own.

However, a typical Casual game publisher- receives more than 20 games every day. Publishers like Ketchapp receives much more. So if your game is not awesome, your chance of getting a publishing deal is next to Zero. I know, because our games were rejected many times.

Hello, I am Zamilur Rashid, Founder and CEO of Gameover Studio. We are a Casual Indie Game Studio. We launched six games, and Apple featured 5 of them. To achieve that we had to make 100+ prototypes and 11 Completed games. We also work closely with many industry partners like Publishers, Ad Networks Game Engines. Moreover, we run the first ever game blog in Bangladesh. So it is not surprising that, we receive many games from Independent developers. Some want us to find a right publisher, some want us to publish their game, and some wants us to review their game. We also need to evaluate our games and decide if they are good enough for our players.

As a result, we developed an internal framework to evaluate games. And we know (from discussions) that many prominent Indie Publishers use a framework that is close to the one I am sharing here to evaluate your game. If you follow this framework, your have a very good chance of finding the right publisher for your game. However, before going to the framework, we need to first be on the same page.

So, first of all- Games are made of 4 elements. Mechanics, Story, Aesthetics and Technology.

Mechanics: These are the procedures and rules of a game. Mechanics describes the goal of a game, how players can and cannot try to achieve the purposes of a game. What happens when they try? Moreover, Mechanics is what separates games from other media of entertainment. Mediums like movie also have Story, Aesthetics and technology. Mechanics is what makes an experience a game! When you choose a set of mechanics as crucial as your gameplay, you will need to choose technology that can support them, aesthetics that emphasise them clearly to players and a story that allows your game mechanics to make sense to the players.

Story: This is the sequence of events that unfolds in your game. It may be linear and prescriptive (Uncharted Series, Last of Us series). It may be branching and emergent (Legend of Zelda Series, Grand Theft Auto Series). When you have a story you want to tell through your game, you have to choose the mechanics that will both strengthen that story and let the story emerge. Like any storyteller, you will want to choose the aesthetics that will help reinforce the ideas of your story and technology that is best suited to the particular story that will come out of your game.

Aesthetics: This is how your game looks, sounds, smells, tastes and feels. Aesthetics are an incredibly important aspect of game design since they have the most direct relationship to a player’s experience. When you have a certain look, or tone that you want the player to experience and become immersed in, you need to choose a technology that will not only allow the aesthetics to come through but amplify and reinforce them. You will want to choose the mechanic that make players feel like they are in the world to choose the mechanics that make players feel like they are in the world that the aesthetics have defined, and you will want a story with a set of events that let your aesthetics emerge at the right pace and have the most impact.

Technology: We are not exclusively referring to a high tech here, but to any materials and interactions that make your game possible such as paper and pencil, plastic charts or high powered lasers. The technology you choose for your game enables it to do certain things and prohibits it from doing certain things. The technology is essentially the medium in which the aesthetics take place in which mechanics will occur, and through which the story will be told.

(Adapted from Jesse Schell’s book- The Art of Game Design)

Now coming back to the framework:

Game Mechanics: 35%

Core Mechanics: 15%

  • Is it Fun? Do players want to play the game over and over again? Is the game still fun if you do a prototype with just boxes and circles with this mechanics? For example ‘Super Mario’ is a game about jumping, and it is considered that- it has one of the most satisfying jump mechanics ever!
  • Is the mechanics easy to understand?- Do they need tutorials? (Hint: The core mechanics should not require Tutorials, especially if your target group is male. Extensive research shows women do not mind reading through Tutorials, but males prefer to learn by doing- so that process should also be fun)
  • Where is the uniqueness in the Game Mechanics? (Example: Look at the new Doom, it is a traditional FPS, or is it? There is a core mechanics shift in the new Doom)

Level Design: 5%

  • How do you keep the game interesting?
  • Are you introducing news elements to the game periodically?
  • How are you adding the new elements?

Game Feel: 5%

  • How do you communicate with your player?
  • What sort of feedback do players get when they play your game?

Retention: 5%

  • What are you doing to make sure players will come back to your game?
  • What is your 1 Day, 3 Days, 7 Days, 15 Days and 30 Days Retention target?

Monetization Strategy: 5%

  • How will you Monetize your game?
  • Is it a Paid Game? If yes, why will people pay for your game?
  • Will it be free to play game? If yes, will you depend on in-app purchases? If yes, how will you make people buy virtual goods which have no real world value?
  • If you depend on Ads, which sort of ads will you give- rewarded video, interstitial or banner ads? How will you make sure, users won’t leave your game? 

Game Aesthetics: 20%

  • What sort of art style is used and why?
  • Does it reinforce the mechanics and story?
  • Does the artwork go with the target demographics?
  • What sort of music are you using?

Game Engineering: 20%

Game Story:15%

  • What is the game about?
  • How do the story strengthen the mechanics and Aesthetics?
  • Why will someone play this game?
  • How the game connects with the player?

The Team: 5%

  • Are you committed to game development? An example of Commitment.
  • Are you capable of delivering? If not- what is your plan to bridge that gap? Do you plan on recruiting any new member? If yes, how?

Demographics: 3%

  • Which age group are your primary target? (Hint: There are seven age groups)
  • Which Region?
  • Male or female? (Both want different things out of a game)
  • Any other unique characteristics?

Marketing Plan: 2%

  • What is your plan for reaching the target audience?
  • Do you want to self-publish or go through a Publisher?
  • What is your paid marketing plan?
  • What is your organic marketing plan?
  • What is your PR plan?

You may think, components like ‘Marketing Plan’ or ‘Demographics’ do not matter much; as it carries less mark. However, that is not true. To build a successful game, you need to make sure; your game covers all the things, mentioned above. The way, we evaluate a game is

  1. If a game gets less than 60% in any department- it goes back to the team. The team tries to fix that part. If it is not fixable- we drop the game. So it becomes an unsuccessful prototype.
  2. When a game gets more than 60% on all department- we continuously improve the game, until it hits overall 70%. If we fail to do so- the game becomes an unreleased title.

Game development is an iterative process. Always keep on working on your game. Polish the game as much as possible and always take feedback from users. Always listen to the problems they say about your game. Think how you can solve them. However do not take the solution, your users provide. End of the day, you are the game designer. One example: If a user says; this boss is too difficult to beat; you need to lower the hit point of the boss. Now recognise that the big boss is hard to kill. However, solution? It can be your weapons are not strong enough, or your player needs better armour or anything else!

Oh one last thing, have fun! Game Development is all about enjoying the journey.

Art by our artist Sadman Muntasir.


 

 

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Hey there! I focus on Game Design and User Acquisition. I am the CEO of Mindfisher Games. We have 5 Apple features and over 7 Million downloads with 300k MAU. Past Life, I was a development sector consultant and a certified scrum master! I love to read books, write articles, travel, play games, take photographs.