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问题:三名开发者最近发表了一封信揭发英国游戏发行商Lace Mamba拒付承诺的一点点保证金、在无权限的地方发行游戏,并且将无授权的内容出售给其他公司。

Lace Mamba的做法是否表明,独立开发者为了成功地推广游戏,应该走自主发行的道路?如果开发者希望与发行商合作,他们应该期待什么?他们应该警惕什么?

business men(from christiandevs.com)

business men(from christiandevs.com)

回答:

Andy Payne(Appynation首席执行官)

这种违约的丑事被揭发出来,真是大快人心。我希望我能帮助开发者做出明智的决定。如果同处于游戏领域的我们能共享信息,那么做出更好的决策应该是有希望的。

任何人都应该谨慎地挑选合伙人。毕竟,你总是希望自己的付出有所回报。你希望保障自己的产权。你希望得到公平的待遇。在我看来,这些都是必须的。合同就是合同。信誉和信息的建立是需要时间的。

这个世界上有许多狡猾的公司。你应该寻找的公司是把你当作合作伙伴,而不是可以随意家暴的糟糠之妻。四下打探,多下功夫,不要害怕向对方抛出尖锐的问题。如果工作不合理,品质不够高,那么我的建议是,你应该像躲瘟神一样避开这种公司。

我乐意帮助寻求免费的销售-发行-推广合约的开发者。我们不能眼睁睁地看着我们的朋友被那些道德沦丧的骗子给坑了。

Ella Romanos(Remode创始人)

经历了“发行商推广游戏,开发者不承担风险”的模式后,我的结论是:除非所有参与方都承担一定的风险,并根据风险分配收益,否则这种合作关系永远行不通。

如果合作方不愿意承担有形的风险(游戏邦注:如出钱支持开发、营销或预支的版税),那么他就不是你应该合作的公司。根据我的经验,如果他们没有任何损失,那么我就不会信任他们。

现在的推广渠道太多了,大部分听起来好像不像真的,因为……

Stuart Dredge(《卫报》记者)

我先说一个音乐行业的故事……

几年以前,有许多传言说音乐人与音乐发行公司脱离关系,直接与粉丝沟通——直接推广音乐。许多人都说:“耶!除了压榨音乐人,商标能干什么?去死吧!咱直接见粉丝去!”

然而,事情却不是那么发展的:有些确实直接见粉丝——金属乐队最近发布了他们的唱片和商标,歌手David Guetta掌握自己的版权,只授权给百代唱片公司(EMI)——但传统的“唱片合约”仍然是主流,即使“唱片”从地球上消失!作为艺人,自己一手包办所有事务,结果往往是一团糟——那么多事务要管理、那么多东西要学习,还要盘算什么新数字媒体比较重要……

但是!我认为,无商标发行模式的存在可能对唱片合约产生重大影响。总地来说,合约不能像以前那样压榨艺人了,只能对艺人更友好一些。

所以,我希望游戏行业也能出现这种局面——或者至少有这种趋势,因为一定程度上,走直接道路(无论是经过苹果应用商店、Steam或其他什么平台)比数字化管理音乐生涯更简单些。所以我希望,开发者可以走直接道路,这意味着发行商将意识到应该更加公平地对待他们,付出更大的努力以及,不要剥削自己的合伙人。

积极的一面:

所以我认为,总之,开发者有望在合约中得到更多好处。

具体地说,在手机/平板领域,我认为你要考虑的不是“你是否需要发行商?”,而是“你要选择什么推广网络来战胜应用商店的对手?”。有数百万玩家的公司是哪些?哪些能帮助你推广游戏?

可能是发行商,可能是Mobage/GREE式的平台,可能是那些收费/免费的推广网站,可能是另一个开发者(Rovio进军发行领域就是近来最显著的例子)。所以也许你不需要发行商,但你确实需要推广网络——可能还是由发行商提供的。

在音乐行业,懂行的艺人经济人意识到如果他们合作起来,可以满足许多传统商标的功能,并且更加灵活。经济人就是新商标。所以艺人可能不需要商标,但他们需要类似商标的实体(认真一点,不要再叫它商标了)。

尽管这导致了新问题——1、经济人一般作为艺人反对商标压榨的保护者,所以现在他们发挥了双重作用?2、经济人往往不会告诉音乐家“事实上,那首歌很糟,得加上新的合声,你得再写两首‘神曲’。”他们可以发挥重要的A&R(音乐制作人)功能?

再回到游戏,可能我们渐渐理解了发行商的A&R式角色的重要性,他们全程与开发者协作、反馈、研究市场动向……所有事情开发者都“可以”自己完成,但也许不会排斥外部的投入?

Will Luton(手机、社交和免费游戏顾问)

我曾经遇到发行商拒付的事,这给我留下了心理阴影。他们先是抬高费用,然后责怪欧元,最后捏造借口拒付。如果你想知道是哪家公司,下次见到我时再问吧。

那件事意味着工作室应该脱离发行商吗?不是。我们不能一竿子打翻一船人,一份糟糕的合约不能抹黑所有发行商。发行商可以并且确实提供了必要的服务,但毕竟钱掌握在他们手上,所以无论合同上写了什么,你都会不好过。幸好他们现在有所收敛了,因为信誉就是一切。不讲信誉的公司绝对是自取灭亡。我提醒所有人,我永远不会与那些为了蝇头小利而危害生意的人合作。

Patrick O’Luanaigh(nDreams创始人)

在过去6年,我们已经与许多发行商合作过。幸运的是,我们现在可以独立发行80%的自家项目。我们有过惨痛的经历,但我们也有成功的体验。一切都是平等的,我们更倾向于自主发行,因为我们能完全掌握制作过程、可以根据自己的需要调整计划,可以建立自己的玩家社区,可以得到70%的净收益。但在PlayStation Home上比在iOS/Android上更容易实践自主发行。

我们现在与一家发行公司合作XBLA道具,虽然我们不能自主发行(因为微软关于数字发行的过时规定),但合作得不错。今年,我们在iOS和Android平台可能会与他人(可能是技术型发行商或“眼球供应商”)合作。

我的建议是四下打探。确保你得到推荐信,确保自己与外界保持沟通以及向其他工作室打听发行商。加入TIGA或UKIE等组织——一次谈话可能会让你省下大笔钱和少吃许多苦。我想所有开发者都喜欢听到其他工作室的建议。我听说过至少有一个关于大发行公司拒付的事件,所以你要从你知道的人那里打探到这种消息,一旦你发现苗头不对,立即远离发行商。

Andrew Smith(Spilt Milk工作室创始人)

在手机领域,我还没跟发行商合作过(给发行公司工作过不算吧!)。不过在传统游戏机方面,我倒是经验丰富。

不过,我认为当发行商做好自己的工作时,确实是有帮助的。他们可以提供项目资金、QA、本土化服务和推广宣传(或者在数字领域,他们与行业巨头如Steam和Apple等保持密切联系)。他们还能接触得到受众,广告商和大量其他小资源,基本上要么可以节省开发者开发时间要么提供开发者自身难以获得的技术和信息。

如果你擅长什么,那你就要靠什么赚钱——根据这个观念,发行商确实应该拿钱。

对于生活中的大部分事情,只要与钱扯上关系,都会变的——放到现在的数字市场,内容创造者(开发者)的影响力越来越大,而支持他们的人(发行商)的影响力越来越小。著名的游戏设计师应该就快出现了!

旧模式已死,新模式诞生。

Martin Darby(Remode创始人)

因为过去几年的经历,我可以说在这个时期,我不会向任何人推荐代理发行这种模式。我们只有在2009年Zynga和iOS崛起(即使那时的XBLA和PSN仍然很强大)以前才与发行商合作,但随着行业潮流的转向,我越来越支持自主发行。现在,看到游戏市场的分区如手机、平板、在线等领域的成长壮大,只要改变的趋势确实明显,我们就会跳出旧模式(即使我们在旧领域中也只是新手),就像青蛙跳出热汤锅。坦白说,虽然我妈认为我们的第一款游戏的盒装版非常棒,但我从来没有想过返回盒装游戏的时代。

然而,一系列变化确实给我们上了几堂重要的课。我拓展一下Ella说的话,我能传授的最好的经验就是,跟你谈判的人如果没有很快开始谈数字,那么你就要做好最坏的打算了(即使你还抱着希望):他们可能只是在浪费你的时间。

我经常问对方:“能说说你们其他游戏的情况吗……”,最常听到的借口就是“我们不能说,因为这违反保密协议。”那时候,我们就会说“不用指名道姓,只要举几个销量最好和最差的案例,可以用化名。”我们的经验是,严肃又有道德的人会毫不犹豫地这么做。他们会把你当作合伙人一样跟你交谈。那些图谋不义之财/版权的发行商会尽量拖延(尽量不透露他们的营销和推广产品的计划,也不估计成功或失败),直到你都快揭不开锅盖的时候,他们才会拿出苛刻的合约跟你签(似乎是告诉你,你能吃的就是这么多了)。很不幸,我只能说,对于许多独立开发者或在开发早期,有钱的就是老大,建议没有,回答完毕。因此,如果你打算跟发行商签约,那就把合约当作纯粹的红利,就像Ella所说的,自己先做好心理准备,从他们那边分担一些风险:那可能就是你能得到的所有钱!

显然,这取决于开发者如何管理他们的收益来源、固定成本和风险偏好。无论是什么开发生意,我都要问以下两个问题:

1、我是否是在跟决策者谈话?或者我可以信任决策者吗?(如果你是跟中小企业合作,可能是跟副总裁或CEO谈话)

2、对话谈到数字了吗?可以是开发预算、预计销量、用户数量等等。任何可能被代理的东西都要问清楚。

如果以上问题的回答都是“否”,那么我建议你多留一个心眼。至于为什么回答是“否”,不重要了。

我经历的唯一一次例外是,我们在Steam上发布《Mole Control》的时候。但那时Steam在独立开发者当中声誉极高。这是迄今为止唯一的例外,所以提出以上问题仍然是准则。我仍然不建议你把所有鸡蛋放在同一个篮子里:无论你的合作发行商是不是Steam。

Ben Board(Boss Alien资深产品总监)

你可能遇到好的一个,也可能遇到坏的一个,你必须四下打探找到你信任的那一个。但归根结低,你需要的就是他们帮你做一些你自己做不来又不想学的事。我说的是水管工,但发行商也差不多啦。

发行商的工作在五年前是很容易形容的。他们资助你的项目,推广你的产品然后销售你的产品。如果你是独立开发者,他们还要再压榨你一番,因为他们掌控了所有平台和所有版权,你在他们眼中只是一次性用品。哈,真是往事不堪回首啊。

现在,世道变了。手机游戏的兴起,意味着开发者可以与平台建立直接的关系。不存在推广分配,你的大部分营销工作都是通过代理完成的。有些发行商还没意识到这一点,还继续沿用旧模式。任何稍微懂行的开发者都知道四下打探,找到信誉好的,避开信誉差的(我们不要只是批评小发行商,也有大发行商,英国所有资深开发者都知道,他们也会让你等钱等到想死)。

但说到底,尽管发行商的工作已经不那么集中,但这并不意味着他们没价值,不专业。你应该做什么游戏?应该什么时候发行?多久升级一次?你的道具是不是太贵了?谁为用户开发买账?你应该为游戏内容签订营销合约吗?你是不是能自己完成QA?焦点/UX测试呢?你知道如何寻找和商谈授权吗?游戏获得成功的成本越来越高,你负担得起吗?

总有人得站出来回答并解决以上问题。我想把这些工作叫作“新发行模式”;小型开发商再也不必自己洗碗了,但总得自己修洗碗机吧。(本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译

[Gamesbriefers] Is it better to go it alone than to trust a publisher with your game?

By Gamesbriefers

Question:

Three developers recently published an open letter alleging that a UK publisher Lace Mamba had failed to pay the minimum guarantees it had promised, had distributed games in territories where it did not hold the rights and had sold rights it did not have to sub-licensors.

Does the Lace Mamba experience show that independent developers with successful digital distribution should go it alone? If a developer is looking to work with a publisher, what should they be looking for, and what are the warning signs that say “steer clear”?

Answers:

Andy Payne CEO of Appynation

Good to see those that are breaking the terms of a deal actually outed for once. I wish I could help people make more informed decisions. As we all start to share more information amongst the games community we will see better decisions made.

Everyone should pick their partners carefully. Yes you always want paying for the work you do. Yes you want the royalties you are entitled to. Yes you want to be treated fairly. These should all be a given in my book. A deal is a deal. Reputations and trust takes a while to establish.

There are many decidedly dodgy companies out there. Seek out companies that treat you like a partner, not a beaten wife. Ask around, take your time and don’t be scared to piss people off by asking hard and direct questions. If the work does not feel right, if the quality is not there, then my advice is avoid like the plague.

I would be happy to help any developer seeking a sales-publishing-distribution agreement free of charge. We cannot continue to stand by and let our friends get fleeced by unscrupulous chancers and frauds.

Ella Romanos Founder of Remode

Having gone through the model where ‘publishers’ distribute your game, with no risk taken on their part, I have come to the conclusion that unless all partners are taking some risk, and getting a return based on that risk, then the relationship is never going to work well.

If the partner isn’t willing to take some tangible risk upfront (i.e. put cash towards the project whether it’s for development, marketing or advanced royalties), then they probably aren’t a partner you want to work with and in my experience I wouldn’t trust them as they have nothing to lose.

There are a lot of distribution opportunities out there, most of which sound too good to be true because they are…

Stuart Dredge Journalist at The Guardian

Here’s my take with a music industry hack hat on…

A few years ago, there was lots of chatter about music artists cutting out the middlemen (labels) and going direct to fans – distributing music directly. Lots of “YEAH! What do labels do anyway apart from SCREW musicians? FUCK The Man! Go direct to fans!” and so on.

It hasn’t quite turned out that way: some artists do go direct – Metallica recently reclaimed their master recordings and launched their own label, David Guetta has all his rights and merely licenses them to EMI – but the traditional ‘record deal’ is still the main mechanism. Even as ‘records’ fade from the scene! It turned out that doing everything yourself as an artist was often a massive ball-ache – lots of admin, lots of grappling with subjects like metadata, figuring out which new digital things were important etc.

BUT. The existence of that potential label-free alternative has had a big impact, I think, on record deals. Contracts are (on the whole) less screw-the-artisty. The threat forced labels to be more artist-friendly.

So, I hope that’s what will happen in the games world – and perhaps more so, because going direct (whether through the App Store, Steam or whatever) is less of a ball-ache, practically speaking, than managing a music career digitally. So I hope the fact that developers can go direct means publishers will feel more need to justify themselves, make a bigger effort and not screw their partners.

*optimistic face*

So I think developers will hopefully have more leverage to strike better deals, in short.

That said, in mobile/tablet specifically, I think it’s less about ‘do you need a publisher’ and more about ‘what network are you tapping into to cut through the app store clutter?’. Who are you working with that has tens / hundreds of millions of people playing games who they can promote your title to?

Might be a publisher, might be a Mobage/GREE-style platform, might be one of those monetisation/offer/thingy networks, might be another developer (Rovio’s move into publishing being the most prominent recent example). So perhaps you don’t need a publisher, but you do need a network – and that might be supplied by a publisher.

In the music industry, savvy artist managers are realising that if they staff up, they can fulfil a lot of the functions of a traditional label, while also being a bit more nimble. Managers as the new labels. So artists may not need a label, but they may need a label-like entity that’s very carefully not calling itself a label.

Although this opens new cans of worms – 1. managers traditionally acted as the artist’s defender against label screwiness, so what now if they’re acting as both? 2. Managers traditionally aren’t the people who’d tell an artist ‘actually, that song’s shit, that song needs a new chorus, you need to write two more hits to get radio airplay’. Can they become that important A&R function?

And to bring THAT back to games, perhaps we’re underestimating the importance of publishers’ A&R-style roles, working with a developer throughout the process, giving feedback, figuring out what wider market trends mean for this specific in-development title… All stuff a developer *could* do themselves, but perhaps would appreciate external input for?

Will Luton Consultant for mobile, social and free-to-play games

I’ve been shafted by a publisher that just decided they didn’t want to pay. Eeked out payment, blaming the Euro, then invented a reason not to pay. If you want to know who that is, ask me when you see me next.

Does that mean that studios should run from publishers? No. One bad deal doesn’t make all publishing bad. Publishers can and do offer necessary services, but because they handle the cash unscrupulous ones can make it hard for you regardless of what a contract might say. However they hold less sway these days and reputation is everything. The company in question in my case has done itself no favours. I warn everyone I know from them and I’ll never do business with anyone involved again – they’ve damaged their business for the sake of a few grand. That is unsustainable.

Patrick O’Luanaigh Founder of nDreams

We’ve worked with a number of publishers over the last six years, and we’re now in the fortunate position where we can self-publish about 80% of our projects. We have had bad experiences, but we’ve also had some good ones. All things being equal, we’d much prefer to self-publish as we’re in complete creative control, we can alter our plans as we need to, we build our own community and we keep 70% of the gross revenue. But it’s definitely easier to do that on a platform like PlayStation Home than it is on iOS/Android.

We’re currently working with a publisher on XBLA items since we’re not allowed to self-publish (due to Microsoft’s antiquated rules about digital publishing), and that’s working very well. And there is a chance that we’ll need work with partners (where they are technically publishers or more like ‘eyeball providers’) on our iOS and Android projects this year.

My advice would be to ask around. Make sure you get recommendations, and make sure you keep networking and talking to other studios about publishers. Join TIGA or UKIE and network; a chance conversation will very often save you a ton of money and grief. I don’t know any developer who wouldn’t be happy to receive a call for advice from other studios. I have heard of at least one fairly sizable publisher who simply isn’t paying anyone at the moment, so seek this kind of knowledge from the people you know and when you see smoke, stay well clear.

Andrew Smith Founder of Spilt Milk Studios

I’ve yet to work with a publisher (working for one doesn’t count!) in the mobile space, but in traditional console land, I had mixed experiences.

I think publishers really can help though, when they’re at their best. They can offer funding support, QA, localisation and distribution power (or rather, in this digital world, they have strong links with gatekeepers like Steam, Apple and the like). They also have audience reach, advertising clout, and a ton of other seemingly little things that add up to basically either saving the dev a lot of time, or lending them access to skill and information they would otherwise not have.

Based on the idea that if you’re good at something then you should be charging for it, publishers should definitely take a cut.

As with most things in life, as soon as money comes into it things change – the digital markets now mean that (rightly) the content creators (devs) are getting more and more clout while the people who support them (publishers) are getting less. Next step – celebrity games designers!

The old model is dead, long live the new.

Martin Darby Founder of Remode

Having gone through this a few years back, I can say that in this day and age this isn’t a model I would recommend to anyone. We did this just prior to the 2009 Zynga & iOS eruption which will always stand out in my mind as the tidal shift in the industry (even though XBLA & PSN were still also quite big at that point). Now, with so many opportunities in growing market segments like mobile, tablet, online etc: why? Just Why?!? As soon as the extent of the changes in the market started to become really evident we jumped out of this old world (while we were still a start-up) like a frog from a hot pan. Frankly, while my mum thought the boxed copy of our first game was quite cool, I’ve never looked back.

However, the whole thing did teach us some valuable lessons. To extend what Ella said, the best thing I could pass on would be that if someone you are negotiating with isn’t prepared to talk numbers quickly then expect the worst even if you hope for the best: Chances are they’re wasting your time.

I frequently ask “tell us about the performance of some of your other games…” and the most frequent excuse back is “We can’t, it would break NDA’s”, at which point we would say “don’t mention any names then, just give us some examples of some best-selling and worst selling products but preserve anonymity”. I’d say our experience is that people who are serious and ethical will happily do this without stalling. They’ll talk to you like you’re building something together. People who are in it for a quick buck/rights will try to string everything out (and give the lightest possible answers as to how they intend to market and distribute the product, as well as what success or failure looks like) until you are starving. Then they will move on a hard deal quickly (which looks like an all-you-can-eat buffet by this point). Sadly I can totally empathise with many indies or early stage businesses where cash is king, answers/advice is thin, and so the jaws close. Therefore if you go for these deals see them as purely a bonus and like Ella said, negotiate yourself an advance and get some risk taken from their side: It might be all the cash you see anyway!

Obviously it is up to every developer how they manage their revenue concentration, fixed costs and risk appetite but when it comes to any sort of business development I have learned to ask two questions…

1) Am I talking to, or do I know and trust the decision maker? (preferably a VP or the CEO if you are dealing with another SME)

2) Is this person talking numbers? This could be a development budget, sales expectations, user numbers. Whatever can be used as a proxy to drill into more detail.

If the answer to both of these is “no” then my recommendation would be to approach with scepticism. It doesn’t matter why the answers are “no”.

The only time I’ve ever seen an upside from ignoring this was when we got Mole Control on Steam. However, at that point particularly, Steam had an overwhelmingly unequivocal positive reputation with indies including the ability to organically get bums on seats. This was by far a one off exception, not the rule, and I still wouldn’t recommend putting all your eggs in one basket: Steam or not.

Ben Board Senior Product Lead at Boss Alien

You can get good ones, you can get bad ones, you have to ask around and find one you trust, but ultimately you need what they can do because you can’t do it yourself and don’t really want to learn. I’m talking about plumbers, of course, but the parallels with publishers are striking.

Publishers five years ago were easy to describe. They fund your project, market it and put it on shelves. Plus if you were independent they would then fuck you over, because they held all the power with the platforms and all the IP, and you were disposable. Ah, good times.

Now that’s changed. The huge diaspora to mobile means developers now have direct relationships with the platforms (inasmuch as anyone does). There’s no distribution. Most of your marketing is done through agencies. Some publishers have yet to realise this and continue on the old path. Any developer with an ounce of savvy will ask around, find them, and avoid them. (And let’s not just criticise the little guys – there’s a bigger publisher closer to home, as any seasoned UK dev will know, from whom you do not want desperately to be waiting for payment.)

But all that said – just because those roles have been less centralised doesn’t mean they’re not still valuable, specialist skills. What game should you be making? When should you release it?

How often should you update it? Are your IAPs too expensive? Who’s paying for user acquisition? Should you be doing marketing deals for in-game content? Do you do all your own QA? Focus/UX testing? Do you know how to find and negotiate licenses? And yes, can you afford to bankroll a game to the increasingly high standard required for success?

Someone has to answer these questions and provide these services. I would call this The New Publishing; and a small developer shouldn’t be doing it themselves any more than they should be mending their own dishwasher.(source:gamesrief)


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