Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Paris Conference: "How to emerge on the AppStore" - Part I

Last weekend, I had the chance to visit the French Videogame Festival in Paris. I went there especially for the “How to emerge on the AppStore” conference. Among the speakers, Vincent Dondaine, the CEO of Bulkypix, one of the major French iPhone game developer and publisher. My main concern was to understand why an iPhone game developer would ever need a publisher, since Apple approves almost everything submitted (except porn). If you respect Apple Guidelines, your app get on the AppStore, period. So, why the hell would I need a publisher?

I guessed all the PR work is a first solid point. But is that worth the 30-50% cut any publisher takes?! Most indies are self-funded so they even don’t rely on publishers’ big bucks to develop and market their games. That’s the case of Press Start Studio, a small French team who brought a splendid action game to the iPhone and the iPad this year: Twin Blades. I didn’t ask them directly, but as their game were almost complete, why did they need to find a publisher and sign with Bulkypix? What makes iPhone game publishers so special and attractive?
Short answer: they know Apple. I mean personally. They can put a face on Apple. They can pick up the phone and talk to Apple. This is the huge, terrific, tremendous difference between a publisher, with 50+ games in catalog, and any given subscriber to the ADN. So that’s the trick. Pure lobbying.

Of course, I could still go on my way and take the risk that nobody will ever notice my game, hidden in the deepest unreachable land of the AppStore… Yes, unreachable, and the guy who writes this is the kind of man who usually clicks on every 50 pages of a Google search. But I can’t browse anyway beyond the 200 first games in the AppStore. Where are these 250 000 apps? I don’t know really, but what I know is that I don’t wish my game to be in the 249 800 that I can’t find out. And this is where Bulkypix, Chillingo and friends come in. They can ask directly to Apple to bring any game upfront for a given timeframe where a marketing campaign is forecast. And guess what: any of their marketing plans looks definitely more serious than any of mine, unless I’m the developer of Doodle Jump or Monster Dash. Because if I don’t want any middleman, that’s the only other possible route: be one of the best, instantly, from day 1, and get a bit lucky about the game adoption speed by the community. Otherwise, I’m as lost in the AppStore as my uncle’s homepage is on Google (yes, the one that shows all those cool fishes he got last Sunday). That’s the frightening stat for every iPhone developer: 90% of apps are downloaded less than 10K.

In my next post, I will give more details about the conference, but I first wanted to explain the biggest point – the publisher point – which was not obvious to me.
Finally, from my own investigation, I’ve managed to know the average cut of the publisher in the iPhone world, because that’s another world. We’re not in the AAA console and PC MMO wars here, and this is good news: the iPhone publisher cut lies in the 10-20% range.


  1. I've talked to two publishers, and the cut was mostly in the 50% range for self-funded titles.

    How much was the publisher you are talking about promising they'd do?

    I ended up going with Backflip, and in less than a week my game is #8 in free puzzle games, #36 in games overall. So I'm happy with my choice. :)

  2. That was 2 years from now, and I did not go that far in discussions. We didn't talk about numbers... Anyway, I think they can't promise numbers, but a certain level of exposure (game of the day, etc).

    Congratulations and good luck with your games! And thanks for reading.