Sometimes, a partnership between a game developer and a publisher doesn’t quite come to fruition as some people believe. Many developers that have teamed up with a “big” publisher have seen small dividends as a result, or sometimes even gotten to the point that it had to shut down because the project was too big for its own good (like with Factor 5 and its doomed Lair PlayStation 3 game).
That may be part of the reason why Double Fine has opted to launch a new publishing arm to its company. The long-time developer, responsible for such games as Broken Age, Psychonauts and the forthcoming Costume Quest 2, is giving game publishing a shot under the name Double Fine Presents, even though that wasn’t really a part of the company’s original vision.
Most of the growth into a publishing company came from the company’s various team ups with other developers, shared booths at game conventions and the special “Game Jam” events that have drawn in hundreds of gamers, according to senior publishing manager Greg Rice. “The cool thing about Double Fine Presents is it doesn’t stem from any financial reason,” he said. “Having other people around is stimulating for our dev team, so it really stemmed from a desire to keep working with other developers, and we decided to formalize it a bit.”
Along with publishing its own wares, Double Fine Presents will also help out other independent developers with a variety of services, including feedback on game design, help with public relations, marketing, distribution and more. It can also lend its expertise on Kickstarter campaigns, since Broken Age stemmed from a highly popular one.
“It’s a totally piecemeal thing,” Rice said. “That’s the hard thing with a lot of publisher relationships — they’re offering you a set package. For us, I feel like it’s more about identifying games and teams that we’re excited about and working with them to figure out how we can be helpful based on the things we’ve done, the things we have expertise in, and the things they need.”
The company has already published a handful of games, including Escape Goat 2, Mountain and Gang Beasts, and intends to reach out to release several more, helping “indies” out in the process. “They were like, we don’t want to be a publisher. We want to help you with what you need, and we want to assist with the people we have,” says Ian Stoker, the creator of Escape Goat 2. “We were finishing the game and they offered a really good deal. They helped us with visibility, and we could leave at any time.”
With a 10 percent cut of a game’s earnings, Double Fine Presents hopes to be fair to publishers, as that’s a far lesser cut than the 60-70 percent most take in the industry. “Hopefully it’ll just mean more and more people start doing these kinds of things and helping each other out,” Rice says. “Ultimately, we want the power in the hands of developers so they can make the games they want to make.”