Rufus Kubica of 11 bit studios talked about finding a bond between the publisher and development team, and how it is crucial for the partnership to work, in this week’s Publisher Profile.
Who are you?
Rufus Kubica, 11 bit studios: My name is Rufus Kubica, and I am a Community Manager at 11 bit studios. I’m responsible for communicating with our lovely community, be it on Facebook, Twitter, Steam forums, Reddit or any other platform. I also do some PR during events like PAX, GDC or Gamescom.
On top of that, I really love indie games. That’s why I’m also evaluating most of the projects that are pitched to us.
Can you tell us a bit about your company?
We are an independent game company devoted to creating and publishing meaningful games that are able to leave a strong mark on a widely understood pop culture. As a developer, we’ve started with smaller games like the Anomaly series – but even then our goal was to shake things up a little bit. That’s why we’ve twisted the tower defense genre and created Anomaly: Warzone Earth as the first tower offense game!
But most people probably know 11 bit studios as the creators of This War of Mine, a game in which you control a group of civilians trying to survive in a besieged city, and Frostpunk, a society survival game set in frozen wastelands. Besides that, we’ve (very proudly) published indie games such as Beat Cop, Tower 57, Moonlighter, and currently, we’re working hard to release Children of Morta this year. So, we’re not slacking off, and yes, we are still looking for more projects and new challenges.
What work do you do to help developers reach an audience? How do you make developers’ lives a little easier?
We are aware that there are plenty of publishers out there. Even EA started their ‘indie games’ department! It’s getting crowded in here, but we believe we have our special spot in that crowd.
Firstly, we are developers ourselves, so we won’t give you any useless, counterproductive feedback. Secondly, we approach each project individually; we don’t use any cookie cutter solutions. Whatever you need, we can talk about it, create a contract that works for both parties, and establish enjoyable, win-win conditions.
I would say that our main strength is (a little bit counter-intuitively) the fact that we are very selective. We don’t want to grab every indie game out there and push it out. We are picky, indeed, but it’s because we’re choosing projects that we can fully understand and that we can promote to their fullest potential. So if we’ve chosen your game, you can be sure that we will do everything to secure your success.
If we want to go into more specific details about the services we provide, it is: funding (we can cover the costs of development, equipment, porting, localization and others), marketing and PR (we know people and we’ll make them hear about your game. Events, travels, trailers, and other marketing assets – leave that to us!), feedback (’cause as I’ve said, we’re devs ourselves so we’ll be happy to help you by giving insight from our team) and production (product management, certifications, QA and more). And if that’s not enough and you need something super special to fit your team’s particular needs, we can discuss absolutely everything.
What is it that you’re on the lookout for (genres, content, etc.)?
We are very broad-minded; we look for different games from various genres. So, it doesn’t really matter what kind of game it is as long as it is intriguing and has some unique potential. However, as I’ve mentioned before, we prefer to have fewer titles and really focus on them instead of releasing 20 games each year. We try to find games that can make an impact – that carry significance.
We explore the indie games market for the things that make it truly great: fresh, unusual, meaningful ideas and teams that are liable to share our ‘quality-first’ attitude. So, feel free to approach us with any not-so-original projects or republishing offers and we will still give you some (hopefully useful) feedback if we have some time to spare. Just don’t expect us to be too excited, okay? Geez, I hope I don’t sound like an arrogant jerk here. If I do, it’s only coming from my best intentions. Trust me.
What do you look for in the games you choose to publish? In the developers you want to work with?
As mentioned above, we want to publish meaningful stuff. However, nowadays, it is easy to mistake something meaningful with something superficial that is trying to be meaningful.
Here is where the teams come in. Establishing special chemistry with the teams that we are working with is crucial. When you get to know each other, you can quickly realize if the same things make you tick. And if you find that special “something”, you instantly understand that you can work together and create something unique. It’s this magical particle that feels almost intangible, but it is there.
We’ve felt that magic with Digital Sun Games and Dead Mage studios, and working with them has been a blast since the very beginning. Also, don’t believe all the urban legends that you have to handle your drinks well if you work with 11 bit studios. If you don’t, one of us will carry you home. 😉
Is there anything developers do to make themselves more appealing to publishers? Anything they do that makes them less appealing to publishers?
I would say that the answer is quite simple and it addresses both questions: be respectful. It may seem very general at first, but if you think about it, it becomes as plain as a day. If you are respectful – to yourself, to your team/project, and to the publisher that you are approaching – you are going to prepare a solid game pitch, create a quality prototype, do some research about the publisher to know who are you talking with, etc. All of those can strengthen your position and make the publishing conversations easier. If you have this respectful approach, you can even learn new stuff just from the preparation phase!
On the other hand, if you don’t respect any of the above, you will lose your time (and, frankly: money) preparing a pitch that won’t work for a particular publisher, and this means also squandering time and passion of your team. And believe me, it’s just not worth it.
Also: don’t be scared. We don’t bite. Usually.