An Interview with Crytivo, Part 2: From Developer to Publisher
During the second half of our extensive interview with Crytivo, Alex Koshelkov and Sasha Shumsky tell Logrus IT about their store, the Crytivo Select program, and the publishing business’s stumbling blocks.
Nikolai: So, Alex and Sasha, how did you go from developing games to publishing them?
Alex: After the success of The Universim, a lot of people started asking us for advice about promoting their projects. We were always helping somebody or telling somebody about something. So a few years ago we decided we should start doing it officially, as publishers.
Oleg: We know that you recently launched your own game store. Do you think you’ve got a chance of competing with the Epic Games Store, Steam, GOG, and other platforms?
Alex: That’s a great question. We might be able to compete with GOG, but the Epic Games Store or Steam? Not a chance. I’m okay with that, since our goal isn’t actually to compete with anybody. We created the store for ourselves, to promote our products and retain our fanbase. It’s just one of the tools in our toolbox. Maybe in the future we’ll look back on this interview and laugh... from our yachts. :) But right now we aren’t planning to compete with anybody.
Oleg: That brings us to another interesting topic: the Crytivo Select program. Could tell us a little more about it?
Alex: We created Crytivo Select as a tool for introducing developers to our fans. It usually works like this: we run a stream on Twitch or social media, invite the devs, and have a free-form chat with them. For example, we might ask them how they got into game development, what challenges they’ve faced and how they overcame them, or what their project is all about.
The point of these online sessions isn’t just for developers to share their experience – which is absolutely useful for other indie teams – but also to introduce these guys to our fans. If the viewers like what our guests are saying and what they’re showing them, it’ll be easier for us to promote their project going forward. So it’s a pretty good marketing tool for startup devs. The only catch is that we always stream in English, so our main target audience is English speakers.
Nikolai: Have you ever thought about doing something like that for a Russian-speaking audience?
Alex: We’ve been following the Russian-speaking market for a long time, and it’s very different from the American market – I guess you might say it’s less dynamic. Maybe business culture is just different here in the US. Competition is more intense, so companies try to be more creative and energetic. So when we learn about projects from Russian publishers, we’re always surprised that we've never heard of them before. Needless to say, there are some cool games that basically promote themselves, but not many.
But generally speaking, we’ve thought that it might be nice to have something like Crytivo Select for the Russian-speaking community. Sasha and I are fluent in both languages, so we could promote titles in Russian. Or, on the other hand, we could find cool indie games over in Russia and promote them here in the States.
You’ve got some great publishers over there, of course, like our friends at Hypertrain Digital. Those guys know how to run projects, and they’ve had awesome results. But there are also some companies you couldn’t exactly call publishers, and they don’t have the slightest idea what they’re doing when it comes to games. Even if one of their projects ends up becoming a hit after release, I doubt you could really give them credit for it. Games are like movies – people need to be talking about them, they need to see them.
Oleg: Is that basically a publisher’s main job?
Alex: Absolutely. As a publisher, our job is to make our projects more recognizable, to enhance their “online presence.” That’s why we’re actively developing tools for communicating with our fans. That includes our website, our store, our social media profiles, and our newsletters. When we start working on a new project, the first thing we do is tell our subscribers about it. We show them trailers, tell them about the gameplay, etc.
Oleg: It’d also be great to talk about the relationship between publisher and developer in general. What kinds of stumbling blocks are there?
Alex: The relationship between developer and publisher is like a couple’s dance – both people have to be good dancers. If one of them starts dancing badly, then the dance just isn’t going to go well.
We’ve had a few cases where developers we were working with didn’t want to listen to our advice. I get it – everybody wants to make the game of their dreams, just like they’ve always imagined it. But sometimes people just don’t know what it takes to make a good game, so their projects end up missing crucial elements. We always share our thoughts about this stuff, but in the end, it’s up to the developer.
Sasha: A publisher can put everything they’ve got into promoting a project, but if people don't find it interesting, if they play the game and walk away, there’s really nothing we can do about that. Here’s another example from a previous project: a certain developer wanted to test their game, but it wasn’t even close to ready yet. We warned them not to give the fans access to their game in such a rough state, but they insisted that everything was gonna be great. We agreed and brought three or four thousand people in to test the game. They played it, and then almost no one showed up for the next test run. To put it bluntly, this minimized the game’s chance of success, and it was all because most people didn’t like the game. But we did everything they told us to.
Developers often don’t realize that a publisher isn’t a wizard who can wave a magic wand and turn any game into a gem. If you’ve got a good game and a good publisher, you're golden. But if one of them isn’t doing their part or working hard enough, then there’s just no way the project is going to be successful.
In the third part of our interview with Crytivo, our guests talk about the advantages of localization, the characteristics of foreign markets, and how to choose the right languages to translate your project into.
To be continued...