Is it worth doing self-publishing on mobile? White Room Games, Ruby Games, LuckyKat founders explain

Apple just made the mobile industry much more appealing for self-publishing. They announce that platform commission will be decreased to 15% for publishers earning less than $1 million per year in a recent press release. We sat down virtually with three founders that decided to self-publish their games.

Let’s meet our guests:

Kirill Nekrasov Founder of White Room Games;

Herdjie Zhou Co-founder of LuckyKat;

Mert Can Kurum Founder & CEO of Ruby Games.

Why have you decided to start publishing on your own?

White Room Games: There are a few reasons. The main reason is the negative experience we had while working together with some external publishers in the past. Consequently, came the decision to jump into digital marketing learning and figure out how to promote our game without Intermediaries. It took three years to make that happen, and I don’t regret that. Now I am very satisfied with the results of the self-publishing model. You have more control and a better understanding of your business. It’s more complicated than when you are just focusing on developing products, but a strong marketing background helps the team to overcome many challenges in operating our games. And yes, self-publishing generates much more profit.

Ruby Games: The first is economic: Without having any partner, your ROI will be higher as the revenue will not be shared. The second is marketing: There is a risk of losing a high potential product with the publisher’s poor marketing strategy. Thirdly is independence: Working with the publisher’s KPI may result in your company’s full loss of self-dependence in the long-term. Being dependent on 3rd parties will eventually limit your sources in terms of knowledge and operation. The fourth is transparency: Keeping track of the revenue may not be 100% transparent with specific partners. And last but not least is the hybrid structure: All the learnings from various publishers will be collected under one structure.

LuckyKat: From the start of our journey as a game studio, we always wanted to be independent. From making games to distributing and marketing them. This process isn't the most straightforward route, but it gives you a very steep learning curve as a studio. We like challenges and solving difficult problems, so doing our publishing made sense.

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook visiting LuckyKat team. (Herdjie is third on the right)

What was the most difficult for you when you started self-publishing?

White Room Games: I think the most difficult was to create a hit game with outstanding metrics :). We spent a lot of time finding out that a game with average metrics (Retention/CPI ) will never become a hit. All of our efforts to improve metrics didn’t give us a positive result.

The second big challenge was setting up and operating ad monetization. Many developers think that a simple integration of some ad network's SDK to a game is enough to make their games profitable. You can do it but will get much less revenue. Efficient work with ad monetization can increase your ARPU by 2-3 times.

The third challenge was to create synergy between ad monetization and User Acquisition. It's a big topic, so I will just mention that UA managers should understand the basics of ad monetization via ad mediation (like ironSource) and have regular communication with ad monetization managers.

LuckyKat: Finding a way to distribute your product/games is the tricky part. You may find yourself digging a rabbit hole on how to do marketing, i.e., reaching users who can play your games.

Ruby Games: A lack of experience; with no experience in marketing methodologies (test phase, scale phase, profit phase, etc.),  you lose costs, time/energy, and money. The task of finding new talent; building a team from scratch with proper qualifications is a challenge. And following the trend; with self-publishing, following the trends has become a problem. Since one publisher works with various studios, they will guide you following the experience collected from all of their studios.

Mert Can Kurum Founder & CEO of Ruby Games.

Do you think it's easier/harder for hyper-casual developers to do self-publishing than other app categories?

White Room Games: If the team has a good background in mobile marketing, I believe there is no difference.

LuckyKat: I think it's both. It's easier because hyper-casual requires much less workforce than a mid-core or a hardcore title. However, since the competition is exceptionally high, it will be an uphill battle to stand out against successful hyper-casual publishers.

Ruby Games: I believe it's easier because of testing multiple ideas with small budgets and simple products. You also can track user behavior, which helps you understand what to improve in your products (app and creative).

On the other hand, it's more challenging because it requires a strong marketing structure and fast-paced game development. Finding precise benchmarks (CPI, Retention, etc.) to extrapolate the outcome (LTV) can be difficult. And staying competitive in the genre requires powerful sources to follow the trends.

Which situations would you recommend developers to do self-publishing?

White Room Games: When they have a strong desire and resources to make it real. We started building our marketing department after we'd developed a game with high potential metrics. It was the trigger. Anyway, you need at least one UA marketer in the team for testing your prototypes. In our case, said marketer was me.


Kirill Nekrasov Founder of White Room Games

LuckyKat: If you have had the experience of launching a successful game with a publisher and having the opportunity to receive some good revenue from it, it's an excellent chance to start doing your publishing. Another way is to start entirely from scratch. Make sure you have the finances to catch quick failures and learn as quickly as you can.

Ruby Games: It's crucial to have full economic confidence and enough experience with the industry in terms of production and marketing.

Thanks guys!

If you are thinking about starting your self-publishing journey, we can help you. Tenjin provides a set of Training that covers User Acquisition,  Ad Monetisation, Automation, and other essential aspects of publishing mentioned today.

Just send us an email at info@tenjin.com to receive a list of available Training.

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