Standing out from the crowd is key to running an indie publisher these days.
As the indie development space continues to expand, self-publishing is a challenging prospect. With that, many are turning to bespoke publishers of small games to give their projects a leg up in the crowded space.
But Raw Fury CEO Jónas Antonsson says the sector has never been better.
“With a market that never seems to stop growing, more people discover games and look for unique experiences,” he says.
“Something that can touch them or offer gameplay that you won‘t see in triple-A games.”
With game development becoming more accessible than ever, Antonsson believes indie publishers are a vital tool for sticking out from the crowd.
“The democratisation of games and making it easier for anyone to self-publish is great," he admits, "but the challenge then becomes how to stand out in the large sea of new games launching all the time.”
Indie publishers can do this by creating a sort of brand personality, something competitor Devolver Digital mastered with a reputation for irreverent action and crass humour. Antonsson believes Raw Fury is still getting there, as it attempts to pivot itself as a “boutique” provider of games.
“We‘re getting there by building the Raw Fury brand itself," he says.
"Gaining recognition of being a burgeoning boutique indie publisher that offers unique experiences becomes a quality mark for the players and it‘s advantageous for the developers we partner with.”
While making games is easier than ever, finding places to sell them has become increasingly complex. But while others have expressed uncertainty at the evolving state of games stores, Antonnson is confident that the arrival of Discord sales and the Epic Games Store is a net positive for developers.
“It‘s great for game developers as the competition favours the artist rather than the business," Antonsson says.
"This demand enables creators to get more visibility, support and financial security."
What this does mean is that publishers can’t rely on stores alone to build hype. Landing the Steam front page doesn’t mean as much as it used to, Antonsson stresses, and publishers need to put in the work to build awareness and an audience.
“While this is great, for us as a publisher, you can‘t only rely on the storefront to do the work," he explains.
"You have build up brand awareness, an audience, and do your homework for every game no matter on which storefronts you end up selling them.”
One new development, in particular, is cause for excitement. Antonsson sees the growing number of subscription services as a vital tool for building a following, opening a publisher’s catalogue to players who may never have found them.
Even if they’re not paying full price, subscription players can help “validate that the game is great”, and prove that “there is even more potential out there” for the title.
“It‘s great as it opens up games to new players that might never have purchased them individually," he says.
"We‘ve seen this for Kingdom Two Crowns when it gained a lot of new players through Xbox Game Pass.
Raw Fury has had a solid year so far, Antonsson claims. Old reliables like Kingdom are still seeing returns, with the executive calling the success of Kingdom: New Lands’ mobile port a “testament that there‘s a demand for quality premium games on iOS and Android.”
There's also the matter of last year's $5.5 million investment from Nordisk Film, which the publisher has used to produce more, larger titles.
Going forwards, Raw Fury will continue to drive upwards. The firm is hiring up to account for further growth and keep from stretching too thin. That’s important, as Antonsson notes that there are a good few games sitting in the pens waiting to be let loose.
“We‘re growing and have signed a lot of new games that we‘ll reveal soon," Antonsson says.
"We strongly believe that giving large amounts of support to our dev teams is one of the highest priorities.”