How We Selected Our First Game

September 28, 2022

Falling Out – One week to launch

As I write this we are one week away from our first game launch here at Firestoke. The sense of nervous excitement in the air is tangible! Although it might look easy from the outside, launching a game has many difficult challenges and requires the combined effort of a large number of passionate and hardworking people from across the world. We haven’t made life any easier by supporting a global release with 11 languages launching simultaneously on PC, Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series but we have good reasons to start off with such an ambitious approach.

I’ll write in more detail about this experience once the dust has settled, but for now I wanted to share some thoughts behind why we choose Falling Out as our first game and as a developer suggest some aspects you might wish to consider when approaching a publisher.

When we first began to pull together the plans for what we wanted Firestoke to become we felt very strongly that we needed to have a healthy balance between being driven by both creativity and data. Often in the games industry, this is difficult to achieve with companies focusing too heavily on one to the exclusion of the other, leading to poor decision making based only upon a limited awareness of the overall environment. For us, the most important decision we make is in deciding what games to publish, and so to ensure we had a good balance of both creative and data-driven input, it was vital to establish a clear definition of what a Firestoke game should be and also the process for finding and signing them.

First we created a set of pillars to guide us creatively and then built a process for competitive analysis and commercial benchmarking using available market data and got to work. Having since evaluated over 2,500 games in the past year and signed four (more news on those soon!), we’ve already had the opportunity to iterate on this process, but the early signs are positive. Our games are creating a consistent brand and portfolio proposition, and seem to be attractive to players.

So why, out of the thousands of games we’ve reviewed, did we sign Falling Out?

Creative Match
Falling Out was a great fit for the creative pillars we had spent so much time defining. It was a small game in terms of scale, accessible (but hard to master), had strong shareable qualities with the local co-op mode and Twitch integration, was high energy and most importantly, brought joyful moments to the player at various points during gameplay.

Fun, Fun, Fun
Although the early versions of the game had some frustrating issues it was a huge amount of fun to play both as a single player and also with a friend. There was a sense of comedy and humour in the game that was very appealing and entertaining. We knew players of similar games would love what it has to offer.

Unrealized Potential
Despite the early demo being a lot of fun there were a number of areas where we, as a publisher, could instantly add value to the developer by helping them to make a better game – having two ex-game designers on our team is a huge advantage! A few areas we were able to make a positive contribution to were game structure, FTUE and narrative. Our marketing team also helped to improve the overall proposition to players by helping rename from Pyramid Plunge (only part of the game is set in a pyramid!) to Falling Out and directing logo design and key art changes.

High Commercial Ceiling
When we analyzed the commercial performance of similar games we found that roguelike 2D platform games had a very high potential commercial ceiling (i.e. they can sell a lot of copies) but with a very modest financial investment. As our first signing, we wanted to take a cautious approach and therefore felt that Falling Out, with its more accessible approach to games like Spelunky, Rogue Legacy, Noita and Steamworld Dig would be appealing to a large base of existing fans of this genre of games, in addition to new players that would be attracted to play those games but might be concerned about the difficulty challenge.

Developer Fit
Not only do we need to find the right game for us, it is equally important that the development team making the game is a good fit. We have to work together for months and sometimes years, through good times and bad and therefore we have to select partners very carefully. A key stage of the evaluation process is what we’ve named the “alignment phase” where we spend time in candid conversation with the team before proceeding with due diligence to ensure we are agreed on the fundamental aims/objectives of the project and how we will achieve them.

Falling Out has been built by the ultimate micro-studio – just one person, the lovely Neville Attard of PolyCrunch Games – and so while this comes with some risks, his level of industry experience, demonstrable technical/artistic capability and strong organizational skills left us in no doubt we could trust him to deliver what was agreed by the end of alignment.

I hope this has provided a useful insight into some of our game evaluation process, but we’d love to improve it further, so please do reach out to us and let us know what you think. In the meantime please go check out Falling Out, launching 6th October on all your favourite game platforms!

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