Game development is loaded with decisions to be made. What kind of game do I want to make? What kind of artwork should it have? Do I want to use stock music or hire a composer? (Check out my article about that here.) Do I want to go it alone or look into indie game publishers?
To clarify, I don’t have much experience when it comes to working directly with a publisher (I’m a composer after all, learn about me here). However, I do understand how beneficial it can be to a small game dev.
Now, there is A LOT to do when it comes to publishing games. I’ve always been a DIY kind of person when it comes to my art, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned it’s much more effective to enlist help whenever I can, especially when those people can perform the task better than me.
I can’t tell you whether or not you should go solo or hire a publisher. I can, however, provide a resource that aids you in your own research. Here is a list (in no particular order) of Indie Game Publishers you can consider working with on your game.
“A Games Label Created by Independent Developers for Independent Developers.”
Team 17 is one of the first names that come to mind when I think of indie game publishers. Established in 1990, this UK based company has been integral in developing and publishing a multitude of smash indie game hits for PC, console, mobile and handheld devices.
Notable games: Worms, Overcooked, Yooka Laylee, The Escapists, Moving Out, My Time at Portia.
“We are Devolver Digital, purveyors of fine digital entertainment wares from independent artists worldwide.”
Devolver Digital is another prominent name when it comes to indie game publishers. They offer marketing and digital distribution support, for both indie games and films.
Notable games: Enter The Gungeon, Gris, The Messenger, Hotline Miami, My Friend Pedro.
“We bring games to Steam, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch. You may have seen us doing obnoxiously orange booths at PAX.”
Seattle based label tinyBuild certainly has a story indie developers can relate to. After getting burned by a not so reputable publisher (who is not on this list) they decided to take things into their own hands. Since 2013, they have been providing support to indie devs through development, funding, and overall guidance.
Notable Games: No Time to Explain, Hello Neighbor, SpeedRunners, Guts and Glory, Party Hard, Lovely Planet.
“From celebrated indie classics like Bomber Crew and For the King, through to multi-million selling smash hits like like Human: Fall Flat, we’re passionate about what we publish.”
Voted ‘Indie Game Publisher of the Year’ as well as ‘Publishing Star’ in 2019, Curve Digital is one of the leading indie game publishers in the business today. They offer tons of essential services, such as development funding, production aid, Marketing and PR assistance. Definitely check these guys out if you are considering a publisher.
Notable Games: Human Fall Flat, Bomber Crew, For The King, The Swapper, Lone Survivor, Thomas Was Alone.
“Indie Fund is a funding source for independent developers, created by a group of successful indies looking to encourage the next wave of game developers.”
This is certainly a unique entry to this list. Indie Fund is a collective effort designed to fund indie games. They focus on one area indie devs struggle with, and that is funding, so you won’t receive any help with marketing or development from this group. You will, however, retain rights to your IP, and if accepted receive financial to develop your game.
Notable Games: Hollow Knight, Donut County, Her Story, Dear Esther, Night in the Woods.
“With a dedication to gamers and developers alike, Humble Games is a publisher willing to challenge the norm that has been expected of its predecessors.”
Commonly known for offering collections (or bundles) of games at a discount price, Humble Bundle actually has a publishing division as well. Not only can you recieve aid when it comes to financing, development and marketing, but you also can potentially utilize their well established brand to reach over 12 million established customers.
Notable Games: Wizard of Legend, Aegis Defenders, Ambition: A Minuet of Power, Temtem, Forager
“We are an independent game developer and publisher, based in London, UK, with a love of charming pixel art and a drive to support and create amazing games.”
Chucklefish is another UK based developer/publisher with some serious clout. In addition to developing their own games such as Wargroove and Starbound, they also have published over a dozen games in the past few years, most notably the smash hit Stardew Valley.
Notable Games: Stardew Valley, Wargroove, Starbound, Pathway, Inmost, Eastward.
“We were raised by the innovative and independent culture of Flash games, growing to become a modern indie publisher for PC, consoles, mobile, and beyond.”
Armor Games is truly an all encompassing indie game publisher. Publishers of the smash hit game Kingdom Rush (a series I am still addicted to, to this day), Armor games offers everything a developer needs. Whether it is funding, marketing, QA, launch support or just simple guidance, Armor Games has you covered.
Notable Games: Kingdom Rush, Pinstripe, Sushi Cat Words, Soda Dungeon, Never Give Up, Don’t Escape Trilogy.
“We provide multi-language text and audio localization services (including in-house voice over recording), PR, marketing, community support, maintenance, legal services, and more. We have developed strong partnerships in over 20 countries, and have provided customized publishing and localization solutions for over 100 video games. We are confident that we can help you reach out to a worldwide audience.“
Whisper Games was founded in 2015, and is based in Xiamen, China. It’s actually the one publisher on this list I’ve technically worked with, as it’s the publisher behind Magic of Spring and Light of the Locked World. Though I haven’t had any direct interactions with the team there, it’s been an overall positive experience working with them. They provide funding, as well as connecting developers with professional artists to work on their game.
Notable Games: Chained Echoes, Astlibra Revision, Wildermyth, Magic of Spring
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“We make the games that people don’t know they want yet. We are not pioneers but we are explorers.”
Coffee Stain is actually made up of 4 different teams, one of which is Coffee Stain Publishing. If you have heard of Goat Simulator, you know this team has a wacky sense of humor that your game may be right at home with. They have worked with Ubisoft and Sony, and one of their team members is even a former Mojang employee (no big deal, just the team behind Minecraft, that’s all).
Notable Games: Goat Simulator, Sanctum, Songs of Conquest, Deep Rock Galactic, Midnight Ghost Hunt, I Love Strawberries.
“Raw Fury is a (un)publisher. We don’t care about genres or mechanics. We care about experiences and emotions. And we want to help developers make magic.”
When it comes to indie game publishers, Raw Fury has one of the more interesting mission statements. Dubbing themselves as (Un)Publishers, Raw Fury aims to bring memorable games to players, and as they state one of their key principles is Happiness over Profit. I can get behind that.
Notable Games: West of Dead, Night Call, Gonner, Atomicrops, Mosaic, Dandara.
“We focus on games with heart, depth and a unique sense of style.”
Founded in 2005, Mode 7 is another developer gone publisher who offers a variety of services. Taking a less is more approach to publishing, they choose to not take on too many simultaneous projects at once. This is good for developers, ensuring that their project gets attention, rather than being pushed to the side.
Notable Games: Fights in Tight Spaces, The Colonists, Tokyo 42, Frozen Synapse, Frozen Cortex, Wardialler.
“Publishing games on all major mobile, PC and next gen consoles, Versus Evil works with indie studios around the world in North America, South America and Europe.”
Versus Evil is still a fairly young publisher, however, that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of handling your games needs. As a result of publishing titles such as The Banner Saga Trilogy and Guild of Dungeoneering, they have established a strong foothold in their dominion. Check them out if you are in need of help with marketing, monetization, distribution, PR, or social media outreach.
Notable Games; The Banner Saga Trilogy, Armikrog, Winermoor Tactics Club, Pillars of Eternity, Guild of Dungeoneering, Cardpocalypse.
“Serenity Forge’s vision of creating meaningful games extends to our publishing branch. We like games that strongly express its creator’s values, whether it be through gameplay, story, art, or other elements.“
If you want to be inspired, look into how Serenity Forge was founded. There was actually an episode of Extra Credits centered around Zhenghua Yang, the companies founder. While they focus on helping developers achieve their creative vision, they also offer publishing services to help put those games in front of the right players.
Notable Games: Cyanide and Happiness: Freakpocalypse, Loving Life, A Case of Distrust, Where the Water Tase Like Wine, Lifeless Planet.
“…we find the term PARTNER is much more fitting for what we do.”
Based in Saskatchewan, Canada, Noodlecake’s love for games is apparent. Especially when they talk about their love for double jumping and pew-pewing (their words, but I approve). Boasting a large collection of titles for Android and iOS, they certainly have credibility and clout as a publisher. They offer help through the whole process, from development through distribution.
Notable Games: Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy, Death Road to Canada, Golf Blitz, Chameleon Run, QWOP, Sneak Ops.
“We’ve been lucky enough to sell millions of copies of our games, largely because our team has decades of combined experience in creating fun video games, and in helping game creators reach more players everywhere.”
With hits like Cave Story+ and The Binding of Isaac under their belts, these guys are no slouches in the scene. Not only do they have publishing services, but they have their own digital storefront, which can aid games under their wing gain even more sales.
Notable Games: The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+, Cave Story+, VVVVVV, 1001 Spikes, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap.
“An indie games label exploring the possibility space of what narrative games can be. We seek out and partner with pioneering game developers working on unusual games with narrative at their core.”
Fellow Traveller (formerly Surprise Attack) launched in 2013. They have since published a collection of of games that appear to be challenging the norm of the gaming landscape. They champion a 3 stage process of Position, Promote, and Manage. Read more about their approach on their site.
Notable Games: Super Mutant Alien Assault, In Other Waters, Neo Cab, Suzerain, Paradise Killer, Blind.
“We are a team of passionate gamers, and we put our experience to good use by helping the greatest indie developers publish their games on mobiles.”
Playdigious has a solid relationship with industry players like Google and Apple, that they leverage to get their games out to as many people as possible. They offer marketing, PR, quality assurance, localization, and business-development support, as well as PC to mobile porting.
Notable Games: Dead Cells, Dungeon of the Endless, The Almost Gone, Arrog, Cultist Simulator, Evoland.
“Our extensive experience guarantees that real experts will be working on your game.”
One thing to note about Herocraft, is that they seem to be primarily interested in mobile games, though they have ventured onto Steam. However, if you are in that field they may be one of the best publishers to pick from. With a huge library of games, they have amassed over 50 million players worldwide. They also offer funding so this could be the company that will give your mobile game the boost it needs.
Notable Games: Farm Frenzy, Tap Tap Builder, Gibbets 2 & 3, Zombie Derby 1 & 2, King of Dragon Pass, Tempest.
“Collective is a curated platform that enables creators to post ideas, and gamers to judge whether those ideas should become reality or not. Sometimes, if an idea is supported by the community, we may offer to support the project through crowdfunding as well, via Kickstarter. Essentially, we’re trying to help small teams build awareness of their ideas, and ultimately self-publish.“
I thought I would close out this list with a heavy hitter in the industry. Square Enix (creators of the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series) has launched Collective, a community based Publishing service. Essentially, developers can submit their games and then the collective community casts votes on the games that interest them most. If your game generates buzz, Square Enix may then aid you with funding and distribution. How cool would it be to have Square-freakin-Enix publish your game?!
Notable Games: Tokyo Dark, Children of Zodiarcs, Deadbeat Heroes, Black The Fall, Oh My Godheads, The Turning Test, Goetia.
One thing to keep in mind, is to not be intimidated by any of these indie game publishers. You may see look at them and think “Oh they worked on [insert popular game here], they wouldn’t be interested in MY game.”
WRONG! If you are passionate and driven to make the best game you can, it will come through in your work.
Plus, imagine if your game was published by the same people who worked on Final Fantasy, Terraria, or Overcooked. This my friends, will earn you “clout by association.” This will automatically give your game more credibility in the public eye, a bonus perk from working with indie game publishers.
Remember, if you are going to pitch your game to a publisher, take extra care to make sure your pitch is ready! These guys get a lot of offers, and you want your game to stand out. This is a business deal, so be ready to treat it as such.
Have a detailed synopsis of the games mechanics, story, length, and timeline for project completion. Have your cost estimates ready for contracted work from artists, voice actors and composers (hey that’s me!).
I hope this gives you plenty of options to consider. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help! Thanks for reading and have a great day!
I believe that a great soundtrack is more important that great graphics. That is why I am dedicated to delivering top quality music to developers of all levels. Whether you are looking for royalty free music or need a custom soundtrack for your game, I aim to deliver the audio your game deserves.