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Insights on Indie Game Publishing from Kasedo Games

Kasedo Games' Jonathan Hales discussed key elements in publisher-developer partnerships, outlined the company's initial criteria for game developers seeking support, and shed light on the support indie developers can anticipate from Kasedo Games.

Jonathan Hales, Managing Director at Kasedo Games


Hi, my name is Jonathan Hales and I have the privilege of leading the team at Kasedo Games. The team consists of some awesome talent and in no particular order, they are:

Patrick – PR & Marketing Manager
Tony – Product Manager
Ben – Junior Product Manager
Jack – QA Lead & Platform Specialist
Sarah – Video & Graphic Designer
Lauren – Community & Social Media
Charmain – Bookkeeper

We also work with a number of QA specialists on a part-time basis whilst at university and allow them to be as flexible as they wish.

I joined the games industry back in December 1999, as International Sales Manager at Codemasters. I was lucky enough to also hold the positions of Sales Director and VP & General Manager of PAL regions during my 7 years there. A new challenge presented itself, with newly formed Kalypso needing help and I was appointed as MD to set up Kalypso Media UK Ltd, a subsidiary of Kalypso Germany.

This was both terrifying and immensely rewarding at the same time.  Having successfully set up all PR, Marketing, and most importantly, all sales distribution from the USA to Australia, I felt satisfied I had contributed to a successful start-up. SouthPeak came knocking and I had the pleasure of running their operations throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Australasia for just over 3 years. Kalypso then asked me to return, where I ran Kalypso Media Digital Ltd as MD and it’s from there that Kasedo Games was born, but more on that later.

As for projects, well, there have been so many, but those that stand out are LMA Manager, Colin McCrae Rally (Dirt), TOCA Race Driver, Operation Flashpoint, Club Football, Two Worlds, Horrid Henry, Sins of the Solar Empire, Tropico, Dungeons, Sudden Strike 4 and more recently with Kasedo, Project Highrise, Warhammer 40K: Mechanicus and IXION.

Kasedo Games

Kasedo Games was born as a publishing label, initially under the name Kalypso Digital. The name was later changed to Kasedo Games in December 2019. It was really all about a passion for indie games and wanting to help developers realize their dreams.

I knew I wanted to work with people that I enjoyed their company, teams that were passionate about their ideas, but also knew they needed help. It takes great courage to recognize that you can’t do everything yourself and know that if you try to, you can often become a bottleneck to success.  We set about finding developers needing help by visiting shows and events and we soon came across Bulwark Studios, who needed help with Crowntakers, and then SomaSim, who were looking for a publisher with Project Highrise.

We structured our efforts into three main categories: project management support, PR & marketing, and distribution. Project management support allows us to take all the heavy lifting away from what is often a small and busy team. PR & marketing enables us to build awareness for each game and create that buzz. Finally, distribution helps us maximize sales and offer the best return for each game and development partner.

As we have grown, we offer a more specialized multi-formatted approach, with our PMs taking on a more Producer / PM role, all team members are encouraged to be gamers and play games so that they can offer valuable feedback and not just rely on our QA team. Our social media and community approach is extremely valuable and we love to speak with players to find out what they like and don’t like so that we can help adapt the game as we progress in its development. We are lucky to have an active group of players we share builds with early in development and they proactively offer their immense skills to help shape content. 

The team at Kasedo are all hands-on, with a crossover of tasks and willingness to chip in, and also happy to help others. It can be busy and chaotic sometimes, but we are never short of a smile and a laugh. I want our team to have creative control, be free to experiment, and feel satisfaction for a task well done, without the constriction of always following a strict and predetermined path. No idea is a bad idea!

Kasedo Games' Projects

The first game to be published under Kasedo Games (as I mentioned earlier), was Crowntakers – a super small, but really fun game that combined turn-based strategy with RPG elements that came from Bulwark Studios in France. After that, Project Highrise which was dubbed the spiritual successor to Sim Tower was developed by SomaSim in Chicago.

Since then we have worked with Bulwark again on WH40K: Mechanicus and more recently IXION. In fact, we purchased shares in Bulwark a couple of years ago, so expect to hear more news on our next project with them soon!  We are currently working on our third project with SomaSim (yet to be announced) and our second game with Beard Envy, Uncle Chop’s Rocket Shop.

As for challenges, I’m not going to lie, there have been a few. For me, nothing is ever going to be easy, nor should we expect it to be, but it’s how we handle ourselves and react to others in challenging times that define us. Most recently, we released IXION to amazing awareness and almost immediately we witnessed thousands of players complaining the game was too difficult, how they didn’t understand why they kept dying, and how they didn’t understand what to do. Our community was swift and supportive, encouraging players to slow down, utilize the tutorial, and offer guidance. We always wanted to make a challenging game, but had we made it too difficult?  

There were a few bugs that we simply had not found in our extensive testing, so we quickly got to work on trying to satisfy as many players as we could... fix this, fix that, can we make it easier if we do this or that... ok, push an update... boom... trying to react too quickly caused another issue, and we simply had to roll back the build, take a deep breath, and say, "OK, go back to what we know we are good at: plan, prepare, test, check, check again, and deliver." Let's talk to the players, tell them our plan, and hope they will support us... they did. They were amazing.

At the moment, our biggest challenge is keeping up with developers submitting their games to us, as we want to give them all our time to properly evaluate what the developer wants to share and show us. Honestly, it’s a good problem to have, so I’m not complaining.

Publisher-Developer Partnerships

Honestly, selecting the right publisher is massive, but I must also say, as a publisher, selecting the right developer is also just as important because we want to form a working relationship to maximize the most from shared knowledge, cooperation, and collaboration of ideas. Understanding what a developer wants is really important. Having the same values is also hugely beneficial, but trust and integrity are key to success.

Kasego Games' Criteria for Game Developer Submissions

We always look at the quality of the submission and the materials supplied in support. If a developer can’t be bothered to submit great pitch materials, we are instantly put off. I would also say that comparing your game to the top 3 or 5 in the genre as "expectations" is always a sign that the developer may be somewhat unrealistic.

Our interest is currently within a genre arch of strategy, simulation, RTS, Action, RPG, and rogue-like/rogue-lite games.  

What really piques our interest is a developer that has already considered what their vision for a game may look like, why it would stand out from the crowd, how it would showcase that it is something special, and maybe even why it would capture the imagination of an influencer. That’s not to say we want all the ideas upfront from the developer that has been working hard to present something to us, but more the fact that they understand how hard it is to stand out and why it is important to have a point of difference.

What Developers Can Expect from Kasedo Games

The first thing to say is that if we decide to partner with a developer, we offer ourselves and 100% commitment. We are not a publisher looking for a quantity of titles and hoping that a percentage of those "stick." Our approach is bespoke to each game, which platforms the game will be on, and how far in the development process it may be.  

Some developers have already made tentative steps into publishing by announcing the game, maybe already releasing a demo, or having contacted their favorite influencer, etc.  It’s only once we know what we have to work with, that we can start planning. That doesn’t mean we can’t start work on QA, porting, submissions, or localization, it’s just that we prefer to work up a comprehensive timeline for events, builds, materials, assets, and media/influencer hands-off and on, before almost anything else.

Current Trends in Gaming

The thing we have noticed particularly from our greenlight/submission process is the amount of roguelike and platformer titles that are being pitched by developers looking for a publisher.

Platformers can often be the first thing devs turn to as they are technically the easiest to create, but the sheer amount of them out there means that a new platformer has to have a real USP in order to stand out from the crowd. That is easier said than done.

Roguelikes are slightly different because there is a much wider range of games that can be classed within that genre. I definitely think the replayability you can get from a roguelike and the success of games like Dead Cells and Hades really plays into development teams wanting to make something as popular.

Kasedo Games' Future Plans

We have big plans, with a few extremely exciting games on the horizon. At Gamescom, we will be announcing something cool, with a busy announcement window between GDC and the Summer Game Festivals of 2024 being the time of two new huge announcements for Kasedo Games.

Having already announced Uncle Chops Rocket Shop via the PC Gamer show in 2022, expect to see a hands-on experience at Gamescom 2023, with news that should excite a wider audience for the game.

It goes without saying that IXION will continue to be supported and news on another update will follow shortly... plus maybe more news, who knows!!!

Jonathan Hales, Managing Director at Kasedo Games

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