My Experience Pitching Mr. Sun’s Hatbox to Publishers

It’s almost been a year since I released Mr. Sun’s Hatbox on Steam and Switch! I’m really proud of how it turned out, I learned a lot from my time working on it. Probably the most important part of the process was pitching to publishers, which I’d never successfully done before. I made a few mistakes along the way but in the end signed a deal I’m happy with. I’ve decided to share some details about my experience doing that, hopefully it’s helpful to others in a similar position. I’m including actual deal terms and dollar amounts that I’ve seen, it’s pretty rare to see real-life numbers and I think it’s valuable information worth sharing.

In October 2021, after I’d been working on the game for over 2 years, I decided I wanted to find a publisher to take on some of the risk of making this huge game. Here is the pitch deck I put together that ended up getting me a deal with Raw Fury.

I started sending out my pitch deck and build by email around the end of November 2021, asking for $84k in funding to cover my expenses for the next 17 months of development ($6k a month). Turns out that’s a bad time of year to pitch to publishers, since many of them close for the December holidays. At that point I’d only sent it around to my top 5 choices for publisher, which included Raw Fury. I got no’s from three of them and Raw Fury didn’t even respond (turns out my email went into their spam folder). But, I did get some initial interest from one publisher. After some back and forth and a lot of waiting, they sent me their terms in February 2022.

Offer #1

  • $84k development budget
  • $215k marketing budget
  • $220k budget for porting to Switch, Playstation, and XBox, QA, and localization
  • 0% revenue share until they recoup their expenses (up to $521k)
  • 50% revenue share after they recoup their expenses

At first I was pretty excited. At this point none of my games had made even close to $84k, so I would’ve been happy just to get that amount. But, the estimated budgets for marketing and porting seemed really high to me, so I asked some other developers for their thoughts. In these discussions, two valuable pieces of advice came up:

  • I was asking for too little money – Publishers have so much money and even at the indie scale are used to budgets of multiple hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. Any extra amount would mean very little to them but a lot to me.
  • I should reach out to more publishers – I’d initially only sent it to my top 5 since I didn’t want to “waste” time talking to publishers that I wasn’t interested in working with. But, since only one had expressed any interest, I was in a pretty tough negotiating position.

So, I upped my development budget to $116k ($8k a month) and sent the game around to 25 more publishers. I also DM’ed a scout from Raw Fury who I’d met a while ago while showing Circa Infinity at PAX in 2015 to ask if they’d gotten my pitch. By April 2022 I’d received 3 more offers. Here are the terms that they each offered:

Offer #2

  • $140k development budget ($24k was added so I could do the Switch port myself)
  • $80k marketing budget
  • $40k budget for QA and localization
  • 30% revenue share until they recoup their expenses (up to ~$371k)
  • 60% revenue share after they recoup their expenses

Offer #3

  • $116k development budget
  • $50k marketing budget
  • 30% revenue share until they recoup their expenses (up to ~$237k not counting QA, porting, and localization)
  • 70% revenue share after they recoup their expenses

Offer #4 (Raw Fury)

  • Much higher budgets for development, marketing, and other services (specifics under NDA)
  • 0% revenue share until they recoup their expenses with a 15% markup on the development budget
  • 50% revenue share after recoup
  • The contract I signed was basically the same as the one they posted publicly

My first concern when talking to Raw Fury was that I knew that their terms were pretty aggressive. The thought of them taking 50% revenue share from a game I’d worked on for years on my own was a tough pill to swallow. I asked them they could could adjust their revenue share to be a bit more favorable to me, but they were adamant that they basically never make any changes to their terms (personally I’m not really a fan of this practice as it’s disadvantageous to smaller devs). When I mentioned that I would probably only accept those terms if I got more money up front, citing my other offers with better terms, they offered to drastically increase my budget to make up for it.

Raw Fury also adds a 15% markup on the development budget when calculating the recoup point. For example, if they give me $100k, the game would have to make $115k before I start receiving revenue share. I think the markup is partially meant to discourage developers from taking more budget than they need. But even at 15%, it is always more advantageous (at least financially) for the developer to take as much money as they can up front. Especially since they don’t offer better revenue share terms. If you’re pitching to Raw Fury, I would recommend adding at least a 20-30% margin to your development budget (which should already have a good amount of contingency in it) to offset the markup.

I tried to use Raw Fury’s offer to negotiate with the other interested publishers, but none of them would improve their deal. One even ended up rescinding their offer when I tried to negotiate (Offer #1). So, even though they had the worst revenue share terms, I decided to go with Raw Fury. Since I’m a fairly risk averse person, the guaranteed money up front was a big deciding factor. The extra funding meant I’d be getting the equivalent of a decent salary for my 3-4 years of work. It would also give me a decent amount of runway, enough to make another game of a similar size. I went into this decision with tempered expectations on how well the game would do. I didn’t expect it to make make much more than the recoup point, if at all, so the post-recoup revenue share wasn’t a big factor for me. In the off-chance the game does become a huge hit, Raw Fury would have to perform 20-50% better than the smaller publishers for me to make the same amount of money, which I thought would be within the realm of possibility. As of January 2024 the game has made a bit over $140k in net revenue, so taking the extra budget in exchange for worse revenue share was definitely the right call, as it’s unlikely that the game will recoup its expenses. In the end, I’m happy with the decision I made and feel incredibly fortunate that they took a chance on my silly game.

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