If you are a new development house working in the game industry, you can expect that your first game, no matter how great, probably won’t equal a lot of financial rewards. The fact is that development companies often play second fiddle to the large publishers. And although most publishers are fair in their dealings with developers, we have heard many horror stories where developers end up with nothing for their efforts, even when their product turns out to be a popular one.
And the fact is that even if a development company signs a great deal with a publisher, the lion’s share of profit will go to the publisher. It’s the old problem that the happy developer just made a million dollars, but later realizes that their publisher made 20 million off the same product.
Tri Synergy is a company that is trying to change all that. By relying more heavily on the developer on the front end, Tri Synergy can pass on both higher profits and more control to the developer. Their business model is not for every company, but it has been successful for developers like Funcom which published both hits The Longest Journey and Anarchy Online with Tri Synergy.
We produced some questions for Fred Heslop, vice president of business development for Tri Synergy about how exactly their publishing deals work, what is expected of the developer, and the rewards that go beyond the traditional publishing model.
Tri Synergy – http://www.trisynergy.com/
GiN: How long has Tri Synergy been in business?
Heslop: Tri Synergy has been in business for six years.
GiN: How did you come to be a part of Tri Synergy?
Heslop: Tri Synergy has been an evolution of sorts. We were founded with the intention of securing more profitable deals for the game developer and reversing the standard licensing equation.
GiN: What can a company like Tri Synergy offer that a traditional publishing giant can’t?
Heslop: Partnership, and control over their products. Tri Synergy’s whole concept is based upon mutual benefit, rather than the more common exploitative relationships that currently exist between Developers and Publishers. In Tri Synergy’s business model the vast majority of the profits resulting from retail sales stays with the developer. As importantly, so does control of their product. Tri Synergy’s fundamental role is to provide a service to its clients, specifically, access to the U.S. retail marketplace.
Through this process, Tri Synergy acts as an advisor, and ultimately implements the developers strategy and decisions. As a result of this partnership, the developer is able to pursue their own goals with respect to the release of their products, while benefiting from expert advice and experience regarding the U.S. retail marketplace.
GiN: What is the process by which Tri Synergy selects what games they would like to co-publish? Is there a quality control mechanism in place to ensure that the Tri Synergy name is only associated with top titles?
Heslop: Tri Synergy uses both internal and external product review processes when considering new titles. The results of these product reviews are used in determining a realistic forecast and strategy for each title.
There are many sales channels available in the U.S., and many ways for a product to be commercially successful. Tri Synergy is not concerned about releasing only AAA titles, but rather with ensuring that each release it is involved in maximizes the developer’s opportunity to achieve its goals. As we are ultimately a service provider, our primary concern is to provide our clients, and our retail partners with accurate and professional intelligence. In this way we ensure that Tri Synergy’s name is associated with the most important of things, confidence and respect from our business partners.
GiN: Companies that decide to go with Tri Synergy are offered rewards on the back end like a larger percentage of profits and the ability to put their name on the box. However, what costs do Tri Synergy’s partners need to front to get those rewards? I am assuming there is no advance and that some of the costs must be put forward by the developer.
Heslop: In order to truly self publish, a developer must have access to some funds. Surprisingly however, the amount needed is quite nominal. Tri Synergy is in most case able to arrange terms for its clients for production, trade marketing, public relations and retail marketing. In addition to terms, Tri Synergy is able to negotiate on behalf of its clients, some of the most favorable prices available for all of these services.
As a result, the initial outlay for the developer is minimal. In fact, typically the biggest financial impact on the developer is not the initial expenditure, but rather the lack of any advance or guarantee. Ultimately, regardless of the retail results, it is the developer however who holds the responsibility for the costs associated with releasing a new product. The most important service Tri Synergy can provide, is to ensure that the developer has access to resources and critical intelligence that allows them to manage their risk in a way that is consistent with the realistic expectations for their title. There is no doubt however, that our model rewards developers financially far in excess than the more common publishing deals, but is best suited to developers who have confidence in their creations.
GiN: Given the services Tri Synergy offers, what type of company do you think would be ideally suited to partner with Tri Synergy?
Heslop: Commercially, the ideal company would be a development house with strong brand recognition and AAA content. It makes no sense for a proven development house to continue to allow publishers to reap the majority of the financial benefits resulting from their work.
GiN: How great do you feel is the need for a company like Tri Synergy in the industry today?
Heslop: I am not certain if there is actually a "need" for a company like Tri Synergy. I think rather that our model is a natural evolution from the current situation. Any product must ultimately stand on its own, and be determined a success or a failure by the most important of reviewers, the consumer. Tri Synergy’s role is to ensure that developers have an opportunity to present their creations to the consumer.
This service is fundamental and needs to be executed with professionalism and intelligence. It is the creation of the product however is the most important part of the equation. It is only natural to us therefore, that a business model would evolve whereby the creator of the product would earn the majority of the rewards.
GiN: Do you see this need growing in the future? Why?
Heslop: What I do see growing in the future, is the continued maturing of our industry. It is time for publishers to act more responsibly regarding retail launches, and for retailers to continue their efforts to act as partners with the development community. As our industry continues to mature and change, the evolvement of new business models that result in greater efficiency and a more just distribution of rewards will be a natural part of that process.
GiN: What are some examples of companies that used Tri Synergy in the past where the end result was better for them than going with a giant publisher?
Heslop: The best example I can site would be Funcom, who published both The longest Journey and Anarchy Online through Tri Synergy. As everyone knows, Funcom faced some early technical challenges with its release of AO. By using Tri Synergy, Funcom was in a position to get accurate and quick information regarding its product…both from the retail community as well as from the gaming community.
The degree of control that Funcom was able to maintain over its product, and the speed with which it could react was critical in ensuring the long term success of Anarchy Online. As importantly, The financial benefit for Funcom as a result of dealing with Tri Synergy was immense.
GiN: If a developer or publisher was interested in making use of Tri Synergy, where would they start?
Heslop: By calling me. 1-450-227-0679