If you intend to sell and make money by making games, you know that writing your own engine will take a lot of time. However you may not be aware that writing your own technologies can also cost opportunities and partnerships. You will need to keep that in mind as well. This is my story on how I learned that lesson the hard way:
Note: I went into the publisher search just checking out what opportunities may exist as my game development stream viewers were pushing me to try.
In September 2019 I prepared Turbo Boom! to be pitched to several publishers. After spending many days polishing and tweaking that content, I sent 25-30 emails. The publishers that received this email were chosen based on their interest in racing games, or action based games that are similar enough to Turbo Boom! Throughout October the responses came back, most of which included, “unfortunately not a fit at this time” along with enough information to show they took my pitch seriously.
One publisher even asked more questions about targeting mobile platforms after initial desktop launch. I knew discussing how my custom C++ engine did not support mobile at this moment would be a ding. So I let the publisher know that mobile wasn’t supported and included a realistic estimation of how long it would take to add that support. I was very confident in this estimate as my engine has been partially working on iOS for some time.
They took that answer well enough, and went to review it with the rest of their team for a week or two. Unfortunately the next response was them letting off the hook with a not so subtle hint to the reason being my custom engine and the risk it added.
A custom engine has a lot more unknowns, especially to publishers who are not typically developers. Based on the response had a major engine (Unity, Unreal) been used, “that just works” in the eyes of non-developers, my game may have had a publisher. But that is okay, I like doing things my way. It is just a lesson learned that the custom engine can also cost opportunities based on the perceived, and actual, additional risk that is increased with custom technologies.
As an indie developer taking a look at things from a business perspective is important and I already knew custom engine development was time consuming, costly and adding risk. It wasn’t until this response that I became aware that risk extends to opportunities and partnerships. Others pursuing similar paths should be aware of this.