Someone just emailed me with some questions about submitting a game to Big Fish Games. I already wrote an article about this before but there is some different information in this post.
Please take note that I am writing from my perspective as an Indie who has submitted games to BFG before, and not as a BFG representative in any way, thanks.
Q. What kind of criteria does the game need to meet? Would a Windows only game work, or does it need to be cross platform? Do they have some kind of minimum system requirement for all games?
A. Windows only is fine. If you can convert it to Mac easily you will make a decent amount of extra sales. Also make sure that all your game text is read in from a Unicode text file because then if the game does well you can localise it and make more sales on BFG’s foreign language portals.
Minimum requirements are XP (they don’t support Windows 98 any more). Also the game has to be able to save data in the correct location for Vista and Windows 7 properly which is a bit of a headache (you’ll need to research this). You can’t put any web links in your games or connect to any online service (for high scores etc.) You should test your game on XP/Vista/7 just to make sure it works the same and there are no graphical or sound anomalies (I use a different sound driver for Vista/7 for example).
Your game should start in full-screen at 800×600 minimum and have a windowed mode option. There’s a bunch of other “nice to have” things too such as simple options screens (not complicated ones), making sure you can Alt-Tab out/in of the game without graphics corruption + pause it – stuff like that. Just check out any of the other top games and see how they handle things. Also you can always ask for a QA checklist when you submit (or before) and hopefully they’ll send you something.
Q. What kind of additions need to be made to the game itself for it to be sold on the service? I assume I’d need to add some splash screens with the Big Fish logo, but what else would there be?
A. No special additions apart from the stuff I’ve already mentioned and a splash screen with the BFG logo. I don’t think they even need “box art” if you just supply them with assets they’ll make it for you. This could have changed though, but they’ll tell you.
Q. How does the payment work with Big Fish? What kind of cut do you get from games you submit to them? How often are you paid?
A. I can’t publicly state their royalty rate but let’s just say that portals pay between 25% and 40% depending on who they are and what deal you get. This is less that Apple or Microsoft’s 70%, but that’s just the way it is if you want a huge volume of people downloading your game. If you go “exclusive” with them for a limited period (like a month) they’ll give you a higher percentage of revenue (after some minor transaction processing fees of <10%). If non-exclusive, you'll get a slightly lower percentage. Exclusive gives you better marketing too so you'll sell more copies. Ask them what the exact percentages are and they'll tell you themselves.
BFG pay once per month by wire-transfer. They are very reliable. If you are not based in the US you'll need to fart around filling out a couple of tax forms to make sure they don't without 30% tax (all US companies have to do this if paying non-US people). It's a pain in the ass but once it's done, it's done for good.
Q. If I get Big Fish to sell one of my games, am I still able to sell it? For instance, if I made a game on XBOX Indie, and decided to try submitting it to Big Fish, would they allow that? Could I sell the game on my site?
A. If you are non-exclusive you can sell your game anywhere you want including on rival portals. If you are exclusive, you might still be able to sell it on your own site, but nowhere else. Best check with them, but that was my understanding when I last looked into it.
Q. Any advice on submitting games? Their submission process looks pretty straight-forward but I could use any pointers.
A. Yes the submission process is simple. You’ll be dealing with Nate, Jessica or Tyler (or maybe someone else too now). All of them are very nice and helpful, but also swamped with submissions, so make sure your game is awesome and well tested before submitting it (see the other post I liked to at the top of this article for more details.) They may test your game on an audience and make suggestions, take heed of them because they know what they are talking about.
Design Consultancy Service
A service that I’m offering in 2011 as an Indie (after my 3 month non-compete expires) is Design Consultancy. I will take a look at your game (in the early, mid or end stages) and offer advice on how to make it more successful on portals. I do this in return for a small % of the backend royalties and my advice should pay for itself in increased sales. Please let me know if you are interested in using this excellent service.
P.S. if you are part of the XNA Creator’s Club/App Hub, please keep an eye out for my first XBLIG, Holiday Bonus, which I’ll be submitting for review very soon. Hopefully you can review it for me as thanks for the info in this article