Getting your game on Big Fish Games

BFG logo

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 :-)

9 Responses to “Getting your game on Big Fish Games”

  1. Steve Says:

    Not sure if this has been covered before, but does BFG (or any of the other big portals) publish a breakdown of game engines / tools used for all of the games in their catalog? It would be great to see what programming languages are used the most along with a breakdown of Blitzmax vs. Popcap framework, etc…

  2. Grey Alien Games Says:

    Hi Steve, I never seen that kind of thing. But I think that most people use straight C++ for casual games normally with a framework like SDL, PTK, Popcap, Playfirst or their own so they can go cross-platform to Mac and Linux. Not many people use BlitzMax because it’s relatively unknown, although it’s a great easy language to make games in. Some people use Game Maker also. Some use Flash and wrap it in an executable.

  3. Pomnico Says:

    Hi Grey Alien,

    I was just wandering if it is required that a game has windowed mode to be distributed via Big Fish Games? In my game I have a possibility of scrolling the screen by moving a mouse to screen borders, what is working great in fullscreen, but is a pain in windowed mode. This could be changed, but would not be as straightforward, so I’d like to know if you could only answer this question.

    I’d also like to hear more about exclusive deal with BFG. Can any game accepted by them be made exclusive, or only the selected few from what they accept. Guess I will find out when submitting my game, but the more I know the better I am prepared ;)

    Best regards
    Pomnico

  4. Leo Says:

    Hi Jake, interesting post! Have one question though. You said:
    “the game has to be able to save data in the correct location for Vista and Windows 7 properly”

    ok I guess that’s the “C:\Users\Name\AppData\…” location(vista) then.
    what about the Game directory itself where the game is being installed?
    like “C:\Program Files (x86)\MyGameStudio\MyGame”
    Do I have to provide my own installer that installs the game at that location
    or will the BFG installer do this?

    Currently I have my own installer which installs the for the game required directX runtime files and my game.

    THX

  5. Grey Alien Games Says:

    @Pomnico: I’m not sure it is a firm requirement that a game needs a windowed mode, but it is a good idea to support it in some way for sure. You’ll have to ask them directly.

    Pretty sure any game accepted by them can be made exclusive, it doesn’t have to be “specially selected”, but again, please check with them. Good luck!

    @Leo: Your save location should be find but because I wanted the save data, high scores and ini file (options) to load no matter who was logged on I used CSIDL_COMMON_APPDATA will return the following locations on different OSes:
    ‘Win98 = nothing (a null string will returned so the subpath will get created in the same path as the game exe)
    ‘WinMe = C:\Windows\All Users\Application Data
    ‘Win2000 = C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data
    ‘WinXP = C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data
    ‘Vista = C:\ProgramData

    No you don’t need to provide an installer, the BFG wrapper will handle it, you just supply the raw exe and game data, and tell them about the DirectX runtimes,

  6. Leo Says:

    THX for the info and WOW you’re still supporting WinME, Win200, Win98 in your games?
    Is there still anybody using these systems ?

  7. Grey Alien Games Says:

    Well when I wrote my framework in 2006 there were more people using those systems, so I made sure the game ran on them. It’s less relevant now of course.

  8. Philippe Says:

    How are iPhone and iPad games published by Big Fish Games? If you don’t go for an exclusive deal I assume you can regionalise the game but you will still need to do this from one (presumably your own Apple Dev account) so does this mean BFG will publish the game through your account? Or can the game be distributed from different accounts as long as they’re regionalised? I don’t think this can be done because as far as I know Apple only allows for one registered game name on the app store.

  9. Grey Alien Games Says:

    Hi Philippe, BFG has a team that handles mobile stuff. If they decide to publish your game then they’ll take the build and publish the game themselves through their account so you don’t need to do anything on your account.