In the new world of social and mobile gaming, one character is mostly missing from the new mix of developers, marketers and service firms: the game publisher. Without the high production costs and rigid distribution hierarchies of the traditional gaming industry, companies that brand and publish games created by others have seemed like they might be a third wheel.
Aside from a few counter-examples, like 6 Waves, successful social game companies have typically developed and publish their own games.
Zattikka is out to change that. Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of the company — it’s based in the United Kingdom, and has only been around for a year. But it also has $5.5 million in fresh funding, co-founders who previously headed Virgin Interactive and Rambler Media, and plans to raise between $50 million and $100 million for its publishing model.
The main connection between Zattikka and Silicon Valley is Joel Breton, the newly-hired head of North American operations. Breton, who was previously director of content at MTV’s portal, Addicting Games, will be looking for teams of developers to work with.
Breton’s focus is wide: he’s looking for online, social or mobile games to publish. The key is finding startups that have the right expertise, but need enough money to get their ideas off the ground. “The publisher is there to provide funding and backing so that the team doesn’t have to throw all its resources into one game,” says Breton.
Some have discounted the idea of publishers on Facebook or mobile platforms because there’s less of a defensible position for them — Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins, for example, told us in a recent interview that EA’s ability to lock up the early game publishing market depended on its control of shelf space in physical stores.
Obviously, there’s no direct equivalent to shelves in virtual markets. Breton, though, points out that there are still plenty of startups that not only need money to build their game, but can’t handle marketing or promotion once it’s done. “It’s on a different scale from an Ubisoft or Electronic Arts right now, but I think with the growth this market is experiencing, when we get down the road we might see that publishing for social network games really starts to pop,” he says.
Within the next couple of weeks, Breton will be setting up Zattikka’s new office in San Francisco and starting to look for his first external partners. Zattikka’s first round of funding has also just closed, so the company will soon be back on the fundraising trail, he says.