Chillingo on why App Store self-publishing isn’t always the way: “More and more devs need help”

Angry Birds

Angry Birds

Part of Ed Rumley’s job is to have awkward conversations. As COO of ubiquitous mobile games publisher Chillingo, he and his team must politely decline the chance to publish an increasing deluge of new mobile games.

Developers come to Chillingo dreaming of releasing the next Angry Birds or Cut The Rope, but very, very few achieve that level of success. Those two bestsellers propelled Chillingo into the quietly dominant position it finds itself today. Post-iPhone, the strides made by the company were so admired by Electronic Arts that it was bought out in 2010 for a reported sum of $20 million. It is a profitable, but not particularly high-profile, EA subsidiary which, until recently, rarely spoke to the press.

But if you’re a regular downloader of iOS games, it’s highly likely that you’ve seen its logo flash up on your iPhone or iPad’s screen many times before. Chillingo publishes one or two new games on the App Store every week (fewer than it used to) and its output is clearly well-regarded by Apple, as many of Chillingo’s releases make the weekly ‘New and Noteworthy’ lists. “The number of developers coming to us on a daily basis is going up, and it’s really one of two reasons,” Rumley tells us. “Firstly it’s because I think Chillingo’s doing a great job publishing these games, but the other reason is that more and more developers need help. We are having to be more selective in what we publish.”

In publishing fewer games, Chillingo is keen to foster the idea that its logo is a kind of seal of quality. It operates a revenue share system with the developers it partners with and, surprisingly, as many as a quarter of the games it sees are actually looking to be re-published. “To me that indicates there’s a problem,” says Rumley. “There’s a difference between self-distribution and self-publishing – I could go and upload a book to Amazon right now, but that doesn’t really make me an author.”

“I always applaud people that have that success and that’s what I love about the platform, but you only need to look at the App Store,” he continues. “The bottom line is that it’s a crowded market.”

Rumley is – unsurprisingly – quick to dismiss those in the development community who extol the virtues of self-publishing, too. “The people who say that publishers are dead tend to be the ones that have had success,” he tells us. “That’s fine, but we helped Rovio with Angry Birds and we helped Zeptolab with Cut The Rope and now they’re in a very different position. It wasn’t always that way.”

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