While speaking about negotiating with publishers at Casual Connect USA, Caspar Gray of The Arsenal Agency advised, “Think carefully about what you want before you start the process. Identify your pressure points and think about what their pressure points are.” In his talk, Caspar gave details about how to zero in on a good idea, get people excited about it, negotiate smartly and sign a fair contract. To learn more, see the full lecture below.
Caspar Gray, now working in Developer Representation at The Arsenal Agency, had previously worked for more than a decade as acquisitions point man for major publishers Eidos and Square Enix. When Square Enix closed this division, Caspar was approached by Tina Kowalewski, who had just founded The Arsenal Agency. She suggested that Caspar come on board.
The Arsenal Agency works with a select group of talented developers to help them secure publisher funding, as well as advising them on many aspects of their business. Developing a game is quite different from pitching that game or networking and negotiation. But Tina and Caspar have decades of the experience that helps their clients sign good deals, avoid pitfalls and maximize the success of their games.
Understanding Both Games and People
In Caspar’s time at Eidos and Square Enix, he saw many talented developers struggle with business development and pitching his games. Now Caspar is enjoying the career change that allows him to use his knowledge to help developers. He is also attracted to succeeding or failing by his own efforts rather than being subject to decisions made by a large corporation.
To anyone who would like to follow a career similar to his, Caspar emphasizes the importance in being interested in people as well as games. It is essential to be both honest and kind. Don’t just think about how to get ahead, think “how can I improve and enhance things for my clients and my contacts”.
Playing to Strengths, Compensating for Weaknesses
When working with developers, it is important to find ways to play to their strengths while compensating for their weaknesses, Caspar emphasizes. And when a developer is looking for a publisher, it is important to find one who ‘gets’ the game and who can reliably cover the aspects you need help with but doesn’t interfere where it isn’t necessary. They insist, “The quality of people assigned to your game as producer and brand manager is much more important than you think, and it doesn’t matter what your hypothetical royalty rate is if the publisher isn’t well positioned to make the game a success!”
The biggest challenge Caspar has faced in working at The Arsenal Agency was building up a network of contacts in California after moving from the United Kingdom. Social meetups such as GameDev DrinkUp and VG Supper Club were a great help in overcoming the problem, so Caspar is very grateful to the organizers of these events.
Understanding Games and Gamers
Fortunately, this career also has moments of great satisfaction. Caspar remembers especially the first time he closed a publishing deal for a client. Although it was “a small deal for a small developer with a small publisher”, it meant a great deal to them. They love being able to help with something that otherwise wouldn’t make it to market.
Caspar, as a lifelong gamer, certainly understands what gamers are all about. He plays almost every day, particularly enjoying strategy and management games that require sorting through information and making decisions. So he has played thousands of hours of Football Manager, Crusader Kings 2, XCOM and Stellaris. But Caspar is open to trying almost any game if someone he respects recommends it. In product acquisitions he has been exposed to games from every genre and believes it makes no sense to prejudge.
The history of science is something that interests Caspar, particularly after studying this in college. If he could create a game without any limits on time or resources, it would explore how people investigated the natural world and discovered such things as what plants could be used for medicine, what electricity was and what causes illnesses.
Finding a balance between work, family and, of course, gaming is always difficult. Fortunately Caspar’s wife is also a gamer and, as a result, is very understanding. But it can be more difficult to find that balance when playing games is part of the job.
The Next Trend: Better AR and VR
When Caspar considers what is emerging as the important trend in the next few years in the game industry, he believes both AR and location-based gaming will have people rushing to chase the hype. But in a few years these will settle into being key pieces of the larger games ecosystem. The Arsenal Agency is working with people who have been active in AR and location-based gaming for years (not just since the success of Pokémon Go), so they are well placed to take advantage of the massively increased attention now being given to these sectors.
VR is now farther along this curve, according to Caspar. The excessive hype is dying down and a second wave of better quality experiences is now being made by teams who have mastered the space and who know how to get the best from newer, more powerful hardware.
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.