• July 2, 2021

How Super Rare Shorts Aim To Power Small Developers With Physical-Only Releases

For the past three years, Super Rare Games has thrived in a shrinking but familiar niche: owning physical versions of video games.

In today’s digital economy, it is rare that a smaller, standalone game is ever sold in a box on a shelf. Super Rare has made this a reality for many developers by routinely publishing and selling limited physical editions of Switch titles.

Only 5,000 copies of each game are made and once they are finished they disappear. However, said title will continue to be available for digital purchase in their respective stores.

The next step in the firm’s journey is Super Rare ‘Shorts’, an initiative that will see a game from an independent developer fully funded from development to publication. Games that might not have existed at all will get a limited physical release for the Nintendo Switch, similar to Super Rare’s usual line of boxed titles.

Initially, Shorts’ caveat was that these titles would only be available through this limited physical release. Once they are sold out, the game will not be available to play or buy anywhere else.

However, when Super Rare initially announced the Shorts series with this in mind, it received strong criticism from both the industry and fans. Some were concerned that the system was exploitative and that the limited nature of the securities inadvertently motivated resellers.

Undeterred, the company appreciated the comments, calling the reviews “100% correct,” and acknowledging the fact that it had announced the line prematurely while overlooking some major issues.

“It’s true that we unveiled the project months before our original plans, which meant we were so focused on developer benefits that we overlooked some glaring consumer downsides,” says Super Rare’s ‘director of making things’, George Perkins. GamesIndustry.biz.

“We probably would have detected them if we hadn’t gone ahead, that is, preservation and accessibility.”

After the revaluation, Super Rare decided to extend the pre-order window from four to six weeks, giving fans more time to purchase a copy. Physical games won’t be limited to a certain quantity either – enough copies will be made to fulfill all orders received in that six-week period.

The Shorts series won’t be too overwhelming on the bank account either: Super Rare aims to release three to four Shorts each year alongside its regular monthly Switch releases.

“Unlimited copies shouldn’t be a particularly exciting prospect for resellers, especially with subsequent digital releases, but for all of our releases, we also actively cancel orders that exceed our limit of two copies per person,” says Perkins.

In addition to their physical release, all games created specifically for Super Rare Shorts will be released digitally via Itch.io, around six months after physical release.

“The idea is to support ideas and developers who have other doors closed for them.”

Perkins explains that this is largely for preservation and future accessibility purposes, but also in the hope that a digital version will further put off resellers. He also tells us about how Itch.io’s little DRM-free setup makes it the perfect place to share these games once the initial physical release is over.

“Of course, even though we are assuming a semi-standard editor role in this case, Shorts was born as a project of genuine passion for us: if a Shorts game were to blow up, the developers are free to make a sequel, spin-off or expanding those ideas to another game with whoever they want, however they want, “adds Perkins.

“However, we will not be snatching titles that are already ready for a commercial release; the idea is to support ideas and developers who have other doors closed for them, in the hope that the attention of these smaller games can help them move forward. .

“We’ve already had a great response from developers getting what we’re looking for, which is fantastic and reassuring.”

Super Rare's debut release was Human Fall Flat, in March 2018.

Super Rare’s debut release was Human Fall Flat, in March 2018.

Of course, if an independent developer already has the ability to create and release a game digitally, and perhaps be considered a release in the existing line of Super Rare anyway, the question is how Shorts seeks to benefit developers.

Perkins calls Shorts a “win-win” for game developers and fans alike. He says that Super Rare has spent years building a fantastic audience of collectors and indie game lovers who have been incredibly receptive to the company’s production. On top of that, the support generated from a Shorts release will allow developers to have riskier experimental ideas fully funded with guaranteed income.

“As an independent developer, your time in the limelight is so short that it becomes incredibly difficult to be a commercial success.”

“The two main things with the physical-only strategy are to draw attention to the big games / indie developers and also to keep those developers out of pocket,” says Perkins.

“Many games will be worked on for three years and the development budget will not even be recovered. Also, most of them will go completely under the radar of the players due to the large number of games that come out every week, as an independent developer , your time in the limelight is so short that it becomes incredibly difficult to be a commercial success.

“So many promising games are released on Steam, Itch.io, and even the Nintendo Switch eShop to no avail, and even more great ideas are never finished or released at all.

“If your experience with indie games is just established and heavily funded studios and projects, that’s definitely not what we’re looking for here. We focus more on the average indie developer who maybe works alone from home and releases free releases. prototypes and jam games on sites like Itch.io. Or a more veteran developer who has an idea that is not very mass-marketable, so it is put on the back burner for a more far-reaching, more commercially viable game. “

Taking a step back and looking at Super Rare’s overall business model, its current production of a monthly physical Switch release has served the company incredibly well. The team that started as a trio in 2018 now pushes 20 people together, and the company has worked with more than 50 developers to release physical versions of its games.

“Doing this has taught us a lot about the developer-publisher relationship and sadly the harsh reality of how difficult it is to gain visibility and financial stability as an independent developer,” adds Perkins.

“For the developers of some of our lesser-known releases, that visibility has helped thousands of people find and buy a game they might otherwise have never seen before.

“We have a ton of talented, experienced and passionate people on our team now and we are dedicated to becoming the indies’ best friends.”


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