I can't find a definitive answer to whether putting up your game on Steam via a publisher helps somehow, other than bringing some popularity due to publisher's other games/apps. It seems that Greenlight procedure doesn't change or speed up if you have a publisher, or decide to publish yourself (at least according to Steam itself, officially, but who knows what goes on behind the scenes).

The general sentiment on the internet seems to be that you should "cut out the middleman" and save your money that would otherwise go elsewhere, for almost nothing.

People are comparing the Steam publisher to other game, music and video publishers (networks), saying they exist to help distribute your product by making physical copies (optical discs, usb drives, third-party stores), but this doesn't seem to apply to Steam, as there's nothing physical involved.

There's also a matter of advertisement, community management and posting news, updates, etc to create more visibility, which you can also manage on your own, if you wish.

So besides that, are there any important benefits to having a publisher on Steam?


One reason to have a publisher is safety.
If you have a contract with a publisher you have good chances the publisher pays you money before you release your game. Of course this only happens after the publisher has had a good idea on your concept and decides it's worth selling it. As a developer this helps you pay rent and salaries of your employees. Publishers also have lots of resources for marketing and will help you with it or might even do it completely for you. The publisher will have good contacts with all relevant medias (magazines, websites and maybe even TV channels).
As suggested by Philip here are some risks when working with publishers: There are usually strict contracts involced when working with publishers. If you can't deliver the promised product on a tight schedule you might have to pay back lots of the money the publisher has given to you in advance. What exactly might happen depends on the publishing contract you have signed. There are all kinds of things you have to consider. Also publishers often want to hold shares of your company and the legal rights to own the finished product. That means even if you finish the product the publisher might want to produce a sequel with another team and you are not allowed to create any games in the unviverse you have created.

When you decide to go without a publisher you have to do everything yourself. This might be impossible if you don't have huge cash reserves or get a loan. All the risk is resting entirely on you. Steam Greenlight and sites like Kickstarter may help you get money to earn money before the project is finished. But it is easy to run out of money and you have no guarantees to earn enough money to cover your expenses. Game development is very expensive even if you have a small team. It's different if you don't work on it full time of course. Also doing PR costs lots of time and money but is very important for success.

There are many pros and cons for having a publisher. Each team and project has to weight them and decide if they go with a publisher or try self publishing. Also a team has to carefully choose a publisher and involve a lawyer when signing the contract.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ It's also a matter of expertise. Pure game development teams often lack the knowledge about how to properly promote a game. Letting a publisher worry about marketing while the developers keep doing what they do best can be a quite productive separation of responsibilities. But you might also point out the disadvantages of working with a publisher, like the risk of losing creative control. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    May 11 '16 at 16:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can the downvoter please explain why I was downvoted? Otherwise I can't improve the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Skalli
    May 30 '17 at 15:16

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