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Why Neonhive is taking the leap into publishing

PR and marketing agency Neonhive is branching out into publishing, with Harvest Hunt (from Villainous Games Studio) and Slopecrashers (Byteparrot) as its debut titles.

The Scotland-based agency has been going from strength to strength since its creation, and publishing felt like a logical progression for the company, director and founder Korina Abbott tells

“This is something that’s been bubbling away for years,” she says. “During lockdown, we saw a large number of developers wanting to self-publish, and requesting revenue share deals instead of the standard monthly fee payment. At the time, this setup wasn’t possible for us as an agency, but it lit the initial spark for us to think about publishing. So this is a natural next step for the company; launching as a publisher that can offer exactly this is something we’re so excited about.”

Neonhive is in an ideal position to take that leap as an established agency that already has strong connections in the industry, and has experience supporting indie studios self-publishing, Abbott continues. It’s also a way for the company to grow while remaining sustainable, a particularly important aspect considering the current challenges of the industry.

“On the practical side, I wanted to find a way to grow as a company that wasn’t tied to people-per-hour. The agency model is great but there are few ways to scale up without adding headcount and within the current climate, it’s not sustainable or wise. By becoming a publisher, we have been able to unlock funding, opportunities, and support that we otherwise would not be able to access as a service company. It also allows us to make the most of the current team’s skills and structure without the need to expand exponentially – just a few strategic hires.

“We’re already seeing the second wave effects of the industry contracting – marketing budget shrinking, service providers are laying off contractors, and some have sadly shuttered. As we look [ahead], we will continue to keep sustainability and the safeguarding of the team at the heart of the company.”

Abbott is currently looking at splitting the company fairly equally between agency work and the newly established publishing branch. Neonhive is certainly not looking to stop its PR, community, and marketing work, and this aspect will strengthen the company as a publisher, setting it apart from the wealth of other indie labels, Abbott says.

“Most publishers start as established development studios or investment-backed individuals. We’re moving into this as a successful game marketing business that already has the experience, contacts, and trust to take games to market. As an agency that has been functioning for over six years, we have supported and bought more than 130 titles to market. Alongside that, we have built relationships with press, influencers, events, and other partners, putting us in a very strong position to move into publishing.

“My team is made up of experts from inside and outside games including [some] who have worked on brands as big as Mickey Mouse, Nintendo, and Levis, as well as projects from small teams, solo developers, passionate hobby projects, and organisations such as the wonderful Wings fund. We’ve seen it all, but we’re always ready for a new adventure!”

In these early days as a publisher, Neonhive isn’t too restrictive in terms of the games it’s looking for, and is open to a wide variety of projects as long as it’s got buy-in from the whole team, is a good culture fit, and “has strong commercial appeal.”

Abbott does exclude anything featuring NFTs, web3, or cryptocurrency, and titles that rely on AI for their art, voice acting, and/or sound design.

“We’re actively looking to sign a handful of games in our first year, and are really looking forward to seeing loads of amazing pitches during this time. Our service offering to studios really is the whole business side of getting the game to market, from store page set-up to sales and events. We want developers to be able to fully focus on making their games, knowing that we have everything else covered.

“Our primary focus is Steam, because we have tons of experience managing store pages, wizarding tags, and setting up events – like the Scottish Game Sale for the Glasgow Children’s Hospital last year. However, we are also publishing games on consoles where it makes sense to do so. For example, Slopecrashers is currently planned to be a simultaneous PC and console release this year.”

The publisher is looking at five-year contracts as a standard for the games it signs, but with flexibility depending on situations, with Abbott adding that “working with a developer [Neonhive] has a great relationship with over multiple titles would be dreamy.”

For now the company is laser focused on Harvest Hunt and Slopecrashers, both of which are titles Neonhive worked on as an agency and for which it was keen to take it to the next step.

“I first saw Harvest Hunt while judging the Develop Brighton Indie Showcase in 2023,” Abbott recalls. “I was really impressed with a game of this quality coming from such a tiny team. It’s a folk horror roguelike with a tarot card-like fate system and not something I’d seen before. Even before we began building the publishing arm, it was on my radar.”

She continues: “Signing the game was an act of serendipity; Mark [Drew, Villainous Games Studio’s director] was talking about his experience of pitching to publishers in a forum for founders and I asked to have a call about it. Not to pitch at him, but to understand his experiences better and hopefully learn from them for Neonhive Games. Mark was considering self-publishing by this point and this conversation eventually led to us signing a publishing agreement on Christmas Eve – thanks Santa!”

Slopecrashers, meanwhile, comes from solo developer Johannes Lugstein at Byteparrot, and is “a completely different story,” Abbott adds.

“Johannes was a client who originally worked with us on a Steam Next Fest push in February 2023 and then a couple of subsequent PR and influencer beats. We had such a blast working with him, and the game is an absolutely delightful family-friendly snowboarding party game that consistently pops off on TikTok… it has a capybara on a frying pan for goodness sake! There was no way we wouldn’t reach out to offer a publishing deal to him as soon as we decided this was a direction we wanted to take Neonhive in.”

While Abbott’s excitement for Neonhive’s new direction is palpable, she doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the potential obstacles ahead, and the current challenges of the publishing landscape; namely discoverability, funding, and share of pocket, she says.

“Every platform is oversaturated but none more so than Steam. Good games can and do find their feet there, but it’s getting harder and harder to stand out. They’ve recently announced that they will allow games made with AI onto the platform, so we’re yet to see the effects of that.

“Outside of Steam, it’s also an issue of share-of-voice with press, influencers, and even events. We have a game in a showcase soon that we know had hundreds of applications from developers but only a handful have been accepted. Similarly, we see posts on X from journalists saying they receive 800 emails a day about new games. It’s more important than ever to make sure games are positioned and marketed effectively, targeting the right audiences.”

She adds that funding continues to be a struggle as well, affected by how risk averse investors across all sectors continue to be.

“It is especially difficult for first-time developers coming into the industry fresh without any prestige. Investors have pivoted from taking big swings in the space, to sticking with people and IP that has already proven profitable; we’re seeing less funding and a higher barrier to entry for the exciting new talent trying to break into the industry. So in publishing, you’re seeing less diversity in titles and more games iterating off of established big hitters or sequels.”

Looking ahead, Abbott says the focus is for Neonhive to do “the absolute best job” for its partners, focusing on “building up the team to be a publishing powerhouse.”

“This is so nerdy, but I would love to have a shelf in my office with boxed copies of all of our published games,” she concludes.

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