The end of indie?

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by hippocoder, Dec 31, 2008.

  1. GolfHacker

    GolfHacker Member

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    See, that's what stumps me. In almost all of the correspondence I get from my Fashion Cents customers, they usually tell me they love and appreciate the game because it isn't another match-3. So obviously there are a lot of people who don't want to play more match-3 games. And yet the portals for the most part won't touch FC because it doesn't fit into one of their molds. So obviously they aren't listening too closely to their customers... if I could just reach these people and get my game in front of them, I'd make a killing on sales. :D
     
  2. Maupin

    Original Member

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    With no offense to Jamie, I don't find Qwak comparable to most games on the Big Fish Games top ten. It's a game that appeals to a small subset of platform game and retro game fans due to its simple graphics and extremely busy screens. I'm a HUGE fan of platform games and retro games and cute graphics but all the falling fruit and spikes in such a cramped space made the game too difficult for me.

    Succeeding as an indie - i.e. making money - means you have to consider a market for your games in the design phase.
     
  3. Jamie W

    Original Member Indie Author

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    Hey thanks!!

    It's very nice to be apprecieated. :)

    One of the problems with Qwak, is that a lot of it's depth isn't immediately apparent. It's kinda 'burried' and only comes out when you get further in to the game (all the game-play mechanics, secret hidden bonuses, tricks and secret sections to levels, etc).

    But in terms of marketing, that's a BIG mistake ... but then ... I think I got a *LOT* wrong in the marketing department.

    It's all just lessons though, and no matter how much you mess it up, it's just experience, and learning what works and what doesn't, and identifying your weak points (in my case, marketing) so you can address them.

    I do feel a bit bummed out by it all, and losing faith in the creative process; and feeling it's bad to go all out and do your very best; because you get no reward for doing so; which all leaves you feeling a little non-plussed..

    Probably a lot of people here are familiar with that feeling!?

    What makes it worse, is that I know how much I've put in to the game; it's not been a quick job (several years) and I've done everything myself. So lots of going through the mill, an emotional journey if you like. Sure, it sucks that games made in a few months, with like 10% the energy and effort put in to their development; will probably sell more, cos they meet current customer expectation; but despite all that, you know; I don't regret making Qwak; it's something I had to do ... and I've learned an awful lot from doing so.

    Yeah! :)

    I know the guy behind PiEyeGames pretty well, we shared the same office for a while back in the Gremlin days (he had a full size defender arcade machine in there with us - YAY!). He's a really great guy; and his games are awesome too; and he defo deserves to do well.
     
  4. Jamie W

    Original Member Indie Author

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    Exactly; and that means abandoning the creative process ...

    Not so much making games for the love of it, and trusting your own gut feeling, your own creative impulse; rather ...

    It's making a game out of an expectation to make money; so it's not heart-felt anymore, it's disconnected from the creative process.

    Not that any way is the *right* way, and we all need to eat, and party tokens (money) to do fun stuff in life etc.

    :p
     
  5. Grey Alien

    Indie Author

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    Agreed, and again no offense to Jamie. I'd have said that before I was an employee too. Qwak and the successful casual titles are simply not the same genre so can't even be compared directly. Perhaps Qwak and Braid or N+ should be compared as they are all platformers (albeit very different), or Qwak and the Ozzie games (which have done pretty well for casual platformers)?
     
  6. Maupin

    Original Member

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    Not really. One's creativity is limited, perhaps, but not useless. If you don't know for sure that your game will do well (either from gameplay testing or experience) you should probably put your own spin on a genre or mechanic or story or topic or whatever that you know has a sizable market. (I myself have a very unique idea for a match-3 game. In fact I think it's kind of funny subverting casual gamers with creative stories and gameplay twists that are way beyond anything the watered down portal filler games attempt.)

    In the same way that Qwak is a sort of Jumpman/Wizard/Mario Brothers descendant, and would have done well when those games were very marketable, you have to adapt to a current market. Supercow did very well as a modern casual platform game. Noitu Love 2 sold lots of copies to the more "hardcore" crowd. Jake mentioned Braid which (I've heard) was extremely creative for a platformer.
     
  7. Bmc

    Bmc New Member

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    I wouldn't even say that, more limits mean more opportunities to be extra creative while solving the problem at hand ... in this case a game.

    I think the biggest problem with Qwak is that it would of made a much better flash game, as these types of platform games are still quite popular in that environment. I would also assume that developing in Flash would have cut the development time a fair bit, making it more likely that the developer would stand a chance to see some type of return.

    As a side note, you can still aim to make money and put all of your heart into while doing so. And in fact being able to make money doing something you love is not a luxury that everyone has, so if you have to bend your principles even a little it is worth it.
     
    #27 Bmc, Jan 1, 2009
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2009
  8. Chris Evans

    Moderator Original Member

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    I don't think it's portals and cloning that's making it tough for indies, unless of course you're developing those type of casual games.

    It's just that it's been really tough the last 3-4 years for indies to get even modest exposure compared to the early 2000s. Portals played a factor but the downfall of download sites on the PC side is what hurt indies the most. Download sites used to be a very straight-forward way for indies to get their game out there. You didn't need to be a marketing genius, you just had to spend some time setting up your submission info and send it out to various sites. Doing this along with a press release and other minor marketing, even average indie games could get decent exposure (hundreds of downloads a day).

    So yes eventually portals started to eat into the download sites' audience, but the download sites are mostly to blame for their own downfall. Download.com mismanaged itself to hell. It put game mod updates along with new game releases, so new indie games got buried quickly. It's submission process became a mess and kept changing every 6 months. As for the other download sites, PAD files became the downfall, IMO. Sure it was useful for developers at first but it meant every single download site started to look the same after a couple of years. Their game listings became massive. This wouldn't be so bad if they knew how to harness their large library, but instead they essentially became giant link farms with just a few broad categories. Useless for players because they can't really find anything and useless for developers because they would be lucky to get one download a month from these giant link farms.

    There you go, the extinction of download sites and the only reliable way for indies to get exposure on the PC-side. This is why Mac games have typically done better for small Indies the last several years because there's still several no-brainer places where you can submit your game for guaranteed exposure (Apple.com, VersionTracker and etc).

    To survive on the PC nowadays, you need to have a top-tier indie game and posses some marketing savvy; and you still might not make it. I know some people will say, "Good! That's how it should be!". But I think it makes a big difference if someone relatively new to making indie games can sell 40-80 copies a month instead of just 4-8. While you can't live off selling 40-80 copies in most countries, it's enough to keep you motivated and give you something to build on. This is how it was 6-8 years ago.

    The reason I think it's gloomy for indies right now is that a lot of new guys are only able to sell 5-10 (often times less) copies a month with direct sales. This just kills motivation and a lot of people find it hard to justify spending another 6-18 months developing a new game. The indie spirit dies before going through all the cycles of trial and error.

    The upside is that it's easier to make games nowdays. But it's harder to get them played unless you're targeting the casual audience or a closed system.
     
  9. defanual

    Original Member

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    Lack of business, marketing and advertising skills...

    I do think the biggest problem for indie's is lack of business, marketing and advertising skills as well as me-too/AAA clones or over original (hard to market) games.

    For instance, most of the success stories quoted/spoken about here are in some way or form I've heard/read about from many different sources, but other then that, I never heard about QUAK or pieyegames (apart from here). And I'll admit, it's the same in most cases for my own games upto now (and rightfully so).

    Remember, it doesn't matter how good your commercial game or product is, if no one (enough for you to be happy with the sales) knows about it, it WILL fail. If the product is bad and everyone knows about, it at the least has a %50 more chance of selling or bringing revenue then your great product does. Think about the amount of times people have been compelled to post about a game because of it's themes or controversy (such as the flash suicide game or that one with the diet pills, those must have got some ad revenue if the creators were smart enough), rather then it's gameplay (if it even has any), most indies games don't get that kind of free indirect publicity because there either marketed poorly or just aren't remarkable to speak about (good isn't remarkable, good is just good).

    Indie success seems to come when it's niche (no point doing a standard soccer game, EA and Konami have that covered) and marketed well, of course, the less niche it is, the easier it is to market (Braid, mario style platform game with time shifting in story and gameplay mechanic). Finding the balance seems to be part of the secret formula.

    I also think that just using the traditional, old and expected methods of selling / marketing download games are unwise too (as with the download.com example above). You need to be thinking of new ways to sell and tell people about your game as regularly as you knock out those game ideas. How you sell, where you sell and your execution of selling are as important as how good the game is itself when it comes to commercial games.

    Those are my theories from experience, long observations and equally long research anyway. I'll practice what I preach and try to put these into practice (as well as some of the wise words from others including your fine selves!) for 2009 and give feedback where valid ;)
     
  10. puggy

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    After reading this thread and several magazines, i realised something.

    now i don't know if it's like this in the usa (and if i go of in a tangent, it's new year and i'm slightly drunk) but in the uk pc magazines are about 200-300 pages whereas pc games mags are 100-200 with and extra £1 to the cost. While they have the 4-5 20 meg indie games on the double sided 9 gig odd dvd. ever get the feeling your getting screwd? How hard would it be to add a few pages about a load of small time indie games? what fuss would it be to add demo's of a load of small indie games?

    If the mags spent a small fraction of time adding some info about the small time games not only would they add value for money but help the small time players. then again it seems future publishing seems to own a lot of pc stuff here in the uk so it's only hopeful thinking
     
  11. Mike Wiering

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    I think there is a big change going on from downloadable games to online webgames. You can either get mad and miserable about it, or take the opportunity and start making Flash games yourself! I started last summer and last month for the first time I earned more from Flash games than from downloadable games. Eventhough I've always kind of disliked webgames, it's very motivating to see how much these games are being played.
     
  12. Jack Norton

    Indie Author

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    That's it- honestly. Nobody can think to make a game that sells 50-100 a month, as first game, without spending money on adwords/ads.
    You need motivation and also being able to live with modest income in the first 2-3 years. After that, even making non-casual games, is really quite easy to get a decent income... that's why most indie stop, they think to make 1 game and be set for life. LOL sorry, you have better chances if you play the lottery.
     
  13. princec

    Indie Author

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    Yep, by Gabe. And can you remember what happened next?

    Cas :)
     
  14. electronicStar

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    I think it's obvious why Qwak doesnt perform on portals. It's target audience is clearly not the same audience the plays HOs, M3s, and other succesful portal titles. It's a problem of reaching the right gamers.
    I think one of the problems of indie devs is that they don't have access to a whole part of the gamer public, I'm thinking about the young hardcore teenagers who play on XBLA and Steam. We all know how difficult it is to be published on XBLA and Steam, and yet this is the only place where we can reach these hardcore amateur teenagers because they typically don't buy online games for PC from portals or from direct develloper websites.
    And if they want to play Qwak type games they have the whole back catalogue of emulation.
     
  15. JGOware

    Indie Author

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    I personally think there is plenty of life left for Quak. The game is just too hard, too busy, out of the gate. As I've said before, there are 2 versions screaming to happen. One for the retro/hardcore market (the current version perhaps) and a version for the casual/kid market. Slower paced, easier to play, not near as busy, etc, etc. Plus, the new version would mean another product circulating, doubling his market exposure. ;)

    Otherwise, yah, it's all down to advertising. BigFish, Reflexive, etc, put alot of money back into the company for advertising. It will be very interesting to see what Amazon does with Reflexive in regards to advertising.
     
  16. tolik

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    Game developers make games.
    Good connections make decent games go viral.
    Portals are interested to sell games with highest conversion ratios to maximize revenues.

    Developers aren't interested to share the traffic they make with other developers who don't have traffic.
    Niche and extinct genres aren't PC mainstream.

    Lurk for more platforms, that's how it works on PC.
     
  17. BIGZIPZ

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    I completed QWAK on the Gameboy last year but I still found the PC version challenging, but that's partly why I love it.

    But I suppose I am not the audience the portals want to target. I like hard games.
     
  18. Nexic

    Indie Author

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    Funny how you know where they are located, but you're unaware that they single handedly created one of the best selling portal genres of all time, only to have it ripped off by portals and ultimately not see a penny. It wasn't the first time it happened, and it won't be the last.

    Back on topic:
    Is it the end of the indie? No. Is it the end of the mediocre indie? Definitely.
     
  19. Cevo70

    Cevo70 New Member

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    Interesting take, but I agree. There's a big audience of gamers that never touch a portal or even think to. They go where they are familiar (like XBLA maybe). I think it's going to be a key middle ground to capture that type of audience with the right type of game.

    I know my game won't work on a portal, for example. Not casual enough, not familiar enough. As best as I can tell, I am better off swinging for the fences. Then again, I am not really as concerned with turning a huge profit - more of the personal journey thing.
     
  20. zoombapup

    Moderator Original Member

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    Cmon, Betty's wasnt any more innovative, seeing as there were games like tapper on the old atari many many years previous.

    If you want cloning, I'd go for puzz-loop and zuma :)

    But this has been rehashed so many times. Pointless discussion.
     

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