The State of the Indie Business

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by inverse, Dec 14, 2012.

  1. inverse

    inverse
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    Well, I have been lurking here for a very long time, and I think it's finally time: I'm going to be jumping into indie development full time in the next two months.

    I was wondering, what do people who have been doing it for a while think of the current state of indie development?

    It seems there are more resources, products and support in the indie space than ever before. At the same time, the traffic on this site seems to have become pretty thin.

    Mobile seems to have been a game changer, but the glut of product makes it difficult to get noticed (aka make any money). Unity is reducing the barrier to entry, and Valve (and others) are making "indie" a genre of its own.

    I would appreciate any insights into where things are, and where you see them going. Is this a good time to be jumping in, and what are the current challenges?
     
  2. lennard

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    No, not a great time to mortgage the house and go all in.

    If you have a passion for making games (and presumably a skill set) then start as a hobby, make a game or two and learn the ropes.

    Unless of course you have a very large bag of money. In that case figure out what would be really cool and then hire a great team to make it happen while you sit back and OK each build before releasing more cash. Ultimately I think scenario B is probably a lot more fun.
     
  3. jcottier

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    >then start as a hobby, make a game or two and learn the ropes.
    Definitely.

    My advice is go multi-platform from the start. So, you better pick a great multi-platform engine.

    JC
     
  4. vbovio

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    if you have not made a game before, you need to start with a very basic game, then after making maybe 2-3 games, go full-time, just keep in mind:

    - depending on your knowledge, be ready to spend lot of hours coding, debugging, etc.
    - get an engine multi-platform from the start, if you do it yourself you can lose lot of time.
    - make games with good polish, even if they are simple, bug free, standard features, good artwork, effects, etc.
    - try to connect with the media & gamers, do some marketing, see trends, what sells and what not, etc.

    if you are willing to do all that and be ready to failure several times (low/zero sales), then welcome to indie :)
     
  5. buto

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    He guys,
    Even though similar questions pop up from time to time, I think it would be great to hear some insights on whether and how the market for your niche has changed and whether you would still do the leap into indie development (with your products) today... Can you live of PC-downloads only? Where does the gross of your income stem from (if you don't mind to share), etc.
    Is the model which focused on building your own customer base using a newsletter etc. still viable? While early members like cliffsky seemed to have great success with that model, this may not be a viable path for new indies any more? Or is it? Most likely not for short time success...
    Would be great to hear some opinions!
    Regards,
    Sebastian
     
  6. inverse

    inverse
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    I guess I should introduce myself a bit:

    I started making games as a hobby in... I don't know, 1986? Commodore 64 days. I had a couple of jobs programming at small game startups through the 90s while getting my computer science degree, with not much to show. I finished an indie contract game in 1998 and then joined a large publisher. In 2005 I helped launch what has become a successful company, but I've been longing for a more "intimate" development process with much smaller teams, so here I am.

    So, I think it's fair to say my dev experience is solid. My monetary situation is stable, I can afford to contract out to fill in the gaps in my skill set. I'm mostly curious about the business side of things.

    This is more what I was asking - how relevant are strategies from 1 or 2 years ago? How is the PC market (outside Steam)? Does the Windows 8 app store look promising? What about Intel's AppUp?

    @lennard: Do you really live in Terrace? That's... just kind of unexpected I guess. :D

    @vbovio: Yes, all I really want from my first game is to get some base technology in place and get some experience in the business side. Any cash flow is good though. :) So, I'm going to try to put a lot of thought and effort into the marketing side.
     
  7. Applewood

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    My advice du jour is to make a freemium game with virtual currency. This tends to polarise opinion and I don't want to get into debates about the pros and cons, but the massive thing that surprisingly never comes up in those debates is that with virtual currency you have one thing that indies need above all else. The ability to reward a player in game cash for referring your game to someone else.
     
  8. inverse

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    Hey Paul, that's interesting... I wonder what other ways you can reward players for referring your game. Once-per-day bonus for posting their score to Facebook? A currency makes it easy, it sounds like something you could apply to games where currency doesn't make sense.

    Do you actually worry about someone gaming the referral system, or does it on the whole not really matter that much?
     
  9. Applewood

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    We've not finalised how we're doing it yet but the basic idea is to (with the players permission) scan through the contacts list - phone games here, present the mail addresses for selection and then let the player type something personal in. We add a link at the bottom and explain that if you click it after making an account both you and the referrer get some extra coins.

    That even sounds clunky and there's some finesse to add, but that's basically it. That should be bulletproof. Liking on facebook etc can be done, as long as you check with the server that they can only do this once. :)
     
  10. inverse

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    Ah, right - if it's just a one time thing, that sounds pretty reasonable. :) It will be interesting to see how it goes!
     
  11. Bram

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    I think indie game development is undergoing a big revival.
    I like the fact that one-man garage shops are back, and create blockbuster hits like they used to in the home computer era.

    The best time for going indie was probably a few years ago, when app stores did not have a million titles yet.
    But still, plenty of opportunity.

    Make a niche game, and do one specific thing, really really well. Better than all other titles out there.
    Once you do that, you should have an audience, that hopefully manages to find you.

    Bram
     
  12. inverse

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    @Bram:

    Yes, it seems to be an interesting time. You know though, through the years I've thought several times, "OK, the market is saturated now, it's too late to get in," and then new opportunities keep opening up. And even if it is slow right now, by the time I release anything, hopefully it will be on an upswing. :)

    The Little Crane That Could looks like such a novel game - sorry, I haven't tried it out yet. I guess it has done OK for you?

    That is kind of the advice I've been trying to follow in my planning - don't just make Yet Another Copy Of Hit Title, make something unique and polish the crap out of it. We'll see how that goes...
     
  13. Bram

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    @Inverse:

    Yeah, Little Crane did exceptionally well.
    Android and iOS combined it is now at 5M downloads or so.
    And the money is a lot more than I could ever make at a AAA studio as an employee.

    In my experience, you do not necessarily need a fully polished game with all your bases covered.
    I released Little Crane as an unfinished project: few levels, no sounds, no options, ugly UI, and yet it was a hit from the get go.
    But it did have the best physics in any iOS game ever, period.
    Combined with the fact that the gameplay was unique, it was enough to become a hit just by word of mouth.

    My advice would be to really polish a unique aspect of your game.
    No need to make it AAA quality across the board.
    Your unique selling point is what matters.

    I never went the steam route: but if you want to get greenlighted as indie it will be hard:
    I think most steam and kickstarter successes are sold on mind blowing visuals.
    If it does not look super sexy, it will be hard to get support on steam or kickstarter.

    Also, you will find that one of the hardest things is getting exposure.
    If your game is really addictive, your players will spread the word.

    Final advice: release your first game as a side project, while you are still employed. Do the whole cycle of conception, design, implementation, marketing under the safety of employment. It can give you the confidence to make the jump with a solid title under your belt.

    Bram
     
  14. inverse

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    @Bram: OK, I finally had a chance to play Little Crane. That is really well done, congratulations. :) The physics sim is really good, what are you using for it?

    How do you find the $3.99 price point? That seems a bit higher than average, how did you come to that number?
     
  15. Jack Norton

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    That depends on the kind of game he wants to make. There are many horror stories of people trying free-to-play and failing miserably ;)
     
  16. Applewood

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    True enough on both counts. But there's no shortage of fail stories in the more traditional model either.

    I do think the ability to actually, literally, pay people to spread recommendations is a powerful one. I'm sure I didn't invent that, but I've not seen anyone actually doing it yet either. (Although I'm sure there must be some.)

    It's not an immoral thing to push either. If the player doesn't like the game, he'll not want the free game coins he would get for a "false" referral.
     
  17. Jack Norton

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    Yes for sure is a good idea, was just saying that it can't be applied to all games, and that in some cases can be risky or is not easy - I've seen some games so obsessed by the free to play system that they completely screwed up the gameplay, with the result that they would have probably made better money just using the old model. So in other words gameplay needs to be carefully crafted around the free to play model otherwise doesn't work :)
     
  18. Applewood

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    Yes, I agree you need to think this one through a lot more. It's a fine line between "allowing me to customise my spend on what's important to me" and "the dev is a greedy bastard" :)
     
  19. lennard

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  20. inverse

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    @Applewood: Yes, there can sometimes be a fine line between "marketing" and "spam" - I think making it a one-time thing keeps it on the side of good. :)

    @lennard: I've been wondering about how well things work in the indie community as far as "collaborating with a loose collection of talented individuals scattered across the globe." How do you find working with others from there, or are you doing it pretty much all yourself? I'm not too likely to get up to Terrace in the foreseeable future, but let me know if you're ever coming down to Vancouver!
     

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