Tough period?

Discussion in 'Indie Related Chat' started by Jack Norton, Jul 30, 2004.

  1. Jack Norton

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    This seems to be a tough period for all indie devs.
    First Brainblock retiring and while talking with other devs they seems not very optimistic. In the meanwhile Real, Gamehouse and Bigfishgames have monopoly over casual gamers games...
    What do you think that are the causes of this "indie recession"? the big portals have a role (positive/negative) on it?

    Personally I am happy, after all, to have pursued a different route, the one of exclusive content - self publishing.

    Also I think that devs should realize that the most important thing is to release new games :) marketing is ok, but honestly I believe the times when you could survive for years with just ONE game are long gone... ;)
     
  2. Bluecat

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    Well, it's not technically a monopoly if there are three companies taking over the business. I guess you could call it a tri-opoly. ;)

    All industries go through their bad times. Sometimes the bad times are temporary, and other times they reflect a fundamental change in the way business is conducted. The challenge is to adapt to the changes. I see smaller indies being far more agile in this regard than the bigger companies.

    I believe that there will always be opportunities for those who are willing to look for them. Just because Real, Gamehouse and Bigfishgames are taking the lions share, does it mean that they always have to be in that position. It's a lot different to a company like EA Games controlling the retail market. The internet means that no company can deny you 'shelf space' because they outbid you.

    Your own success or failure rests with you.
     
  3. Anthony Flack

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    I've often thought so. It's just a matter of figuring out the logistics; no easy thing.

    But the ideal would be to create some kind of indie game "one-stop shop" which somehow remained impartial, so that a true "anything goes" mentality can flourish. The big problem with the portals is that they're getting conservative; locking in a certain demographic.

    As it stands, sites like GameTunnel come closest to this ideal.
     
  4. Coyote

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    The games industry is maturing - on both the hardcore market side and the casual side. What we're seeing is, IMO, natural evolution. We can't turn back the clock. Money follows money - now that the secret of the casual games market is out, there's no getting the cat back in the bag, and the big portals are here to stay. In one form or another.

    The bad news is they have captured a huge amount of market share that its hard to grab a piece of it without playing by their rules. The GOOD news is that they are really helping to "grow the pie." They are widening the highways for digital distribution of content, a trend that will only increase in popularity even among the hard-core games in the future.

    So yeah - I think the days of whipping out a "match-3" puzzle game in six weeks and making plenty of money are long gone. *HOWEVER* I think there's always plenty of opportunity to be found in the market.

    For one thing - I see this increasing gulf between the casual gaming market and the hard-core gamer market. You have a ton of "entry-level" casual games out there trying to woo the inexperienced gamer. You have a ton of hard-core games trying to serve the jaded tastes of the gamer who was born with an NES controller in his hand. What you don't see is many games serving that intermediate group.... the games with a level of depth and complexity (and demands upon the player) similar to what MADE the hardcore gamers 10-15 years ago.

    Does this market exist? Is there a need? I think so. I'm seeing a lot of frustration on the part of semi-casual players (and the "wage-slave" former hardcore players who have since gotten a life and responsibility, and can't devote 25+ hours / week to playing games). These aren't the kind of games that can be whipped out in six weeks, but neither do they need to be the latest & greatest mind-blowing technological wonders filling 4 CD-ROMs, either.

    I think there are plenty of places for an independent gaming company to thrive - none of them EASY, but I think possible.

    On top of that, I remember the state of the shareware industry back in 1991-1994. You had to download games from FTP sites --- and I could tell you that the market was incredibly crowded back then, too --- full of EGA / VGA (and sometimes CGA) games for DOS - I think it was virtually impossible for a 'shareware' game to get noticed then, too. But some folks managed to shake things up. Nothing's stopping the same thing from happening now... you just can't rely on graphics technology to be your savior anymore.
     
  5. princec

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    That's the market I'm going for with my shooters. Not very casual, not very hardcore.

    Cas :)
     
  6. Chris Evans

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    The idea of an Indie portal is mentioned a lot around here. But I've yet to hear any good realistic solutions to make it work. Several issues:

    - The Indie portal can't just list every little Indie game under the sun. There has to be some standards, otherwise there will be way too much noise. The games don't have to match a certain demographic, but they should at least meet a certain standard, so the Indie portal is known for quality software. Who determines what games do and do not get listed on the site?

    - Whoever runs the Indie portal needs to make money. Not just cover costs, but actually make a profit. A portal is a big undertaking and I doubt anyone is willing to do it long-term without getting paid.

    - Whoever runs the portal has to actively market and promote the portal and the games. Otherwise it will just be the same as the thousands of other affiliate sites out there.

    - Who handles QA issues? The Indie portal or developer?

    Some people here may dislike or resent the big portals such as Real, Gamehouse, and etc, but you can't under-estimate the work that went into making them so huge. Personally I think we're better off cooperating with Indie Gaming News sites. The bigger they get, the more exposure we get. Via reviews, they already have a system in place that rewards quality games. The bad games get low review scores or not reviewed at all. Instead of pouring resources into an Indie portal, I'd rather see it go toward making a truly full-time Indie News site.
     
  7. Bluecat

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    That's what I'm considering doing. A no charge/profit Blues News style website that simply accepts and publishes indie game newsworthy stories and provides links to indie websites.
     
  8. Reactor

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Great comments there, Coyote.

    I personally ignore the competition. I think it's true that it might be a tough period for those targeting the casual gamer. My solution- don't. The gaming industry and its gamers are big and varied enough that you can simply make a great game, and a market will emerge from out of nowhere by itself.
     
  9. Reactor

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Isn't that what Diygames.com is?
     
  10. Chris Evans

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    Oh as for the "Indie recession", I don't think it's that bad at all. Outside the casual game sector, I see quite a few Indie games doing pretty well. BraveTree with Think Tanks is doing good. Gish for Chronic logic seems to be a hit. Spiderweb Software shows no signs of slowing either. I'm sure They Came from Hollywood will be a success if it ever gets released.

    If you're in the casual game sector, then you might feel a "recession" some. But I only think it's those who aren't willing to adjust and maneuver in an ever-crowding market. Or those who are relying on the portals to sell their games. Though SteveP mentioned a while ago that Dexterity just recently had its best sales month ever. So not all casual games are affected.

    But the days where you could just post your game on download.com and get thousands of downloads are over. The days where you could make a "match 3-color" game in 6-8 weeks and sell it to Real and similar portals and make thousands of dollars is becoming extremely rare.

    So for hobbyist, I think it's becoming much harder for them to break into the Indie scene and make decent money. The quick and easy ways to make money are starting to disappear. But for those that are going full-time and trying to run a real business, I think the outlook is pretty good if they're willing to devote and put extra effort into their product and marketing. Game creation tools are becoming dirt cheap and everyday more and more attention is given to the downloadable market. But your product has to be at least a little bit unique and have a barrier to entry. There's barely a barrier to entry for a "match 3-color" game. You also have to be willing to devote a lot of time into marketing such as writing press releases, advertising, sponsorships, and etc. If you're not good at those things, find someone who is.

    Personally I don't think we're in a recession, we're just at the end of a cycle. A recession would be affecting all Indie devs, but I don't think that's the case. I think the only Indie devs that are currently affected are those who were involved in the casual game boom and those that relied heavily on download sites. The rest are mostly dictating their own success or failures, the market is not dictating it for them.
     
    #10 Chris Evans, Jul 30, 2004
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2004
  11. cliffski

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    Well I'm doing fine, probably better than ever (still not enough to live on...).
    I think the trick is not to do "colour-matching puzzle games". These have been done to death, and you cant compete with the big boys on stuff like that.
     
  12. Jack Norton

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    Ok seems that everyone agree to avoid casual games, unless you can make something quite original :p
    I'm doing fine too, but out of 5 games the only really casual is my puzzle game Spin Around... and indeed is the one I sell less :D
     
  13. Coyote

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    I think there's still plenty of market for casual games... if you extend 'casual' to mean something BEYOND the traditional casual market (card games & action-puzzles). One would think that Mom & Pop Casual might be interested in something else that's fun, easy to get into, and doesn't involve 'weird' stuff like elves and space aliens that they just don't get.
     
  14. Gilzu

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    There's an example: McDonalds & Burger King. Call it burger monopoly, but then again, everywhere I look, I see small burger stores, both small nets and Indie ones. Why should you go to those? they have things the other cant offer. They are less sophisticated, can't always bet on a sure one to be good, usually small without that "great service" you know youll get on a network chain, but you'll still go there. Why? because they offer somthing different than the same repetative stuff the network chains offer you, because you can always go to the manager when something is wrong, because its cheaper, because it feels special to have somthing everybody hadnt heard of and be the first to tell your friends and i can go on and on.

    Look also at Minimarkets, Clothes stores, Electricity stores, Pizza & Fried chicken and even Cola (I can name at least 5 brands if not more).

    Saying Indies don't have a place is like saying the Indie minmarket has no place, the local burger/ice-cream/pizza has no place and no-one shall ever go to some unknown band's concert. People want to go out, eat, drink, dress (ect.) and when they find something they like, they will go there. Sure, you have less exposure than Blizzard, but if they will find your game and like it, they will buy it the same way you stop near a cool Indie clock store and see a cool clock that has a ceiling projection on the ceiling and go buy it and tell your friends (It cost me only 12$ on that cool store and got a free t-shirt).

    think of it.

    -Gil
    http://www.gilzu.com/
     
  15. Lerc

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    These two could run together. If a sales mechanism were used similar to Affiliate royalties, Plus the requirement of an up front payment to be listed for a year. The up front payment could be recovered by any affiliate sales.
    Of course this is a significant risk for developers, If such a venture wasn't succesful then their money would just be gone.

    This is somegthing that, for the level of exposure required to really get off the ground, you would need quite a marketing budget. Money has to come from somewhere.

    That would depend on the implementation. Probably the simplest solution would be for the portal to provide initial support ("Install the drivers" etc) and anything more comples and game specific would have to be forwarded to the developer.

    When it comes down to it, the nutshell summary would be The portal would be nice to have, but who is prepared to pay for it?

    Quick show of hands. (maybe someone can make a poll if they feel like it)
    Who here is prepared to pay $100 to a portal per year? How about $500? how about $1000? How about $5000. Each of these level would affect the scale of the portal and the number of Developer members. Each person I suspect would Baulk at a different level.

    The problem I see with Indie News sites is that I do not know of anyone who visits one who is not actually an Indie Developer.

    btw the word is oligopoly
     
  16. Dan MacDonald

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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  17. Chris Evans

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    Well that's because Indie News sites are still in their infancy. The oldest ones have barely been around for a year and a half? It takes time and the current Indie News sites don't have big budgets or a lot of man power.

    But once they get a little more polished, they'll be on the verge of a big break. All it takes is for CNN or similar major news outlet to do another article on the "emerging market of downloadble games". If in those articles GameTunnel and DIY are mentioned as good resources for information on downloadble games then I believe those Indie News sites will begin to tap in into the mainstream.

    I seriously think the folks at GameTunnel and DIY should e-mail the tech/business editors at every major news outlet and say if they ever need a quote from someone who knows the downloadable market, they're freely available.
     
  18. Sean Doherty

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    Generally speaking Freelance Games is more of a portal (small portal) then anything else; and I can speak from experience that the majority of the traffic is from the game development community.

    I might be interested in morphing Freelance Games into a Independent Portal if I had 3 or 4 equal partners with a viable business case. Independent Gaming sites walk a very fine line between trying to recover their costs and trying not to seem as though they are trying to gouge the development community. However, I don't see how a site can operate at the level of a Big Fish without a solid revenue stream.

    These are just random thought... But I people have idea I be glad to hear them; at the moment I a overwhelmed with the amount of work and the poor affiliate programs like RegNow.
     
  19. svero

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    The portals exist in large part because they had outside financing. You can't expect to start a portal and compete on the same level with Real and shockwave if you're not prepared to put in the same level of money for advertising. A "small" local portal is basically the same thing as any of a dozen affiliate sites.
     
  20. Andy

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    Guys,

    That's a way too simple and was said one thousand of times - unite!

    Take a look on Big Fish Games site by year ago:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20030601005704/http://bigfishgames.com/
    ... and answer me what was the basement of their success? - Your games guys. They take them for free and playing with them by the way as they like.

    All you (we) need - just exclude BigFish (Real, etc.) from the process and workout our own portal. That's all. This is obvious that only big and well presented on the market portals will survive in the nearest future. Even big guys from our craud feel this movement right now...

    So, up to all of us...
     

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