Here’s another failure. And a fresh write-up on a nasty truth. And a lot of talks about Xpocalypses. Yet despite all these sobering lessons and insights, many indie teams still carry on doing the very same mistakes everyone warns about. And I just don’t understand why.
In order to have a decent chance to sell a game enough to keep you going, you need to be business savy, you have to talk about your game as early, as elegantly and as much as possible and you must be original. Chocolate and peanut butter cookies don’t really work anymore. And no, your target group is NOT the 125 million people who use Steam, and it’s also not that fraction who plays [insert game similar to yours which sold very well here]. And it is also untrue that there are lots of investors out there just itching to fund your development time. Wake up!
The good news is, waking up is simple. Getting a game ready to launch is simple. Handling refactoring and feature creep may not be as simple, but is definitely not rocket science. The dreaded Marketing is not only simple, but should also provide a lot of fun, too! And you can do it; if anything, the new trend of disclosing apocalypses and failures happens just because there are many success stories to compare to. The trickiest part is staying motivated, but if you are wise enough to understand WHY you do it, this should be simple, too.
So here’s a few really simple things you must do, NOW. They’ve been told over and over again, but since they still don’t happen, I guess they need to be told again.
1. There is a difference between doing what you love, and pursuing a career with it. Doing what you love is called a hobby and it typically does not bring along any monetary profit. If that is what you’re in for, Thank you! You can stop reading now. But if it’s not, and you actually want to turn your love for game making into something that brings you money, you need to think like a business person. This means that you have to have a trustworthy, united team that can stand up in front of external parties, that you have to have a plan beyond “I am making this game because this is simply want I want to play” and that you must not succumb to the dreaded refactoring/ perfectionism cycle that disables you from launching your game within a reasonable timeline. In terms of practical stuff, this means you need to have at least one person in the team focused on the business and planning side. That person must be really committed to that. This is not a side job. You need a written plan, constantly updated, and you need a producer responsible to get things done.
2. Why bother doing something if you don’t want for people to know about it? How can you not talk about something you are very, very passionate about? Marketing is really, really simple, it is the art of letting your greatest fans know about your work. And in a way, its very much your responsibility to make that effort, so the people who need to know about your game have it easy. Don’t count on press or publishers; most failures are precisely because of that. And if you, the creator, cannot find joy in spreading the word about your game, who else do you think can do it better? Who else loves your game as much as you do? Who knows everything about your game, the way you do? So step up! Let any external factors such as press or other attentions be a welcomed extra, but be aware, the only one you can really count on is YOU. That being said, this is definitely not a hard job, in fact it’s a fun, addictive job, but it takes time. This is not a side job or an after thought. Have at least one person in your team responsible for spreading the word about your game.
3. Why do you make games? Why do you make THAT game? What makes it special? What makes YOU special? Do you really need to make another [insert popular genre here]? If you do, why? Is the market so empty of that which you crave, that you absolutely feel the need to supply it, or is it just a love affair? Can you envision yourself passionately, enthusiastically supporting your game one year from now on, two years? Can you envision your team doing the same thing, for years, with you? Those are difficult questions to ask, but if you are not a hobbyist, you have to ask them asap. Long gone are the days when a game was something stable enough to push live, and then sit back, relax and count your cash (if they ever existed). You are in it for the long run, so you have to love it enough to keep you and your team motivated long term. I believe that to succeed as an indie game developer, you really need to love the games you make . And the kind of love I am talking about is not the passionate fling; it’s a long term commitment, a deep understanding that your game isn’t perfect but also that you know, really know why you want to make it. So ask yourself why.