Feb 022015

Rami Ismail of Vlambeer fame recently wrote an interesting article talking about the failures & success of the game industry. There’s nothing particularly new in his article but it serves as a good summary of the current state of things.

We live in a world where it’s never been easier to make video games. One-person & small teams now can make a video game, release it digitally, and hopefully find success without the need for a publisher. With that freedom & ease comes competition. In a world where everyone can make a video game, sometimes it feels like everyone IS making a video game.

You can’t directly get rid of competition. You can’t make people stop making video games.

So what are you to do in a world where everyone is making a video game and you’re up against all of the classics of past years? There are basically three routes to success.

1 – Make a better game than everything else. We see this a lot in the AAA sphere. If we take one of the best games of the past & spend even more money on graphics & technology, the end result should be even better, right?

2 – Make everyone think that you have a better game than everyone else. Market, market, market. Spend a fortune on marketing, get celebrities to endorse your product, and try to buy your way to success.

3 – Make a different game than everyone else. We see this a lot in the indie sphere. If your game is the only game of its type, than everyone who wants to play a game of that type is yours, assuming quality & price matches up to their requirements. Most people don’t make 100% original games, but making games in less crowded genres or with unusual premises can have a similar, though less absolute effect.

It’s not enough to make a good game. It’s not enough to make an excellent game. When I was at Playstation Experience 2014, I wandered around the indie section and pretty much every single game I saw looked like a high quality game. Despite that, I’m sure some of those games will not be financially successful.

Quality isn’t enough. If you make a quality game that’s similar to a thousand other quality games, you’re still competing against a thousand other quality games.

The way to be successful as an indie who doesn’t have the money to brute-force their way to success via marketing or better technology is to STOP COMPETING WITH EVERYONE ELSE. Make something that stands out. Make something that’s different. Make a game that gets people to think “I want this game and no other game out there is an adequate substitute.” Make something that’s worth buying. Make something that’s not “yet another” game. Make something that’s glorious. Make something that’s yours.

There’s room for more success in the game industry than we’ve ever seen before, but we need to all stop fighting over the same little pond with the same kind of games. Let the big companies duke it out over a few scraps; in the mean time, there’s a vast ocean awaiting us.

 Posted by at 10:22 am

  3 Responses to “Competition among developers is fiercer than ever and that’s fine”

  1. You asked me why I didn’t spotlight a certain game in one of my articles where I talked about Kickstarter projects that I was interested in; I responded that I didn’t think it look very good & then you informed the other developer and tried to create a fight. I apologized and that was that. There was no bashing involved; you asked me a question and I gave an honest answer.

    I specifically try to avoid saying anything about other indie games unless I have something positive to say. In the future, if someone asks a question like you did, I’ll respond with a more neutral “I only talk about projects that personally interest me.”

  2. Maybe one should take one’s own advice? Or is being hypocritical a part of the deving experience too? Because I remember you guys “bashing” a certain indie dev team for the effort they put forth with their launch debut title… Isn’t that “berating the competition” in hindsight?

  3. The hardest part about being a successful indie developer is making something that is different. Generating a whole new genre or style of game is very challenging but at the same time that “vast ocean” is truly vast. New ideas can come up at any time and there will always be new ideas. The realm of play is nearly endless.

    I’ll never be able to do something like what Notch did or [example], but I know there are many great games to come and I encourage all artists to try harder to raise the game design bar.

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