Soon after I understand that I could only make a good game if it’s targeted to me, I started thinking about real market opportunities. These are the external reasons; I mean all the reasons independent from myself, my skills and my ability to make games. I would have jump into game development even if I didn’t find anything cool during my researches, but – as results are good – I think it’s worth sharing my conclusions here. And it’s always invigorating to know you enter a cool and welcoming area.
As I said in part 1, a first reason to enter the game development could be the community by itself. Indie game developers love to blog, tweet, talks in forums, etc. And it’s an awesome resource for newcomers. Of course, this epileptic network activity is a way to get exposure on the net, and I couldn’t say that this is not one of the goals of Indie Game Soup (despite the fact that my blog is anonymous). But that’s a lot more than this. I don’t think you can make friends when your goals are purely commercial. And I’ve read many posts on the Indie Gamer Forum where it’s obvious to say that friends are talking together there.
So, Ok for the dev community, what’s about the real market? Well, my deep feeling, as a customer, is that hardcore gamers are not fed with the current offering for small titles. And this is especially true for those who don’t own the Xbox360, where the XBLA has a lot to offer (but also a lot of so-so games). On PSN and Wiiware, there is more selection by Sony and Nintendo, and, consequently, there are far less titles. So, is it an Eldorado for indie game developers? Unfortunately, the answer is No. As a console gamer, I looked at this business first, and I must admit I felt frustrated by what I discovered: the current state is that it’s longer and longer to get your game approved on XBLA, while it’s very hard to put hands on PS3 or Wii devkits if you are not yet in the industry. The fact is that it’s a pain to get on consoles if you are not supported and sponsored by a publisher. As a consequence, the console market is not the “cool and welcoming area” I talked about. That’s more like a fortress. And to smash in the portcullis of the console fortress, you will first need a success on the PC side or get enough exposure during your development to speed up the XBLA approval. Anyway, if your game design requires a gamepad, I could only recommend going XBLA, simply because most PC gamers don’t have any gamepad. If, by chance, your game has mouse and keyboard controls, then rush on the PC side, because that’s where heaven is waiting:
- Steam is king.
- To get on Steam, you need to have either a publisher or very good reviews of your game.
- You can get reviews by 1) having a great game and 2) competing at the Independent Game Festival.
And this is supposed to be heaven?!? Ok, this still sounds difficult, but the bet looks more winnable to me, especially if you consider a true hardcore game, simply because they are not enough such games. If we consider the Indie section of Steam, here is the picture:
Total games released on Steam in 2009 in the Indie category = 68.
The average is between 5 and 6 indie games per month. These are low numbers. In Q1 2010, Steam has released 20 games in the Indie category, 30 in the Action category and 31 in the Strategy category. Of course there are some overlaps but we can quickly conclude that there are more big titles out on Steam than smaller games, maybe twice. This sounds like a paradox since Indie games usually don’t require as much time to develop as AAA products. Maybe the Steam internal policy is to limit the Indie offer so that it does not “pollute” too much the primary store, but I don’t think so. They simply want the best offer for their hardcore audience. And, naturally, they are demanding and this is exactly why they ask for good reviews.
In part 3, I will give try to explore why so few developers go this way. This will conclude my thoughts about the external reasons I can find to make games for hardcore gamers.