Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

What happens when everybody loses the race to the bottom…

Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 1, 2013

So the gold rush that was once mobile game development is hitting its inevitable bust cycle. Not that it’s “tapped out” or anything – there’s still plenty of money to be made there – but the competition is fierce, and the results are usually disappointing.

Kinda like the PC has always been. It’s been the model for a mature marketplace since day one. The sales graphs of every game console, when it nears the end of its lifecycle, begins to resemble that of the PC.

But I don’t think the PC game marketplace has ever been quite as saturated as iOS.

Apparently, a lot of indies are getting fed up with the mobile marketplace, and are fleeing back to console and PC. I don’t think their chances of making money with a quick-and-dirty slapped-together product are any better on the PC. Again, it really comes down to being an early mover on a platform. The iPhone and Androids were huge successes in that regard, but those days are over. MAYBE there’s a chance that you can pull that off again on one of the new consoles coming out, but… only maybe.

In the end, everyone wants a filter (or lack thereof) in place that favors them. Or, if you make crap, you want no filter at all. If you have managed to put together a broad fan base, you want it linked to popularity. If you have cash, you want money to be the barrier to entry. If you make a niche game, you want filters that allow niches to be represented, maybe based on critical acclaim (ooh, that’d be me!). Etc. Etc. Etc.

What I personally keep seeing is that the fundamentals of success don’t really seem to ever change. What’s “hot” or trendy or allows shortcuts is a constantly moving target, but ultimately they all fade or drift leaving the same fundamentals in place that were always there. And yeah, the fundamentals are HARD. You need to make a great game. You need to appeal to a large enough audience at your price point to be beyond successful. You need to NAIL your marketing and sales. And you need a little bit of luck. And, ultimately, you need to keep doing it over and over again, consistently.

Sometimes there are magical little shortcuts that allow a gold rush. In indie games, we’ve seen it with casual, and we’ve seen it with iOS / Android. But those never last, because it doesn’t take long because it’s crowded out to the point where they are no longer superior. It’s the marketplace at work. The fundamentals remain.

Filed Under: Biz - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

  • Kyle Haight said,

    Jeff Bezos once made a comment to the effect that ‘People are always asking what is going to be different in ten years, but I think it’s more important to ask what will still be the same.’ Some of the fundamentals he identified were price, service and selection. It’s hard to imagine somebody ten years down the line saying “Your company is great, I just wish your prices were higher, delivery took more time and you didn’t sell so many things.” There are more.

    Building success on a foundation of the things that don’t change is hard. But it’s also more lasting.

  • Cuthalion said,

    The marketing bit is always kind of terrifying. I just want to make games! Heh. And thus, publishers.

    (Well… historically, there were other reasons, but still.)