Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Surviving the Glut as a Game Developer

Posted by Rampant Coyote on July 3, 2014

After yesterday’s epic-sized post, today’s will be a small one – because Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb Software says a lot of good stuff that doesn’t need much additional commentary. He’s way better at this than me, anyway, and has been through a couple of market cycles since before “indie” was even a term (back then, it was called “shareware.”)

Jeff Vogel: Surviving the Post-Indie-Bubble Wasteland

Great advice across the board.

I’m not so sure about people wanting to root for you. Sure – some do. Indies do enjoy a bit more goodwill, and they will often have a small group of people cheering them on. But I don’t know that being “indie” earns you automatic goodwill these days from the larger market. When things are glutted, people will tend to be more indifferent towards individual indies, even if they still want to root for the concept of the underdog. Attention becomes harder and harder to obtain – you are just another faceless soldier storming the beach. They’ll root for you and mourn your failure only in the abstract.

Maybe I’m wrong there, but that’s my feeling.

That doesn’t really change the advice. Try not to give people a reason to root against you, if you can help it. Sometimes the very things that get you the attention you and your game desperately need will also burn you in the long run (see Phil Fish).

Bottom line though – Jeff is right, even if the term “bubble” isn’t 100% correct. The market is glutted, and that’s hurting the *average* indie developer. But being an average indie developer has never, ever been a recipe for success.

Filed Under: Biz - Comments: 5 Comments to Read

  • Dave Toulouse said,

    “But I don’t know that being “indie” earns you automatic goodwill these days from the larger market”

    Probably not. Though I’ll say that while most people say they don’t care if a game is indie or not I’m still part of the possibly very few that actually care.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t buy a game just because it’s indie (if it’s bad then it’s bad indie or not) but if I do happen to like a game made a small team with no outside help it do makes me appreciate it in a different/additional way. Probably because I know based on my experience what this means.

    What I mean is when the next CoD comes with more bells and whistle than the last one that’s no surprise to me. I expect that and have no emotion toward the company releasing it. When a single person do the same on a possibly different scale though I’m really excited for them and makes me more interested in the game somehow.

    But again I’m surely part of a tiny minority just because I’m an indie dev myself.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I think you’re right, and maybe that’s what Vogel was driving at. It’s not like care about you, specifically, as an indie. But many will give you the benefit of the doubt when they wouldn’t give it to a AAA game.

    It’s not a huge advantage, and as indies we need to work to make sure that is reciprocated – providing a more personal touch and level of service – so that doesn’t evaporate.

  • Dave Toulouse said,

    I remember reading when FTL was released that people were surprised to receive an answer from the devs to their email and they really appreciated that.

    Now FTL was already a big hit but this additional touch surely did help in an intangible way to improve how some people saw the devs and maybe even the game.

    So for most of indie who won’t release a smashing hit on their first try or might never release highly successful games it’s even more important to have that additional touch as hopefully people will remember that.

  • MalcolmM said,

    I would estimate that roughly 80% of the over 300 games I have on Steam are indie titles. I haven’t been completely anti AAA title, it’s just that most of the AAA titles are shooters, and I rarely like shooters.

    Lately however, I’m getting very tired of my indie games. Often they turn out to be gimmick games, such as Octodad that Jeff discusses.

    I’m also tired of “retro” graphics (and sound), which has become an convenient excuse for poor graphics. I don’t expect state of the art 3D graphics, in fact I often prefer simple 2D graphics. Many of the “retro” graphic indie games would have looked bad even in the 90’s (and maybe the 80’s).

    I seem to have the most success with what I think of as BBB titles. These are titles developed by a small team with a modest budget (but far more money than the average indie developer can afford). Games like Warlock Master of the Arcane, King’s Bounty, Small World 2 and Pinball FX2 keep me happy and don’t break the bank.

    I hope to be able to continue supporting indie developers, but I’m through with buying indie games just to support the indie community.

  • Anon said,

    I never give money to (game) companies as a “gift” but in exchange for their product. If I like the devs/company it’s more probable that I end up buying their product as I follow them a bit closer than regular devs (nowadays I often skim the news or read reports on sited like this that bring my attention to new games). Can call this support if you want.

    The exception of the rule is game bundles as I never buy a bundle because everything in it is interesting to me. As I can’t control how the money is distributed among the various devs of the bundle (that’s how bundles work: All studios get a part of the pie) I’ll end up giving money to devs/companies I don’t care for and whose games I’ll never will play. In a way I’m supporting the indie scene as a whole.