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Indie Game Market Difficulty Level: Rookie
by Javier Cabrera on 10/31/12 02:23:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

So I’ve read this post over indiegames.com about Joystick Labs shutting down. According to them, “It has become very difficult for an independent developer to get noticed”. Looks like the indie game market difficulty level is higher than we thought.

Some of the devs who commented on the post agreed on this. I think its nuts. Things are not difficult for indie developers, on the contrary, they are easier than they ever were; some people just like to see the glass half empty.

I’m not going to judge those who think the indie game market is hard. They have their reasons and I respect that. I’m just going to tell you why things are easier today than say, ten or twenty years ago and how you can take advantage of the free spot some devs leave when they walk away.

In the late 70′s, Al Lowe and his wife published their games by themselves. They invested in educational magazine ads, in a small stand on the apple fest. Apple was presenting their apple II to a small group of people. There wasn’t even 50,000 apple users in the market and Al Lowe had it rough.

He and his wife made the game packages in ziplock bags and floppy diskettes over their food table with love and passion. A true indie.

Al Lowe sold his company and became one of the faces of Sierra. Now how’s that for a tough market? Some people complain its difficult to get attention from the online media. When Al and his wife were around back in late 70′s, there was no online media. They had to put ads on educational magazines.

I will let everyone draw their own conclusions about why things are hard for indie developers in today’s market and will only focus on the positive side.

# Online E-commerce solutions make things easy

Back in the 90 I was asked to integrate a merchant account with a custom made online store when you had to call VISA and Mastercard to get approval of every sale online by phone. We didn’t had jQuery, ajax, php or anything like that. Most servers ran ASP back in those days and communications were slow as hell.

It was a gigantic task for a small group of web developers and it took a great deal of time. The online merchant even sent a guy from Miami to Buenos Aires to finish the setup of the online transactions. Yes, someone actually took a plan down here to Buenos Aires to help finish the process.

Today, you can setup your online store in 15 minutes and in less than 24hs be accepting not only all major credit cards but paypal and checks. Incredible.

We trust FastSpring.com for our online transactions: they are the best there is out there. They are not only professionals but industry leaders. If you are going to sell a product online, you want the best and that’s why we decided to go with FastSpring. Their fame among indie devs is well deserved: they are not just easy to work with but also stand behind you 100%.

Do you know the Concierge Key Program some airlines have? These are exclusive exclusive frequent-flier programs where you get the best attention the airline can possible offer. Bad news is, you can’t ask them for a membership since its an invitation only club. From sending you a private jet so you don’t lose that conference to private reservation lines: the airlines know how to keep their VIP satisfied.

While FastSpring won’t send you a private jet, they will make sure you have everything you need from them to make things happen. You get VIP treatment with these guys without being a VIP and I’m not the only one saying it.

15 minutes. That’s all it takes these days to sell your product worldwide.Transactions have never been this easy.

# Fund your game without the middleman

If your idea is solid, then why are you waiting for? You can get funded people through indiegogo (outside the US) or KickStarter (US only). You don’t have to ask for 5 million to get funding. Back in the days I remember talking with a guy who ran a technology investment group. The guy was pretty smart, but his vision about what a good technology startup needed to be wasn’t (in my opinion) the best.

He never made it rough so he didn’t knew to recognize good ideas on sight. He needed at least 7 meetings to know for sure if the idea was worth considering. Can you imagine making seven different pitches to get your project approved by Kickstarter so you can start fundraising?

That’s what it took for some people back in the 90′s. Today, you click through an online form, upload a video and you are set to go to and the best of all: you can speak to your investors “face-to-face”, no middleman.Getting your indie game funded has never been this easy.

# Publishers are dead. Long live the Appstore, GamersGate, Zodiac.

While some people won’t agree with this, you can bet your sweet ass the appstore has made things easier for a lot of folks out there. Before Steve Jobs (RIP) made it available for everyone, this sort of platforms were actually closed to big time publishers who had the money to push the market the direction they better saw fit.

They were the ones who had the spotlight, no matter how hard you tried. Only chance was, partnering with one to get your product (maybe) noticed.

Today, things are different. Today an indie developer, all by himself/herself, can get a game featured in the top 10 right on the home page of the Appstore. Before Steve Jobs gave all of us this opportunity, it didn’t existed. In fact, some big time publishers complained about it. They didn’t wanted us there. They didn’t wanted us to have the same opportunities than they had for years.

They lost. For the first time in history, they lost. For less than $100 bucks we can have our game displayed worldwide by a major portal.

If you are a PC only indie then things are also better than they were 10 years agoGamersGateZodiacDesura, AndroidMarket, GoogleMarket, you have an infinity of places to sell your product.

And that’s without mentioning Steam Greenlight. A friend of mine, Agustin Cordes, developer of award-winning Scratches is working on his second horror game, Asylum. In what, a month? He managed to get #20 in GreenLight. Steam is the honeypot, and he got it thanks to everyone who voted his game. People made the choice, not a publisher. Last year this was up to steam: today its up to the people. How cool is that?

Getting your indie game on a major portal has never been this easy.

# Conclusion

Yes, the indie game market is a tough racket. Some will complain. Some will quit. But most will stay and fight because if one thing is sure is this: you haven’t seen nothing yet.

UPDATE: Some devs have come forward since I posted this. They weren't the ones who quit, but the investors.

You can read the original article at http://www.cabrerabrothers.com/indielife/indie-game-market-difficulty-level-rookie/ 


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