This post is the third in a short series in which I’m publicly reflecting on where I want to try to be heading as an indie developer. If you happen to be interested in the series & my goals for it, you can read the introduction here.
I’ve basically established who I am, and what I consider my values in terms of games development. The next question is working out where. Where are the platforms that are going to work best with what I want to accomplish? Where do I go to find the more receptive people to pitch the game to for coverage?
When I start to look at where I should try & publish, the first thing I think of is what is the best solution for someone like myself. A few years ago, that really was the mobile space (which I feel explains the amount of mobile games trying to do traditional genres without proper control considerations) - the low (relatively speaking) cost to access both the iOS App Store & Google Play meant is was feasible for a solo developer to get their game on there, and with a bit of promotional work - actually make enough money from it to consider another project.
However, thanks to the rise of Free to Play, and larger developers shoving their way in - even if you are able to get coverage, it’s incredibly difficult to get players to consider paying more than the base amount. I used to see mobile as a grounds for delivering small, focused games (not unlike budget labels such as Mastertronic in the 8-bit days) - small, focused, cheap games which might not be the greatest thing on the planet, but were usually fun enough for a few afternoons of play.
As for desktops - it’s a bit more complicated. For starters, desktop is always going to try & be all 3 major platforms (Windows, OS X & Linux) - I feel in this day & age, going PC only is utterly inappropriate for indies, and even though my stats from Pocket Dogfights ultimately question if that was worthwhile, I still feel it’s an important goal to aim for. The larger issue there is just getting in front of people - there’s the larger issue of Steam Greenlight, which feels much harder to penetrate than other places, yet can’t be ignored for some degree of success.
So, desktop obviously seems like the right choice - but there’s expectations there that make me wonder if small games are going to even be tolerated by the communities there - which is harder when you’re developing things on limited resource by comparison.
The second factor which I am pondering is where I should be going to build relationships. I found that with the Pocket Dogfights launch, the only press I did receive was from the result of relationships that I’d spent the last 2-3 years building. If I need to be spreading my reach wider than my local space - obviously I need to be able to that many more times over and with the right people. But to be honest, I’m not sure where that it anymore. When I did pitch, I tried to go across a spread of large & small sites - all of which are indie friendly, but when the responses are either dead air, or being put in contact with advertising departments - it can’t help but feel rather hollow.
Maybe I’m just a bit old fashioned, but I feel like I want to build two-way relationships. I’m not a fan of having to reach out all the time, and sometimes it’d be nice to feel that my development posts/tweets/etc actually are being read by more than a few people.
Which I guess brings me into the last item - I’m not really sure where I belong. I feel that trying to develop stuff on the sides means that it’s easy to feel disconnected from both sides of the spectrum - the more established indies who are able to actually earn an income from their work, and the smaller ones & students who are more focused on the artistic side.
When you find yourself between the groups - then you struggle to find the opportunity to seriously talk development, or process - or how to do things better. It’s why well, I decided to put this little series together in the first place… I’m hoping that I can at least get the chance to find out who I can discuss some of these thoughts & actions with, and at least use that as a springboard to whatever I choose to do next.