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## David and Goliath, how do you compete with a game giant.

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### #1Dan Violet Sagmiller  Members

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 12:04 PM

I typically see this as trying to find niches that game giants or other popular games do not cover.

Like don't build an RTS that has only a subset of features as Starcraft, but instead focus it around things they don't have, such as underwater, and underground uses, or long range rockets, or AI based robot attacks, where you set a mission, but then lose control of the robot until it completes its task and returns.

But the general idea is to make sure that you'll be able to market your game by focusing on these differences, instead of advertising things that someone else already does.

That is my take on it, what else is there?  As a David, what are your concerns with Goliath game giants as competition?  How do you deal with that?

Thanks

I guess this could be more generalized as suggestions on how to make a David Survive and Thrive?

Edited by Dan Violet Sagmiller, 13 February 2013 - 12:08 PM.

Moltar - "Do you even know how to use that?"

Space Ghost - “Moltar, I have a giant brain that is able to reduce any complex machine into a simple yes or no answer."

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### #2powerneg  Members

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 12:59 PM

buy goliath's game-engine, it 'll be a lot cheaper then creating it yourself.

### #3proanim  Members

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 01:24 PM

But the general idea is to make sure that you'll be able to market your game by focusing on these differences, instead of advertising things that someone else already does.

This is cruel and painfull reality of game making business. You are supposed to have at least one unique feature in your game, no matter how small. If you don't have something like this your game will fall in generic pile of games. In my oppinion today you don't really have much space to maneuver and make something unique, but you should.

Sure you can buy goliath's game-engine to get you started but, unique feature problem remains. Sometimes it is enough to make your game fun in some way to distinguish your self from the others.

In case of StarCraft 2 marketing, where you could see only CGI trailers and no actual gameplay, that shows something unique. There isn't much originallity in the game but it is fun to play anyway.

As long as your game appears fun people will buy it and play it.

### #4robindejongh  Members

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 01:55 PM

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Hi Dan. I think you're almost there, but rather than focus on a niche feature, you should probably focus on a niche audience. You can do this for example by setting your game in a particular village or making the game about a particular hobby or niche group activity. I'm convinced that this is the key to being a successful indie. See more details in my blog post how indie developers market their games.

### #5Dan Violet Sagmiller  Members

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 02:23 PM

You can do this for example by setting your game in a particular village or making the game about a particular hobby or niche group activity

This is a good point, and I could see it working.  I also skimmed your blog, and saw this:

Tell  that group about the game on their forums, their niche news sites, and  their hideouts. Just to make this clear - these are NOT gaming groups or  game genre groups. These are just niche hobby or niche interest groups -  because remember pretty much everybody is a gamer now.

While I think thats a great idea, I don't think its very effective for fictional basis that has little or no real world related hobby.  For instance, Dragon based RTS.  How would I market that?  Well, Perhaps the dragons are Steam Punk Dragons, and then I can discuss on steam punk forums.  Even get people involved early by asking them for ideas about what they would want to see in a game.  Or feature/character related things that can have real life comparison discussions, like costume/appearance of characters.

Perhaps it can be really effective.  But lets pick a current/popular game like Star Craft, and here, how would I have associated this with real life hobbies?

While I remain unconvinced that this is the key to being a successful indie, I do think it is a very valuable idea, and certainly a good one to consider.

Moltar - "Do you even know how to use that?"

Space Ghost - “Moltar, I have a giant brain that is able to reduce any complex machine into a simple yes or no answer."

Dan - "Best Description of AI ever."

### #6swiftcoder  Senior Moderators

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 02:44 PM

But lets pick a current/popular game like Star Craft, and here, how would I have associated this with real life hobbies?

You wouldn't. Blizzard is a Goliath, and doesn't have any need to play to niche audiences (more niche than "competitive RTS", at any rate).

Edited by swiftcoder, 13 February 2013 - 02:44 PM.

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### #7Dan Violet Sagmiller  Members

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 03:03 PM

But lets pick a current/popular game like Star Craft, and here, how would I have associated this with real life hobbies?

You wouldn't. Blizzard is a Goliath, and doesn't have any need to play to niche audiences (more niche than "competitive RTS", at any rate).

Touche'!  And then we compete in the Genre, but find a niche'.  It occurs to me that my latest game falls in this.  Where it is not relying on previous popular tropes; the ideas really are not to far from real life hobby areas and could be modified slightly to cater to that area better.

Moltar - "Do you even know how to use that?"

Space Ghost - “Moltar, I have a giant brain that is able to reduce any complex machine into a simple yes or no answer."

Dan - "Best Description of AI ever."

### #8DaveTroyer  Members

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 03:04 PM

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Well dang-it, I guess I have to reply to this topic considering my name and all.

As an indie currently, I try to hold my head up knowing that I have more creative freedom in my games and that I don't need anywhere near as many sales as a "Goliath" to be considered successful.

For instance, lets say a mid-sized studio has 100 people. Their publisher is giving them 4 million dollars to complete a game in a year. Each of the employees makes 30k with expenses for equipment and software at 10k, which isn't great. Once the game is sold, the studio doesn't see money from that project again (usually), and the publisher needs to recover 4 million dollars and more to cover licences, advertising, and distribution to turn a profit. So basically double their initial investment to make it 8 million to turn a profit. Now their games are about $60, minus retail costs and all that, so lets call it$50 to make math easier for me.

So ... 8,000,000 / 50 = 160,000 copies need to be sold just to break even.

In order to help gain more sales, they need it to appeal to a wider market, meaning less innovation due to uncertainty in the market. That's why we see the same FPS games come out year after year and the same formula time after time.

For me as an indie, say I have to cover my cost for my Adobe Master Suite, whichever engine I'm using, and then any kind of cost encountered when publishing, which the total would be around $5,000, and I kinda need that before working on the game, so I work as a freelance to get cash-money. Then I assemble my team of 10 people and we work on our game for a year, busting our buns because we have to sell it to keep going. Say we sell a game on Steam for$12 that I made with a team of 10 people total.

Well, lets look at the numbers. Everyone works for free, using their own money to live for now, and they all get a fair cut of the profits from the sale, minus Steams cut, making it $10 even and say we sell 160,000 copies just like the big guys. 160,000 X 10 = 1,600,000. Now everyone on the team makes 160,000, minus our own expenses and we're good to go to work on another title with freedom of design and some real money in our pockets. Heck, we'd be in a better position (in my opinion) than the Goliath employees even if we sold 40k because we're still making the same money as them and we aren't waiting to be laid off because some other title we had nothing to do with lost money. I guess I don't know why these big development studios are still just throwing money at their problems and failing. They could take a more controlled and deliberate approach by spread the bets a little wider out and quit paying CEO's stupid amounts of money for just sitting on their bums and throwing buzz-words around. But yeah, that's just the opinion of one David on the matter of Goliaths. Check out my game blog - Dave's Game Blog ### #9Servant of the Lord Members 33514 Like 3Likes Like Posted 13 February 2013 - 03:36 PM To extend the 'David vs Goliath' analogy: You are beneath the enemy's notice, using weapons he doesn't care about and isn't defended against, and you are unencumbered by armor allowing you to move faster. So: niches, innovation, rapid exploitation of new markets or changing interests seem to be the indie modus-operandi. Not always all three, but any combination of one or more seem the mark most indie games (apart from the clones). @DaveTroyer: Might be significantly less than$50 - this article is a few years old, and I don't know if it's accurate or not, but it implies closer to $35 for the developer and publisher.$30k average per employee is probably under-estimating as well. I also hear that the marketing budgets are almost equal to the development costs.

On the indie side, though, selling a game for $12, Steam is likely to take$3.50 or more, so we'd get $8.50 out of$12, not \$10. Steam's take isn't public, and might vary in negotiations, but with most other digital distributors it's a 30/70 cut with the developer getting 70%. Still good for indies though!

Edited by Servant of the Lord, 13 February 2013 - 03:37 PM.

It's perfectly fine to abbreviate my username to 'Servant' or 'SotL' rather than copy+pasting it all the time.
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### #10DaveTroyer  Members

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 03:49 PM

@Servant of the Lord - I know I was flubbing numbers but that's 'cause math-a-magics aren't my strong suit. (That's also why I draw stuff instead...)

I was just trying to give an idea of how a larger developer/publisher throws so much more money around and yet there isn't a significant amount of security or return to the developers themselves along with a much higher operating cost.

But thanks for the link, its a good read and the clarification I think is good.

Edited by DaveTroyer, 13 February 2013 - 03:49 PM.

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### #11Servant of the Lord  Members

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 03:58 PM

Wasn't trying to nitpick your numbers, just was saying the number of copies AAA publishers need to sell is even more dramatic that you indicated. I'm not so great at numbers myself.

Some publishers may consider less than a million copies sold to be a failure. Personally, I'd be happy with anything north of 10k sales at my currently state, trying to develop my first release.

It's perfectly fine to abbreviate my username to 'Servant' or 'SotL' rather than copy+pasting it all the time.
All glory be to the Man at the right hand... On David's throne the King will reign, and the Government will rest upon His shoulders. All the earth will see the salvation of God.
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### #12DaveTroyer  Members

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 04:30 PM

I figured you weren't nitpicking; no worries.

Isn't crazy though how so much goes into a single 6 hour game experience and yet the big fish are all scrambling and shutting down? We see news of old-house publishers struggle at least once a week and hear about dozens, if not hundreds of developers who love making games just like up getting kicked to the curb because they didn't make millions of dollars for a company. That's some sad stuff to me.

The same money that goes into a "AAA" title seems like they could fund dozens of indie games that have just as much; if not more, potential to gain a profit. Lower over-head and more creative freedom for the indies makes it a dream-like place to be in my opinion. Granted, financial failure lands on the shoulders of indies pretty squarely, but that's the risks we take.

And that's just one of the reasons that I think being a "David" in a world of "Goliath"s is so much better.

That's not to say the Goliath's don't have some merit in creating some cool games, but when there are now hundreds and thousands of David's running around, eating up profits, the Goliath's will starve because they need just so much more to live.

Now, when it comes to niche game development, I think indies get to do more unique gameplay mechanics than the big guys because an indie can afford to take a chance that a Goliath can't. Take Starcraft for example. Its not that unique of a game. Its well polished, but they can't add unique and crazy gameplay mechanics without potentially alienating their audiences and losing profit they need.

Edited by DaveTroyer, 13 February 2013 - 04:53 PM.

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### #13Ravyne  Members

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 04:35 PM

It seems that most small games and game studios are most successful when they don't try to beat the goliaths at their own game, and when they connect more-personally with their audience. This sometimes means creating smaller, more-niche games for a markedly smaller audience (despite a few "small games" that had break-out success in the mainstream -- like Minecraft).

Big publishers and small studios work at opposite ends of the spectrum, really -- Sure, the big boys make these massive, impressive, expensive titles, but at the end of the day they're actually constrained by what they can do, because their games are so expensive to produce that they have to be all things to all people. They can't even just decide to do lots of smaller games, either, because those types of projects don't provide the return that investors and stockholders want to see. The benefit of being a smaller shop is that it becomes perfectly legitimate to decide that you're going to serve one little corner of the market, and to have low enough overhead that doing so doesn't necessarily mean a life of eating Top Ramen.

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### #14TheChubu  Members

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 05:14 PM

Wasn't trying to nitpick your numbers, just was saying the number of copies AAA publishers need to sell is even more dramatic that you indicated. I'm not so great at numbers myself.

Some publishers may consider less than a million copies sold to be a failure. Personally, I'd be happy with anything north of 10k sales at my currently state, trying to develop my first release.

Remember Homefront? It sold 1 or 2 million copies. Was deemed a failure by it's publisher.

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### #15Mratthew  Members

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 06:54 PM

Take the risks Goliath can't/won't take.

### #16Dwarf King  Members

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 08:35 PM

You do not need to buy an Golaith engine. Plenty of very good and free engines out there that can save you like three or four years of work.

Ogre and Torque3D are just a few of the fine engines out there. I am told that the free version of Unity should do just fine too. Hey LEGO Star wars is made with Unity

In fact do not even think about competing witht the big players in this industry. I mean they have an army of workers ready to produce and ship their stuff and even an army of hype warriors(marketing) to make people believe that they cannot exist without the newest Mass Effect etc. etc.

Be happy, make games

Edited by Dwarf King, 13 February 2013 - 08:36 PM.

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### #17Ashaman73  Members

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Posted 14 February 2013 - 12:36 AM

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The recipe is quite easy.

Make a game you want to play and which doesn't exist, not a game you want to make money with.

This ancient wisdom displays the pitfall, because if you want to make money with it, you will target a larger audience, trying to streamline it etc. and suddenly you are on the same lane as the goliath, which will overroll you soon enough.

If you make a game you want to play which doesn't exists (any more), you will automatically start to make a (fun) game in a niche and there are enough people ,who will find this niche interesting enough to make some money out of it.

So, change your mindset, I think that Notch never made minecraft to get rich...

Edited by Ashaman73, 14 February 2013 - 12:37 AM.

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### #18LorenzoGatti  Members

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Posted 14 February 2013 - 02:37 AM

In case of StarCraft 2 marketing, where you could see only CGI trailers and no actual gameplay, that shows something unique. There isn't much originallity in the game but it is fun to play anyway.

As long as your game appears fun people will buy it and play it.

The unique feature of Starcraft 2 is that it is a sequel to Starcraft: if you offer an update of the best RTS ever, bigger and better and with fancy graphics, you don't need originality. In fact you don't want originality: innovations would be perceived as ignorant attempts to fix what isn't broken and presumed to change the game for the worse.

Unfortunately you aren't Blizzard, you don't have a reputation of being able to make extremely good "traditional" games, and if you try even matching Starcraft is an unrealistic objective; novel ideas are the only thing you can put on the balance against your game's imperfections.

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### #19TheChubu  Members

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Posted 14 February 2013 - 05:55 AM

Well, in the case of Blizzard. They pretty much made what we consider a "traditional" RTS, a "traditional" MMORPG. So while we see it as "They're making traditional games" they are just doing their stuff, that just happens to be the source of what we consider "traditional" in some genres.

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### #20Buster2000  Members

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Posted 14 February 2013 - 07:00 AM

I'm beginning to see less and less of a David and Goliath issue.   It is getting to the point in the AAA arena that there is only room for one of each genre.
If you release an FPS the same year as a Halo game you fail.

If you release a sports sim the same year as a Maddon or a Fifa you fail.
If you release an RPG the same year as Bethesda you fail.
If you release an MMO you fail (there is already WOW)

The only exception to this seems to be driving games.

So in actual fact it is really just the Goliath vs Goliaths who are having the problems.

Whilst indies are getting on with it and just releasing games that don't need to sell millions to be a success.   I know indies who are making more than the 30k that DaveTroyer estimated just from doing simple match 3 games.  Indies have a much leaner operation and don't need to be guessing where their money is comming from this time next year.   A lot of indies don't even have full time staff so it is quite easy for people to work on day / weekend jobs to earn a living when sales are slow.

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