Hello, my name is Micah. I'm pretty much the classic definition of an indie developer. Self-taught. No professional game development background. Self-funding. Boot-strapping. A nobody.
Today I'm looking to find out what drives an indie developer to "go big" verses keeping it small? And what are the benefits/ROI that made you make that decision?
A little background for you.
I was the founder of a small indie studio who developed "Dawn of Fantasy" for the PC. It was originally published by 505 Games after a VERY extended (and self-funded) development process (around 5 years) then was eventually greenlit by the Steam Community.
After a small break from game development, I jumped back into an epic new fantasy based FPS for the PC. After a very "mild" taste of success and development, I wanted to go HUGE! The problem with these epic projects is that they can also be epic time-sinks or worse, and epic-disaster.
After around 10 months of development on this project, we found we could NOT maintain a self-funded project with AAA visuals without another dramatically huge dev cycle (5+ years). Putting our mega project on hold, we've moved onto a much smaller 2D platformer called "Tesla Breaks the World!" for the PC, Mac and Linux. We're developing it on Unity 3D and have spent the past 5 months developing out our prototype and nailing down the "look and feel" of the game.
We're currently on Kickstarter, where we're struggling a bit but have a realistic shot of trying to hit our small goal:
We feel we can wrap up development on this project by the end of this year (with or without the Kickstarter- KS obviously allowing us to add additional polish & features).
Pro's of a small project:
-Much smaller budget
-Dramatically fewer resources (team members, tools, assets etc)
-Smaller timeline = quicker to market = potential revenue faster
-Smaller games = More games
Cons of a small project:
-Limitations on fleshing out your story or technology
-Sacrificing features to meet self-imposed deadlines
-How do you standout from thousands of other small titles?
-How do you price your small project when selling it?
-How can you market an indie title that isn't breaking down design barriers or impressing with AAA visuals?
So the question is: Right now, we're developing out a small title and have yet to really hit the point in our journey to know if this is a better business plan for our indie studio verses dumping large amount of time and effort into a larger scale project.
So how do you develop? Is it a mistake to go small? Is attempting a AAA indie game impossible in the current market or easier with the availability of more technology?
We would love to hear other developers thoughts and feedback on this topic and how they're currently structuring their business plans. I realize team size, talent, budgets etc all weigh in. But I'm very curious what drives an indie developer to take the risk of "going big" verses keeping it small. Thanks for reading!