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vinnyvicious

Starting a small indie studio... mobile or PC? Freemium or paid?

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I'm starting a small independent game development studio with my wife. We can't really "all-in" on it, so, we're working on the weekends and whenever we manage to find some free time. She's a talented 3D modeler and i've been programming games as a hobby for years now. We decided to start this studio to, someday, generate enough revenue to "replace" our normal jobs and live a happy life. happy.png

 

However, i'm having a hard time deciding which market we should tackle first. The mobile market is tempting because we have to develop less content (both in terms of quantity and quality), maximizing the time we have available for the project. Unfortunately, the market is full of indie studios with exciting projects, for the same reasons. The PC market usually requires more content, with higher graphics quality, and longer gameplay. This somehow changed in the last months, by analyzing some of the most sold indie games on Steam, but i'm not sure.

 

Which market do you guys recommend, considering the costs and benefits, for a small indie studio trying to establish itself in the industry and generate a steady revenue? Are paid games better on mobile or PC? Any margins? Or is freemium better on mobile?

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My biggest advice to you, make the game that you wish existed but doesn't

 

for example:

I love "shadows of the colossus" and wish I could play 2d version on my cell phone.

 

Then go make that game. Trust me, you'll have so much more fun making a game you want to play and wish already existed. Chances are other people would want to play it as well. Since you're starting out PC or Mobile are going to be your main platforms. Just choose which platform best suites your game. Don't be intimidated  by other indies putting out graphical powerhouses or amazing featurefilled games. Just focus on your own vision and fun.

 

Most indies say you don't really turn profitable until your 3rd game so don't put a ton of pressure on your first baby. My general advice is work f2p if you can and it fits the design mechanics, it'll add to your exposure. If your game just doesn't work with any f2p model then go ahead and make it premium

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Unfortunately, the games that i want to make are too expensive, both in terms of time and money, for our small studio to develop. I don't have enough people to finish it in a relevant timeframe or even finish it at all. We have to focus on simple, "doable and sellable" games.

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Look at what is popular (both in terms of gameplay and theme), and do something similar. Look at how the people who make money are making that money and duplicate what they do.

 

Start with a game that you can make in two weeks. Don't say, "What?! 2 weeks is not nearly enough time to do this and that and such and so..." Find an idea that has proven to be popular and build a version of it that is small enough to fit into two weeks of development time. 

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Hi,

 

I would say that it depends on what type of game you are going to make. If your day job will keep you from devoting more than a few hours a week to your project you might want to create a game that can be released with just a few levels and later you can update to add more levels. Any type of game that requires allot of work developing the story or 3D levels might be off the table if your time is limited. As far as what platform to release your game on I would say go mobile, since smaller games can do better on mobile devices. Good luck.

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Unfortunately, the games that i want to make are too expensive, both in terms of time and money, for our small studio to develop. I don't have enough people to finish it in a relevant timeframe or even finish it at all. We have to focus on simple, "doable and sellable" games.


There's nothing wrong with dreaming big, or having that pet "one day, when I can" project. Its great that you realize its not the time for those now.

However, usually those big ideas are big because we've put a lot of non-game stuff into them. A big story, crazy set-piece-moments, cinematic, or more content than you can shake a stick at. But somewhere in there is the core game play which all that stuff hangs off of; find out what those elements are that make it fun to play, and you can probably build around them at much smaller scale. If you hesitate and say "but my games aren't fun or special enough without all that chrome", you're mistaken--what you really mean to say is "but my games aren't fun or special enough." Period. Full stop. If a large scale game is actually fun you can always simplify while maintaing what's fun about it.

What I would discourage you to do is to try to beat the big guys at their own game. Not on console, not on PC, not on mobile. Make a game that's fun, marketable, and monetizable--don't emulate others in the market or be a trend-chaser.

Try to create a game that only you can make, but not one that only you will want to play. It doesn't have to be unique to all-time, it just has to be yours -- perhaps put your own stamp on some classic formulas.

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Also, as far as monetizing your creation, pay-to-own is all but a dead-end on mobile unless you've got a reputation or are a AAA studio making AAA content. On Android especially precisely no one does pay-to-own because cracks and side-loading are too prevalent. Its somewhat less of an issue on iOS or even WindowsPhone, because the environment is more closed to that sort of thing, but still almost no one does pay-to-own because the android ecosystem has set the anchor (rightly or wrongly), or because any game that wants to also appear on android needs to monitize as a freemium title. Even if you could, the iOS ecosystem has been a race to the bottom, and charging more than a buck is considered outright heresy by most users--people will give you negative reviews for pricing your pay-to-own title at even 1.99.

 

On the PC, or if you can gain access to the consoles, pay-to-own is still the dominant model, with most prices in the range of 4-15 bucks. You really need to get on a good distribution channel though -- mostly Steam on the PC. You can offer your game through your own site as well, and take a bigger piece of the pie, but still most buyers will come through the channels they already know and are integrated into.

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One thing I would advise is examining the actual development and operational costs of a product before looking at the market. You may find that the operational costs of something like a free to play game reliant on IAPs may actually be higher than you're willing to pay, as an example (ergo, nipping that option right away).

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