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Any hope for Indie developers?

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1 hour ago, Scouting Ninja said:

Make games because you want to.

Make hobby games because you want to.

When approached as a business, with actual business plans, with market research, with business contacts, and with ensuring you have experienced people doing the job, in that case the odds are far more favorable.  

 

Most hobby and amateur developers make the games they want to play for fun, model them after existing successes, and never fully develop the ideas, let alone fully develop a product. Usually the products have no niche to live and are instead dumped among mass-market products. Usually they have no marketing, no distribution plans or processes.  Or in other words, they're like the kids selling lemonade from a card table on a day too hot for people to be outside, on a dead-end street in suburbia, wondering why they have no sales.

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8 hours ago, frob said:

Make hobby games because you want to.

When approached as a business, with actual business plans, with market research, with business contacts, and with ensuring you have experienced people doing the job, in that case the odds are far more favorable.

 

 

Well, lets be honest here. With the information given by the OP, I have my doubts if the topic opener has any of these. Thus while being a "professional game dev" on paper because working 100% just on his own games, he might be operating more akin to how a hobby game dev operates.

This might be too harsh, as the guy might have done his homework, has a solid business plan, done market research and all... but without any information about prior work in the game industry, I guess his business contacts are nonexistent, which already works against him according to your own words.

 

Now, even with ALL of that in place, the odds are still bad. You could say that is because the business plan sucks ("creating me-too content for mobile" is not a good business plan after all), his market research is faulty ("flappy bird was a hit so lets emulate that" is not how market research works), his contacts are not helping or he is using them wrongly.... not saying this is true for the TO, just giving examples on what might influence the odds.

But even if that all was spot on, this market is crowded enough that for a small dev the result might still be a failure. If somebody does this for 2 years and complains about the sky falling I would suspect somebody got into the whole Idie dev thing with the wrong expectations at least, even IF everything else might be in place. Even the best Indie company with the best game might have to face some failures before one of their games sticks. The same is true for AAA companys, for them a failure might still make enough money to keep the lights on (or not, enough big studios went out of business after a failed title)... for an Indie without the magic of big marketing spending powers a failure might result in no money at all.

 

So after all I think you have to realize that being an Indie dev will always be a rollercoaster ride. And I think the "do it because you want to" phrase is perfectly suitable to summarize this for people new to the industry expecting a stable income.

Unless you are working as an employee for an existing studio, developing games is a high risk job with low average payoff. Just like base jumping of buildings for a living, you should only do that if you REALLY love the trade enough that you put up with the stress, risk, and low wage just to live your dream.

 

 

Look, I am pretty sure there are examples that prove me wrong. I would dare to say those are the outliers, not the norm.

In addition, if somebody starts their business up and can reach a steady income within 2 years, he most probably is not one of the Indie devs flogging any kind of "trending" me-too products on the mobile store. Those tend to be guys that had a good product FIRST and then built a company around that product (as opposed to many start-up hipsters today that start a company and then spend the next years sitting around in circle trying to come up with an idea to sell), tend to be busy building a product worth selling instead of worrying about ARPUS and what other fancy words are thrown around by the big data hungry suits in the mobile casino business these days (not saying monetization isn't important, but maybe, just maybe, make sure what you are trying to cash in on is of actual worth to anyone first), and MOST PROBABLY have a lot of expierience, either working as an employee in the industry, working in other industries in a role as project lead or entrepreneur, or at least have seen more of the world than the usual 20-something has.

Most probably these guys have a plan B, so will not be contributing to the "sky is falling" Indieapocalypse hype train when their investment isn't paying of immidiatly, instead they have savings or are able to work on some paid gigs while they analyze their failure and pivot in a different direction.

Minecraft is a good example. The result of 10+ years of hard work, and some pretty talented people that went through a lot of learning and try and error to get it right.

Flappy bird is a bad example, AFAIK this games success is down to luck, nothing else.

The guy who started Zynga apparently failed with 3 other companys before founding Zynga... now I do not think he is a role model, after all his company was a badly disguised casino not really that interested in their longterm relationship with their customers (even if I was okay with that, I question why he didn't cash in before the heist had to run into the downward slope inevitably, took the money and ran). But it does highlight that most successes are built on the back of failures.

 

So yeah, sure, you can carve out better odds at paying the bills with a life as an Indie developers with expierience and hard work. If you are in it for the money, you are in the wrong industry.

Edited by Gian-Reto

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Hmmmm. Gimmy 1M I'll easally transform it in a 10M a years game no crowdfunding required. Do know what these other are doing with their money.

 The only reason AAA game cost 100M is for the same reason the goverment pays 159k for 5k stair case . Too much fat and secret handouts.

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2 minutes ago, GiroKa said:

Hmmmm. Gimmy 1M I'll easally transform it in a 10M a years game no crowdfunding required. Do know what these other are doing with their money.

 The only reason AAA game cost 100M is for the same reason the goverment pays 159k for 5k stair case . Too much fat and secret handouts.

Ok, so write down your 10x ROI business plan, and go pitch it to venture capitalists. That's what startups all over the world do. If your business plan isn't terrible, it's not hard to find investors.

Your profile says Ottowa, check out the startup scene there: https://teleport.org/cities/ottawa/startup-scene/
There's a startup there making an app that stores photos (um, google drive, dropbox, flickr, hello) who's disclosed $1M in investment and will probably do another investment round later this year. There's another that's making a VM for phones / android user profile system, which has disclosed $10M in investment. Or another that is making a automated spreadsheet to log gym equipment usage and has declared over $3M in investment.

If you actually want to launch a start-up business, there's no reason that this kind of capital isn't available to you... however, most of us don't really want to launch a start-up, most of us just want to make games :D

Re AAA: The average game-developer salary in NA is around $80k. GTA 5 had a total budget (development and marketing) of ~$250M. The core team was 100 devs, the total team included over individual 1000 devs, and there were over 60 voice actors (and a lot of licensed commercial music). Development period was about 5 years.
Going off those numbers, the core team salaries alone add up to about $40M. Add on the 900 additional helpers, the voice acting, licensing fees and cost of business (rent, bills, legals, etc) and that's easily over $100M. That leaves $150M for a world-wide advertising campaign. You can expect a cost of customer acquisition of about $5 (for every $5 spent on advertising, you get one new sale of the game), so we can expect that from that $150M that they'd sell 30M copies. Opening weekend sales were ~15M copies and total sales are now 80M, so their marketing team did a very good job with that money. All up they've probably made about ~$2.5B, which is a 10x ROI from their initial spending -- the same that you're promising. If you think that you can do the same thing but better (without the "fat" and "secret handouts"), then go ahead and join the start-up scene for real and go get your investment.

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3 hours ago, GiroKa said:

Hmmmm. Gimmy 1M I'll easally transform it in a 10M a years game no crowdfunding required. Do know what these other are doing with their money.

 The only reason AAA game cost 100M is for the same reason the goverment pays 159k for 5k stair case . Too much fat and secret handouts.

 

Sounds.... fishy, to say the least. I think with that elevator pitch you wouldn't get 1$ from me.

 

But hey, I am no VC Investor, some of those seem to invest solely on recognizable names and trust. Or some shady analysts words. One more reason why I never get those people, but maybe you have the name (or proven track record)...

Maybe if you add A LITTLE BIT of fluff to that elevator pitch, you'd get at least 50% of that 1M from investors... but again, what do I know.

 

As to the AAA games. I think Hodgeman said everything that has to be said. I'll still add some points to it.

Modern AAA games cost too much, true. But not (only) because of the fat. Certainly you could cut some suits not really contributing to the end goal with some restructuring and leaner corporate structures... but then many game developers already try that (see Valves (in)famous flat hierarchy). Certainly you could cut out some middlemen driving cost up *cough*publishers*cough*... but then sometimes thes DO add quite some value for their cost, besides ruining games with unfullfillable demands.

Modern AAA games are so expensive because they feel a user demand for visual quality spiralling out of control (when most gamers probably would be satisfied with "good" looking games running without bugs instead of an insane looking bugfest), because game designers feel pressurized to create everything but the kitchen sink games (as much as I love (and hate... man, this combat system is both great and terrible) Horizon Zero Dawn, a lot of the side activities could have been cut and I wouldn't have minded... and this is even one of the more focussed "open world" games), because game companies feel they need to sell 100M copies else the publisher deems their product a failure and their company might be axed (thus creating a spiral of more and more expensive marketing driving up the amount of copies that have to be sold).

I think we have seen a market for AA games, smaller and less expensive games opening up in the last few years while the GTAs and Arkham games of this world continue to get more expensive and buggier. This market has always been there, its just growing as gamers grow tired of the money grab schemes and buggy games released to early by the big AAA studios. Suddenly games are getting more attention that were niche some years back...

But these 1-10M budget games will most probably never reach the 10x RoI like GTA V did. They simply lack the marketing reach to pull that off.

 

Lastly, we regularly see in some of the biggest AAA games what happens when you try to trim TOO MUCH. Buggy games released too early. Poor Ports done by cheap outsourced sweatshops. Don't think any of these bugfests will ever reach 10x RoI... or if they do, only for a single installement in which the name of the series is run into the ground (see Arkham Knight).

 

So maybe you are able to turn 1M into 10M... I would doubt the "easely" unless its some kind of drug trafficking or money loundering scheme. Even casinos don't do this easely AFAIK. Has Zynga ever reached 10x RoI? Maybe, but then that was more of a casino business than a game developer. And if we look at the longtime figures you can forget about the 10x RoI.

But go on, convince me with a little bit mor indepth elevator pitch.

 

Edited by Gian-Reto

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On 7/20/2017 at 6:54 AM, frob said:

Make hobby games because you want to.

What I am saying is that attempting to profit from making your own games, is the same as attempting to profit from designing your own clothes.

 

You have the same problem where the average person doing this will make less than a person working for a low wage. Yet more than 60% of fashion designers earn above $5000, where only 20% of developers earn more than $5000 per month. 

In both industries you need to earn around that much revenue to earn a salary of  $1000 - $ 3000 that is considered average. So 60% of fashion designers and 20% of game developers earn the same salary as %100 of the legally employed fast food employees. 

 

As such there is less hope for a indie game developer than for a MacDonald's employee.

You need to really have a passion for games to drive you in those hard times.

On 7/20/2017 at 6:54 AM, frob said:

they're like the kids selling lemonade from a card table on a day too hot for people to be outside, on a dead-end street in suburbia, wondering why they have no sales.

Reminds me of the free to play indie market.

People play free to play games and thinking that they would make a game that isn't pay to win. Then two months latter I find them selling the characters, for more in a in game store than what they paid me for the rights to the characters.

 

And yes it's still pay to win if it's a character class that free players don't have.

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On 7/20/2017 at 0:54 AM, frob said:

Make hobby games because you want to.

When approached as a business, with actual business plans, with market research, with business contacts, and with ensuring you have experienced people doing the job, in that case the odds are far more favorable.  

 

Most hobby and amateur developers make the games they want to play for fun, model them after existing successes, and never fully develop the ideas, let alone fully develop a product. Usually the products have no niche to live and are instead dumped among mass-market products. Usually they have no marketing, no distribution plans or processes.  Or in other words, they're like the kids selling lemonade from a card table on a day too hot for people to be outside, on a dead-end street in suburbia, wondering why they have no sales.

You just described me and my projects! As with new ideas I do frequently develop new concepts because sometimes I want to play something different.

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