Some say the video game market is more difficult to penetrate than ever because of increased competition. That the indie bubble is about to collapse. That going forward, success will be more and more unlikely for those not already established with a hit. They make it sound like some golden age of independent video games has passed and we need to brace ourselves for the worst of times coming at us from around the corner. Sounds like loser talk.
Competition is not your problem. You are.
When you compete with garbage, yeah there’s a ton of competition. When you’re putting out a great product, the pool of competitors decreases drastically. If you make a one-of-a-kind super high quality game, suddenly there’s no competition.
It’s not frightening, but rather comforting to know this because the quality of what we produce is entirely up to us and our skills. How well we play to our strengths, how well we adapt to our weaknesses, and how smartly we handle production and marketing is completely up to us.
When I finish and release my own game, I will take full responsibility for whether it ends up doing well, okay, or terrible. I will NEVER blame Steam, the thousands of other people making and putting out games, or any outside factor if my game happens to do poorly. I will point the finger at myself and ask why I didn’t just make a better game. The notion that you can’t sell your game because there are too many others is a cop out. This zero-sum game theory floating around among independent devs is counterproductive. Let’s all let go of the scarcity mindset and adopt this one:
There is infinite money and infinite success in the universe.
They are desperate for something amazing.
Some folks like to subscribe to the idea that as a direct result of so many new games coming out every day, the attention of all the gamers in the market are somehow divided among the growing list of games available to them. This is a ridiculous idea because gamers IGNORE just as many games as there are crappy games that come out.
This means that their attention is NOT magically divided. In fact, their attention is laser focused on quality games. They are on a constant lookout for something worth their attention. They are lying in wait, sifting through the dirt, ready to pounce on a great new game at any moment.
The hundreds of new games flooding the market? They don’t count. 95% of games released everyday are garbage.They’re not taking away anyone’s business. They are simply ignored like they never existed. Garbage is invisible. If anything, as more and more crappy games get made gamers are becoming increasingly desperate for a quality game. And they will happily devour it when it comes along.
Notice what you’re doing when you go on Youtube, Facebook, and Netflix. What are you doing when you go on Steam or the App Store? You’re scanning the sea of content for something juicy and relevant to you and your tastes. You’re looking for the good stuff. Hoping, praying, begging for something great to come up. That’s how I imagine the game market in my head – desperate and hungry.
What’s that? Demand isn’t going up as supply rises ever so rapidly? No, friend. There is infinite demand!
The world needs more artists, not businessmen.
The only difference between then (before the floodgates opened to make it easy for everyone and their mom to publish a game) and now is that average mediocre games are not as forgivable as they once were. I think this is what most devs are actually lamenting. They can’t get away with what they used to get away with. Average or good is no longer good enough. Forget about poor design, lazy execution, and derivative mechanics. Games with any of those are dead on arrival. There are too many great choices for gamers to put up with that anymore.
We live in an age when it’s easy and even necessary to ignore the vast majority of media output and indeed, the game industry’s output. As gamers get pickier and choosier, some devs may feel pressured to to get mathematical about what they make. After all, no one will blink twice over burying a studio or developer by closing off their wallets to them. So how about some guarantees for making money back?
I, for one, am not spending much at all on my game. For everyone else, though, the proliferation of games is probably affecting how small to medium studios operate today. Here’s the paradox: on the one hand it’s worthwhile to spend some time conducting market research to decide what to make, but on the other hand we should be making games for us regardless of what the market seems to want.
Actually, it’s not a paradox. You can make a game molded by personal taste and a unique design philosophy while NOT making a game that tries to anticipate what the audience wants. I don’t use market research to find a game to emulate. I use it to find the types of games to avoid making by checking whether there’s already plenty of them or if there’s a well executed example, negating the need for another made by me. I’m like a sapling trying to find a piece of open land away from all the tall trees that will cast a shadow on me if I tried to plant myself underneath them. I want to plant myself where I can grow and prosper.
Beyond that, we don’t need our business hat anymore. During the thick of production, let’s put on the artist hat – be an artist expressing his or her self and crafting an experience – and be solely focused on that. Let’s be free of outcome and free of concern for profit. A mind set on the results is a mind hindered by expectation. Expectation prevents us from taking risks. It sets us on a safe path that will most likely succeed. And the safe path is the one that will most likely to fail. But failure’s okay. Just do it early and a lot.
There’s no game trend you need to follow when there’s an infinite amount of untapped, untried, untested ideas for great games. Do your own thing. We all have the tools and platforms to do that. How can it get any better than that?