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2014 GDC Rant: We Had a Good 10 Years, But the Walls are Closing In
by Greg Costikyan on 03/24/14 01:23:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Ten years ago, at the launch of the PS3 and the Xbox 360, I told you to ignore the manufacturers' hype. These  machines were not ushering in a new golden age; they were putting the last nail in the coffin of game innovation. The long term trend of ever-higher budgets and ever-larger teams would continue, and fewer and fewer original titles would be published, until the last ounce of  creativity was squeezed out of the industry, profits would decline, and the whole structure would eventually totter and fall under the obvious inconsistencies of the system. And I decried the greed, and lack of taste, on the part of publishers, that led us to this sorry pass.

I was kind of right. We're now witnessing the last death throes of the AAA system, the viper that sucked game innovation dry. And my sincere regrets to every developer who has suffered in that transition, inevitable though it is.

I called for a revolution; and to my astonishment, we've witnessed one, over the last ten years. Online distribution and developers ready to defy the system produced the indie revolution, a Cambrian explosion of creativity not seen since the early days of computer gaming. New platforms – social and mobile games – have opened up entirely new channels, and enabled entirely new game styles. The last 10 years have been the most exciting and most promising time to be a game developer in history, and I include the birth of the industry, and the rise of tabletop hobby games, both exciting times, in that judgment.

But all good things come to an end. And so it is today. The walls are closing in once more. The coming years are going to be harsh. There will be a winnowing of developers unseen since the Atari crash. There will be less and less innovation. Ten years from now, we're going to need another revolution. And as usual, greed and lack of taste will be to blame.

Let's look at the markets that have sustained this revolution:  indie, social, and mobile games. All three face dire challenges.

The indie revolution has been sustained by one thing: Steam. Oh, yes, XBLA was important once, but Microsoft screwed that pooch; they no longer care about indie games, and don't care that their authorization and update policies make developing for XBLA utterly unattractive to indie developers. What's happened with PC games is that we swapped a world in which you had many possible distributors – admittedly distributing into a declining retail market – into a world in which ONE company has a virtual monopoly. And that company is moving from a curated market, in which you were virtually guaranteed success if you passed their curatorial bar, into a total free-for-all, like the mess that is the Apple appstore, in which it will be well nigh impossible to reach an audience unless you are at least as good at public relations and marketing as you are at game development – something true of very, very few indie developers.

Capital likes to invest in companies that are at the pinch-points of a market, because they can squeeze out the lion's share of the revenues that market produces. Valve is at the pinch-point of the PC games market. Valve, admittedly, actually cares about games, which puts them one up on every other channel; but you can guess where the revenues are ultimately going to go. And it's not to you.

The Apple app store? Do I even need to recap what a horror -that- is? Tens of thousands of apps, and only two ways to find them: the best-sellers list, and featured games. This is WORSE than conventional retail, where you have at least a few hundred SKUs; nothing below the top 10, 20 at most, on these lists is going to benefit. And "featured" means that unless you know whose cock to suck at Apple, you can forget it. You're not going to be on that list. Discovery is bloody fucking impossible.

And it TOTALLY DOESN'T HAVE to be this way. Amazon solved this problem decades ago; people are not identical, and best-sellers are a terrible window into your inventory. Why is there no "recommended for you?" Why is there no "people who bought this also bought?" Apple is NOT working to help expose their inventory to people who might like it, because they do not give a flying fuck. The app store is just a marketing gimmick to support hardware sales to them, and they could care less that it does not work for developers. Apple has historically been actively hostile to games, those geeky, boy toys that don't mesh with their technocool, hi-brow mystique. They're greedy, and they don't care.

Google is no better; nor does it seem to bother Google that per-user game revenues on Android lag iOS drastically. And they certainly aren't doing anything to fix that.

And Facebook? Good Christ almighty. Not content with seizing 30% of developers' revenues off the top, they have nerfed the viral channels that once made it possible to quickly build a massive audience, so that now the only route to user acquisition is advertising – on Facebook, in competition with every other developer on Facebook, so that an ever-increasing share of revenues go to Facebook. And social game developers either die on the vine, or turn to other channels.

Game markets are killed by greed and lack of taste. The casual game market should serve as a warning to us all. Ten years ago, it was the only sign of hope on the horizon, an alternative channel where developers could innovate and thrive; but the casual game portals took an every-increasing share of revenues, cut prices ever lower to compete with each other, and turned a thriving market into a cesspool in which only a Croatian living on starvation wages could hope to compete. Their short-sightedness and greed killed the goose that laid the golden egg.

The same thing can, and will happen again, unless our distribution partners start to realize that success can only be sustained over the long term if there is a viable business ecosystem in which all parties can thrive. Apple doesn't care about games. Google doesn't care about games. Facebook doesn't care about games. Valve may care about games – but my bet is that they care about money more.

Contrary to libertarian theory, a business does not exist to maximize profits. A business exists to do something. Profit is the condition of survival, but it is not the goal.

How many of you go to work each day, thinking "I want to maximize share-holder value?"

And how many of you go to work thinking, "I want to make the best damn game I can?"

We're faced now with a scary landscape: Essentially monopolistic distribution channels that have total power over what gets distributed, and what gets attention, with the power to demand whatever portion of the consumer dollar they want.

You can sit passive in the face of this, or you can do something about it.

Actually, I have no idea what you can do about it.

But it might be creating an indie cooperative movement, to join together for better leverage against the other members of the value chain. It might be trying to create our own path to the consumer. It might be marching on the Googleplex, or Apple's ridiculous flying saucer, and demanding change. I don't have any pat answers, but we need to start thinking about these issues, instead of allowing ourselves to be passive victims in the face of inimical market forces, shaped by those who do not give a flying fuck about games.

Games are good. Games are powerful. The best games are worthy of love, and of passion. We must somehow shape a world in which games that are worthy of love and passion can find their audience. We've had this, for a brief few years; we must not let it go.


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Comments


Matthew Pon
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Isn't Valve stepping away from curation due to the belief that they think their community can curate better than they can? Wasn't the point of killing greenlight and backing away from curating the store themselves was so that they could open up the field to have specific users create personalized, self-curated stores for other users and be rewarded for it?

Steam already has a lot of the foundation for a pretty robust recommendation system. If you go to the Store page and click the FOR YOU tab, you get a whole slew or recommendations based on games you play, games that are in your wishlist, games that your friends have recommended, and games that your friends are playing. Granted, these things should probably be on the front page instead of hidden behind some tab, but they are there. The Steam store seems to be going through some growing pains, but whenever user curated stores eventually come into play, some of these concerns should be settled.

Dane MacMahon
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Indeed.

The PC is heading to a place where people like TotalBiscuit or Jeff Gerstmann showing a game off in their video show is much more important than where you are listed on a store page. In fact the PC and Steam specifically are pretty much already there. I never cruise the Steam new releases list anymore, but I do pay attention to what my favorite sites, forum users and videos are talking about.

If you make a good game and send it out to people who cover that kind of game and who have an audience chances are this is better for you in the long run than hoping the random tastes of Valve approve of your title.

Kyle Redd
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"If you make a good game and send it out to people who cover that kind of game and who have an audience chances are this is better for you in the long run than hoping the random tastes of Valve approve of your title."

That is probably wishful thinking. More likely is that the type of payola that Microsoft engaged in with certain Youtubers recently will simply become more frequent, widespread, and accepted.

Matthew Pon
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Doesn't this happen with a lot of gaming press already? I feel like this issue isn't really exclusive to Youtubers but rather an issue with the ethical line that game producing companies and game "reviewing" entities are willing to draw and agree upon in order to try to convince consumers that a game is worth playing. Plus the fact that both parties should probably be disclosing the fact that money is trading hands.

For me personally, I find Totalbiscuit's videos on new(ish) games incredibly valuable. I trust him (I guess as far as you can trust someone you've never met before) in which he makes it clearly known if he has taken money for a promotional gig, and the mechanical focus that he places on analyzing games is important to me as well. If he were to have his own Steam store which he curated I'd also probably find that extremely valuable (hes providing curation, which I dont really want to do myself). Solving discoverablity is one part metrics and data driven (which Steam is starting to use but just haven't put front and center yet) and another part driven by enabling individual curators to generate and diversify taste. Whether those curators are youtubers or polygon reviewers or your best friend, its the combination of metrics and taste that will probably prove more useful to the consumer than anything else that has come before it.

Dane MacMahon
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@ Kyle

I'm all for cynicism but I don't think you're giving enough credit to gamer communities here. Every classic genre has places real fans go to talk with like-minded gamers and hear the relevant news of the day. Online shooters, CRPGs, stealth games, adventure games, etc. Those people know what they like and they see what those self-curated places put in front of them. When they like a game they then spread the word, and before you know it your game is the talk of the virtual town.

What Steam wants to do is basically build this same structure into its store. There will be an "RPG Codex Store of Good RPGs" and if your indie RPG can make it on there then you're on a one-way trip to good sales numbers. IGN will no longer be the important market for you, it will be personalities and hive-minds who your game speaks to. A TotalBiscuit store on Steam would generate massive levels of interest in every game he chooses to approve for listing.

It sounds scary but speaking directly to your audience and marketing your game to the people who will actually like it, embrace it and spread the word about it is what indie gaming is all about in my opinion.

Kyle Redd
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@Dane

I didn't really mean it to seem cynical, more like practical. Just as has been the case with the "professional" media outlets now and in the past, people like TotalBiscuit only have so much time to devote to game coverage. Since covering games is their job, they also need to be paid for it. And that money has to come from somewhere.

Steam's user-created curating will not be an exception to this rule. As you pointed out, getting an indie RPG added to the "RPG Codex Store of Good RPGs" is a one-way trip to good sales numbers. That will be all the impetus needed to replicate the pay-for-coverage model that exists in every other outlet.

The most popular user stores on Steam will be constantly bombarded by publisher requests to have their games featured, which will create more work for those users, and onwards to payola.

I guess that is cynical, but I don't see how such a system can be prevented.

Dane MacMahon
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@ Kyle

Fair points for sure, but as I think Matthew was trying to say that issue already exists when they're running web pages devoted to niche audiences that can make or break a game. I'm not sure a Steam store would really change the dynamic dramatically. TotalBiscuit is surely already under great pressure to compromise his ethics.

David Gallant
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100% right bloody on. Commenting simply so that I can see at least one comment in here that isn't "but I know better" wankery.

James Coote
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Well, if you're not going to make money anyway, least you can do is not churn out another platformer, but have a stab at some genuine innovative instead. That's what I'm trying to do.

Edit: Hah! Wrote my reply before seeing David's one above!

Brian Devins
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This article focuses purely on the primary commercial channels. What about the outliers like Minecraft and League of Legends which cannot be found on Steam? Word of mouth was sufficient for them.

And what of non-commercial games? Hobbyists who make free games for the love of it? Global game jams like Ludum Dare? Here's where you can find that unhindered innovation the article mourns prematurely.

Look beyond the shareholders and you'll find that game development is healthier, more experimental and vibrant than it's ever been in history.

Shoutout to commenter David Gallant whose experimental game I Get This Call Every Day is hilarious and stimulating!

Bill Borman
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Just want to say I think this is generally spot on as well. It's a good sign that Steam has put no "Top" or "Most Popular" sorting option into Greenlight. However, more and more games are quickly piling onto Steam even with the current Greenlight system (125 through Greenlight just this month).

With an open marketplace, they'll really need better discovery systems. The hard part is that even a "Top Rated" sorting system is open to being gamed by savvy devs and marketers, and how else do you find good games that aren't necessarily the already-popular ones? We'll see.

Jarod Smiley
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Hmmm, I'm not in the developer community outside of being a fan, but from a consumer POV, I see smaller titles I've never seen before a my PS4/Vita. I see Oculus Rift and Morpheus capturing people's excitement across forums and youtube vids. I see unique games like Sports Friends using the move in a way I've never imagined! I see PS4 acting as some "boot-leg" curation from the PC world where so many good/hit Steam games are finding there way to consoles now, particularly Vita. I see Sony opening up games to different hardware with PS now. MS trying to win back devs, Valve releasing a steambox.

Hmmm...Guess I'm just optimistic, but I can find 100 titles that have nothing to do with shooting things, and for me, this is starting off to be the best gen in a long time.

Will Hendrickson
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Unity itself recently acquired Everyplay https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/#/content/16005

I think this is a huge step forward in discoverability.

I've also seen a ton of really excellent games getting green-lit. Games I would never expect to see on the App Store. Why? I think Greenlight is working pretty well. Sure, it lets some iffy games through, but the selection and variety are pretty good from a consumer perspective.

Developer's perspective should also be good. A lot of games make it through Greenlight, but it makes it harder for really bad ones to make it through, while still letting some interesting but perhaps flawed games in. This means there is less noise to drown in, this reduced competition also means that games with some flaw can make it through, allowing newer developers to have a chance as well. So, it seems to be creating an environment that is more friendly to developers in a gold-rush situation.

I'm optimistic about Steam in the future, especially as more companies including Valve are talking about entering the console space. Users are getting better at games, and they can move through your content faster the more skilled they become. This means they will play more games over time, so more games can reach success.

Dusty Hunsaker
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I think more services like Humble Bundle will be important in the future. It's essentially just a curated group of games you can buy all at once. It could be interesting if Steam users could have their own curated storefronts, who could then work with the developers to get unique deals. I know Steam has opened the ability for developers to price their own games. Maybe we will get the options to change the price based on referrer / curator.

Josiah Manson
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If developers really want to avoid monopolization of a market place, they should band together to create a nonprofit system like steam. I am not really aware of what Desura is, so maybe that already fills the role I described. Steam is powerful, but it is still possible to make successful alternatives. Humble Bundle is a successful post-steam store. A problem many new idealistic stores run into is being anti-DRM, which sounds nice and all, but will not convince any major publisher. A new store will need money for advertising, fast servers, and a slick interface. Lets do something about the problem rather than complaining!

Kyle Redd
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Humble Bundle is a successful post-Steam store that is anti-DRM, so why would they need to change that philosophy to convince a major publisher?

Kujel s
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"Humble Bundle is a successful post-Steam store that is anti-DRM"

So is Good Old Games.

Kim Pallister
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Greg: As I mentioned elsewhere, spot on. One of my fave rants - talks - of GDC this year.

Matthew: There's an argument that opening the market by either removing curation or enabling a glut of curators, enables the race to the bottom. We'll see whether this turns out to be the case.

Dan Fabulich
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> Why is there no "people who bought this also bought?"

It's right there at the footer of every App Store page. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fruit-ninja/id362949845

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.halfbrick.fruitninjafree

> Why is there no "recommended for you?"

It's right there on the home screen of the Google Play Store. https://play.google.com/store

It was the third tab on the iOS App Store, ("Genius") but they cut it, because nobody used it. Indies saw no noticeable effect on their bottom line when it was removed.

> Amazon solved this problem decades ago

So, how's their games business going? It's a fair question; you can post your game to the Amazon Appstore for Android and/or the Amazon Indie Game Store. http://www.amazon.com/b?node=6923534011

But I think you'll find that you can make a lot more money on Google Play Store and/or Steam, even though Amazon supposedly "solved" the discoverability problem decades ago.

Andrew Pellerano
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Thanks for starting a list. There's a lot of inaccuracies worth addressing in the rant. Here's some more:

> Per-user game revenues on Android lag iOS drastically

False. The total spend on Google Play lags App Store drastically at the platform level but per-user game revenues are a different story. Not only can you have a game where your Android revenue is a meaningful portion of total revenue (even if it lags behind iOS) you can also have a game where you make more money on Android than iOS. Author comes from Disney Playdom so his view is likely skewed by their high-DAU/tiny-ARPDAU business model. Small devs should not be attempting that model.

> Amazon solved this problem decades ago

Amazon's search problem is different. Users hit the home page with a pretty clear idea of what they're looking for - "I need a screwdriver." Amazon's book discoverability is as dismal as game discovery on any platform. Click on Books on the homepage and you're taken to a curated page of best sellers not unlike any app store. My "recommended for you" section is currently filled with Thomas the Tank Engine books because I did Christmas shopping for a 2 year old family member. Room for improvement in both cases.

Kenneth Blaney
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The crash in the 1980's was largely caused by a large quantity of bad games (generally meaning that you had no guarantee at a product even working if you bought it). That was a consumer side problem. Currently, even in the face of lots of bad games, there is simply a pile of great games. This is a developer side problem. These two different problems will play out in different ways with people attempting to solve the discoverability problem in a number of ways. (For example, the Greenlight Collections and the theorized fan curation stores on Steam distribute the task of discoverability to a larger number of people. Groups of indies in specific niche genres or locations will likely form around these stores.)

Jay Anne
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While I agree with the sentiment and completely agree that discoverability is a problem, I think many of the points in the article are exaggerated and likely inaccurate. Both Valve and Apple have been doing many things to improve discoverability. In fact, Steam will start enabling the creation of hundreds of independently run storefronts in a few years if Valve has their way. And regarding the quip about "Steam likes to keep their revenue rather than giving it to developers", that has not been in line with many of their philosophies. Their entire UGC push has been about finding new ways to create growth that will benefit both the creators and platform holders and players.

The revenue cut has generally been ~30% during all of these skyrocketing growth situations (Facebook, mobile, Steam). Has something changed to now make it a market killer? If it strangles the market, why wouldn't platform holders simply lower it until the market comes back (especially for Apple if their goal truly is to populate an ecosystem rather than app revenue)?

I like rants because they're entertaining and sometimes inspiring, but they aren't great at accurate predictions. Even regarding the 10 year old rant about AAA dying, it may well happen 5-10 years from now, but to describe it currently as "in its death throes" is pretty exaggerated.

Kevin Oke
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Good post, although I agree more with the sentiment than the evidence presented. You can basically sum this up as the fact that games are commoditized (more than they were before at least) now. This happened through an explosion of free/cheap dev tools and game playing devices becoming mass market (smartphones). Hence competing on price and marketing in a race to zero which kill innovation and experimentation.

Innovation, not just in games but in marketing channels and business models (e.g. Humble Bundle, PS Plus) are going to pretty key going forward I think.

Steve Fulton
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Hands down, this was my favorite speech from GDC.

Darren Atherton
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"Contrary to libertarian theory, a business does not exist to maximize profits." The theory would be to freely exchange goods and services. The maximize profit focus is another ideology called greed. I liked the speech/article though.

David Queener
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Also part of a business' profits are creating what the founder wanted created. That can be just money, but typically it is a different product that the founder is passionate about, and wants to find sufficiency engaging in that so they can do it full time. Greed concerns when it is simply for the purpose of attaining more, not for the attainment for additional use. Someone who pushes their employees to improve the company's income is one thing, someone who pushes their employees to improve their own personal income is another, and someone who pushes their employees to simply see larger numbers is in a completely different realm. But it is far easier to call it greed when the desire for additional resources is for the sake of something you yourself would not prefer, or would not be receiving.

Kujel s
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This speech nailed it!

Ryan Christensen
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"And that company is moving from a curated market, in which you were virtually guaranteed success if you passed their curatorial bar, into a total free-for-all, like the mess that is the Apple appstore"

I agree on most points but I think the curation part is backwards. Curation is part of the problem that caused the revolution. Curation doesn't work at scale unless it is a section within that market, not the BASE of the market. Open publishing is also very important, compete on product not on access. Curation created the publishing monsters you speak of and stifled innovation to a select few who bizdev folks thought would be successful.

Take the web, lots of crap on the web 99%+ but you find the good stuff and most of the time that is the best content, way better than what some channel wants you to see on their schedule. Reddit for instance is obviously huge and relies on community to promote good content and it is exponentially better than any curated editor site. Youtube is curated only in many facets/channels not one mega curation directed by the invisible hand of the ivory tower king of the platform. The reason why Youtube was so big was all these reasons, easy to publish, and no curation beyond channels and a rated/viewed list.

There are good things to both curation and free market/community but basing a store or game market in curation is flawed and legacy thinking. In fact the appstores need to be more like the web with discovery and that is don't do it, let it happen naturally and adjust if people are gaming it, more of an oversee than a direction.

Doug Zartman
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> How many of you go to work each day, thinking "I want to maximize share-holder value?"
> Actually, I have no idea what you can do about it.

You have the answer right there. Make a successful company, and don't go public. Don't sell out to a public company. Quarterly reports and maximizing shareholder value are the death of innovation (in games at least) because shareholders and the management who serve them won't tolerate risk or be patient enough for long-term franchise development. Just say no to all that.

Bruno Xavier
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That is just platforms life cycles.
Whenever one of those big platforms begin to die, another one will be there to repeat the process. There is no way to avoid the cycle on real world.

Dane MacMahon
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I'm building a new gaming PC this Fall and it might be my last one. AAA games are finally reaching a point where I don't enjoy them much anymore, and the graphics requirements are getting insane. I'm spending 90% of my gaming time playing something old or an indie game and I expect that to rise to 95% or more over the next few years.

That said the sales numbers for the PS4 so far have been stunning, showing a market starved for new experiences. AAA might be dying but consoles will always have an audience of people who never want to bother with any kind of PC gaming hassle or limited mobile experience. Even if the PS4 is 90% indie downloads in 5 years it will still have a massive audience, I am sure.

kevin wright
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I've been through what I see as 5 cycles in this industry. This is just another one. Nothing scary, or ominous; just expected. Greed? Lack of taste? Dramatic Doom & Gloom? Nothing's changed except for everything? heard it all before.

Adam Bishop
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There's so much complaining in the game industry about "discoverability" and how it's someone else's problem to market your game for you. I don't hear this in any other industry. There are tons of authors who are thrilled at the opportunities that being able to self-publish their own e-books provides, who have created a huge new market, and who are perfectly happy to recognise that if they want to make their writing into a business they have to treat it as one - and that includes marketing.

And it's already been this way for decades in the music industry. Our Band Could Be Your Life is a great book that chronicles the things that many independent bands did to build up a fan base and achieve some level of popularity without the help of top 40 radio play or major label marketing. Today there are more albums available than ever before, tens of thousands a year, and yet there are also still many bands finding success. I don't rely on a digital storefront to recommend music to me, I read web sites that cover the kinds of music I'm interested in and I talk to people who share my tastes and so forth. And I never have a shortage of great new music to listen to. There's no "discoverability" problem in music.

If you want to run an independent business, whether that's as a self-published author, a punk rock band, an indie games developer, or whatever, then it's important to recognise that the "business" part is just as important as the "independent" part. Yes, you are responsible for marketing. And yes, lots of businesses fail. But none of these things are unique to game development and other creative industries are solving these issues just fine.

Jay Anne
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@Adam Bishop
That's a good point that puts things into perspective. I think the game industry is just more vocal about issues. For example, QoL and work-life balance are problems in many other fields. But doctors and lawyers don't make it a public point to complain about them like the game industry does (even though I think they should...why is my ER doctor working long sleepless shifts?).

Also, up until this last decade, most games did not have viable distribution and marketing channels that were open and left up to the developer. So many developers still have the lingering culture that "the publisher takes care of that".

David Canela
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@Adam: I don't agree with the sentiment that "there's no "discoverability" problem in music". You describe the issue from a consumer point of view when you say there's now shortage of great new music to listen to. That's the same for gamers, hence why many of us have growing backlogs of great games to play, it's a golden age for gamers. But for a band to find a significant audience so it can make a living? that's harder than ever. You'll hear lots of indie success stories. You are less likely to hear about the millions more of "failure stories".

Personally, I have a vague feeling it will have to be the wider gaming community that can alleviate these issues (such as the tendency for the market to become even more of a "winner-takes-it-all" type of thing). It would require for games to culturally establish themselves further. Youtubers, gaming websites diversifying, specialising; more mainstream media coverage. Widely accessible social events, offering alternative ways to experience games. What's the gaming equivalent of a concert (an open air festival?), a deeply social experience? LAN-parties? E-sports?

Exciting stuff happens, e.g. with twitch, or with DOTA/LOL in the e-sports department. But ultimately, we might have to get used to the fact that not everyone will be able to live off making games, same as lots of people make music but never make a living. There's more content than available consumer time, and the amount of content is only going to grow.

Dane MacMahon
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@ David

He didn't say all bands are discovered and lead happy, fulfilled lives. What he said was every independent creator of every genre faces the same issues of consumer discovery. It's not unique to games, nor is it any harder for an independent game developer to make a living than an independent author (who almost surely has a "real job" in addition to writing).

Valve can try different methods to assist consumers in discovering games they might like, and personally I think their independent store curation is a wonderful idea, but at the end of the day you are responsible for getting the game in front of people. Mail out codes, befriend media people on twitter, post on genre forums, etc.

As an old school CRPG guy I check sites like RPG Watch, RPG Codex, Gamesbanshee and others to see what the hot new RPG news is. A lot of independent developers not only mail codes and stay in contact with those sites, they also join the forums and respectfully post about their games. It's all about getting your game in front of the people who should like it.

Brandon Van Every
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Right, people don't sufficiently consider that they're participating in a societal pyramid scheme. Some indies survive and do well and become visible to consumers. Many don't. The difficulty of an industry could be measured by how many people are at the top of the pyramid, vs. how many people are struggling below the threshold of visibility. Industries and epochs *can* be more difficult under such a metric, and worthy of complaint.

Casey ODonnell
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My favorite (not) thing is how Greg's entire post has been boiled down to "discovery," which is a pretty dismal reading of what he actually said.

David Canela
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@ Dane

Yes, I understood that's what he meant; it's just that "other industries have the same issues" and "there is no discoverability problem" are two very different things.

While I'm always cautious when games are compared to other media or art forms, on the producer side, there's many similarities between (rock/pop) musicians and indie games developers at least (e.g. cheap/free high quality tools, all of a sudden). So maybe there's still some inspiration that can be drawn from how they deal with the difficulty of being noticed in an ocean of content. It's not a bad comparison.

Daniel Camus
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I miss the shareware days, before the piratery could grow exponentially.

Matt Cratty
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This article was very important to me.

It ALMOST perfectly encapsulates how I've felt for the last decade about the direction of gaming. One exception - I feel that the black hole of creativity started in 2004(ish) and lasted until three or four years ago.

I've said this type of thing (not nearly as well) to co-workers for years and almost without exception I get the blank stare of the console gamer who wishes I would just shut up and take my crusade elsewhere. Note, I am not against consoles, just the vapidity that the last 10 years of console gaming has produced and the shift of development onto said consoles.

I hope you're wrong about Steam. I love to believe they are a bastion of pseudo-purity and gaming love, but I realize that's unlikely and will become more unlikely with time. My biggest fear is what happens when Gabe keels over with a massive coronary one day. Because, as a person that actively loathes anything made for phones, I'm not sure what replaces Steam. I realize that is an incredibly insensitive and selfish statement, but I think about it on occasion.

So, I hope your point is taken and somehow a competing portal comes to pass that isn't owned by just one person. A portal that can't be purchased by the Evil Ampire, can't be twisted to Facebookean principles of finance, and that uses multiple tools to help gamers and developers so that I can continue to enjoy my pc gaming pastime for the foreseeable future.

Just in case.


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