Today independent game developers can exist because they can do a lot of stuff around game development themselves. Indies can create their own games with relatively simple, cheap and sometimes free to use tools, to create any game they like. Indies now have or will have the possibility to publish their game anywhere they want against very small fees or even for free.
However the indie has to conquer one more thing to be called a hundred percent independent, and that is taking control of their discoverability. In this article I would like to describe a few ways that in my opinion are clear signs Indies can create their own marketing and promotion channels that could become more common in the coming years.
Discoverability Is Our Current Problem
Looking at the overly saturating digital stores like the AppStore, Google Play and soon our holy grail 'Steam', together with the amount of developers entering the market taking their chances each day, it will become as we say in Holland very "gezellig"(comforting atmosphere), but it is not going to help anyone at all, it will all come down to who gets discovered and who's not. A lot of indies will decide to stop because it didn't work out. I am well aware this is already happening and will only get worse.
Keep Dropping Them Email Bombs
So what do many indies do to get discovered? They create beautifully constructed and well thought-out striking emails to important press contacts. Websites such as Joystiq, Polygon, and Rock Paper Shotgun get hundreds if not thousands emails a day. Our Indie heroes keep shouting we should be persistent and keep sending those emails every now and then, if no sign of life is detected.
So what is going to happen in the next years? Development gets easier, more and more people will turn into game/indie developers. You can now freely publish wherever you like. Those websites and journalists are burned out and would need to digest crazy numbers of emails. Because let's be honest, there is a lot of crap between those emails, but also a lot of great games never seeing the light of day. I think these websites, journalists and press outlets are still very important, but they have to become very selective. The same thing is also going on with Youtubers. I have heard Markiplier was already offering his apologies about not being able to handle all suggested games. Everything will become one big gambling casino and everything will come down on chance. That one chance you will be featured by Markiplier.
So Why Don't Take Matters In Our Own Hands?
Would you stay home if you knew an earthquake would shatter your house later that day? Of course not! Let's take initiative and come-up with great ideas to get our games in the hands of our beloved customer and target audience.
Vlambeer is doing it. Hell they are proving it works.
As Rami and Jan-Willem like to call this way of making games. Streaming their game development of Nuclear Throne at Twitch with millions of views already. Also selling their early access game on Steam and recently selling on Twitch itself, definitely sounds like a million dollars.
However do not forget this way is very intensive and stressful. Especially because it is 'live' and does not guarantee a great show. That is why they mostly record 'game testing' by Rami or JW, 'pixel art' by Paul Veer, promotional art by Justin Chan, or Kozilek with his great music. Those are simply the most interesting parts of game development to showcase in a live show. At least that is what I assume.
Vlogging On Youtube
You could also decide to start a vlog on Youtube. The problem with making these videos is 'you have to create and edit them'. It takes time, a lot of time. Also you need to find way of 'performance' on camera just like doing a live show on Twitch. Edit those videos, make the right 'cuts' and find the right royalty free music to make them a little more charming. All these things take a large amount of time. That is why being a Youtuber can be a fulltime job.
One special note on becoming a youtuber is that 90% of the popular videos are because the youtuber is funny or has a high amount of humor invested in there. People are being 'entertained', or the video creator is recording his or her unusually cool life, at least something out of the ordinary (FunForLouis).
For the people interested enough in vloggers, I included a great example of my girlfriend who loves to share her lifestyle on youtube as a vlogger. She is becoming quite good at being a performer. I have included one video when she started out one year ago, the other one is our trip to Disneyland very recently. I just think its a great example to show the contrast how she became a better performer, editor, and director. Something we have to consider investing in if we as developers want to do it ourselves. Oh and that crazy guy in the coaster, that is in fact me ;)
So we simply start a blog! Sure, that is one way create a spotlight. Holyshit I am keeping a blog myself! Well, don't forget something important. I write this blog to 'air my thoughts' and to stimulate or help some of you to think about certain subjects. My blog is mainly read by developers and not directly by my customers ;). That is why a blog in this sense should be focused at the gamer/customer to be an effective channel to promote or market your game through.
Work Together With A Youtuber
Imagine if PewDiePie made a game himself! He would already have millions of "bro's" to sell his game to. Maybe an idea if we as developers could hook-up with a youtuber or famous blogger to produce a game and already have our 'channel' filled with our target audience. Wouldn't that make things easier! Seriously doing a collaboration together with someone like PewDiePie or Markiplier could make things very interesting for them as well!
Let's Do An Experiment!
With all this big talk, maybe I should just give it a try myself, and see if this is prognosis can be a reality or is just far too ambitious.
So I came up with the following idea:
I would like to record the complete process of designing, developing, promoting and selling a game on my own. Since I also need to run my company KeokeN Interactive, it would not be something I can do everyday, but 2 or 3 hours a week should be feasible.
Each time I put myself to work on the game I will live stream this on Twitch (weekly). If a community forms, I think its cool to develop the game together with the community. An other reason for me is to record my process to learn from in the end. I do not want to start a youtube vlog, since it's going to cost me even more time to create and edit those videos.
Another thing you should know. I am a producer at heart and therefore:
- not the best programmer
- not the best artist
- not the best designer
- not the best audio engineer
But I am blessed with the basics of all these skills and have an extreme drive for quality. So if you see me do something really awkward, really unnecessary, or stupid, feel free to tell me anytime! As a producer I do try to find the best solutions to my problems, so I think that will help me out at the very least.
I think the last stage of independence should have something to do with the marketing and promotion part of our games. I think more and more people are going to do collaborations, or start their own channels. I can't say I am a hundred percent sure this is actually going to happen, that is why I want to try this out myself first before making claims like that.
What do you think about performative development? What initiative do you think is best?
OH, BTW "I Am Attending Gamescom 2014 next week"
For the people interested to talk with me, I will be attending the Gamescom at:
Thursday 14th of August 2014.
You will find me around the "Holland Pavilion" (the dutch booth at the floor). You will recognize me by a RED pants I am wearing!
Find Me On: