Sometimes game consoles are a better place for indies, says Retro City Rampage dev
But if you're going to go the console route, you have to be ready to do a lot more non-development work than you might expect. Provinciano laid out his thoughts in his GDC China Independent Game Summit talk.
"I've been very successful in console, and I haven't touched mobile yet," he says. "I feel in many cases that console games can be a lower risk."
What are the benefits, you may ask? "You have a higher price point, and there's less saturation," he says. "And players expect a game of higher quality. You also have more control over your launch promotion. You can figure out what week to launch your game, what kind of promotion... and you have higher probability of strong store placement because you're already working with those platform managers."
But you do have to plan for it. "A lot of indies focus entirely on building their game, and don't focus enough on other things," he says. "This can hurt the game, be it through quality, or maybe just nobody buys it."
Provinciano spent three years working on RCR, but that wasn't all in code. "One full year was spent on everything else, from business and production, to contracts, insurance, office space, the list goes on," he said. "These are all the things that most developers don't think about. They don't realize how important marketing is, or how important PR is. They never get to it because of other things that come up."
Even though he knew all this in advance, he didn't feel like he was able to prepare. "I talked to studio heads, I talked to biz dev, I talked to anybody I could before I started my own company, and it didn't help a whole lot," Provinciano admits. "There was still a lot I didn't know, that took me by surprise." He spent a lot of time with paperwork, preparation, and that sort of thing.
"I went an entire month without touching the game's code," he added. "The key is to prepare for this other work early, because you can constantly be sidetracked. If you're scheduling just for development and not for the other stuff, it'll shift milestones, and the fans won't be happy."
If you want to hit your development targets, you should start doing this stuff sooner, rather than later, he says. "It's good to get things out of the way such as submitting a game proposal, submit product code, and things like that. If you wait until the very end to do these things, that could delay getting your game ready for release."
"Even with all my experience, I still underestimated a lot," Provinciano admits. "I had the game running on multiple platforms very quickly. Having it playable on multiple platforms is easy. That's the easy part. But all the documentation, and platform requirements and things like that, that's what really takes the time. You have to decide whether that's worth the effort."