The Business of Indie Games
eBook - ePub

The Business of Indie Games

Everything You Need to Know to Conquer the Indie Games Industry

Alex Josef, Alex Van Lepp, Marshal D. Carper

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  1. 266 pages
  2. English
  3. ePUB (adapté aux mobiles)
  4. Disponible sur iOS et Android
eBook - ePub

The Business of Indie Games

Everything You Need to Know to Conquer the Indie Games Industry

Alex Josef, Alex Van Lepp, Marshal D. Carper

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" The Business of Indie Games provides exceptional insight into how the video games industry works. It shares valuable information on how to successfully self-publish and secure publisher support. Whether you're making your first game or tenth, this book is a must read."

– Paul Baldwin, Curve Digital

"The video game industry is a tough business and anyone looking to succeed in indie development should give The Business of Indie Games a read."

– Graham Smith, Co-Founder of DrinkBox Studios

"This book is a fast track to success for anyone managing a game launch and looking to raise funding for their projects. It shares knowledge that you only learn after years of triumphs and failures within this industry."

– Scott Drader, Co-Founder of Metalhead Software

"There's nothing like The Business of Indie Games taught in school. You learn how to make a game, but not how to conduct business, market, and launch a game. This book dives into topics that every indie developer should know."

– Yukon Wainczak, Founder of Snoozy Kazoo

"I've seen no better guide for understanding how the video game industry really works. An important read for anyone whose work touches games, including those of us looking to engage the community."

– Carla Warner, Director of STREAM for No Kid Hungry

The Business of Indie Games explores what many universities forget to cover: how to sell and market your own indie game to potential publishers and developers. While many classes help students on their way to designing and programming their own games, there are few classes that equip students with the skills to sell their own product. In essence, this means future indie game developers are not equipped to talk to investors, negotiate with publishers, and engage with major platforms like Steam and Nintendo. Authors Alex Josef, Alex Van Lepp, and Marshal D. Carper are looking to rectify this problem by helping indie game developers and companies level up their business acumen. With detailed chapters and sections that deal with different engines, negotiation tactics, and marketing, The Business of Indie Games is the perfect omnibus for up-and-coming indie game developers. The future of gaming curriculums is not just in teaching students how to create games but also in preparing them for the business of games.

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CRC Press

DOI: 10.1201/9781003215264-1
Side Quest Supergiant Games and Bastion
Meeting an Industry Insider Tired of Playing Bad Games
Supergiant Games was founded in 2009 by Amir Rao and Gavin Simon, and started in Rao's father's house. In the beginning, there were only seven people working on Bastion. They started with the idea of creating an action-RPG where you could also build the world yourself. The concept evolved into a core part of the game, with the world building around you as you venture through each level.
Bastion is a celebrated indie game, and for good reason. The art and story are memorable, the action feels tight and engaging, and the stylistic choice of creatively incorporating a narrator wowed players and critics.
The game is great, but Supergiant also made some key business decisions early in their studio's history. One of the biggest is that they put themselves in a position to make a critical industry connection.
When the original team at Supergiant got deep enough into development, they knew Bastion was a game that they loved, but they didn't know if other people would also love it, so they decided to take it to PAX to get player reactions and to meet publishers.
At PAX, Supergiant met Michael Leon, who was the Director, Business Development & Developer Relations of Warner Brothers Games at the time.
After playing Bastion, he took Rao aside and said, “You have no idea how much shit I play and how little of it I like.”
Rao hoped that meant that Leon enjoyed the game, and it turned out he did. A lot.
Back then, you couldn't get your game onto the Xbox Live Arcade unless you had a publisher, so the chance meeting with Leon played an important role in opening a door for Supergiant. With the support of Leon and Warner Brothers Games, Supergiant was able to release Bastion on the Xbox Live Arcade. Warner Brothers also provided marketing support, bringing awareness to Bastion’s release by showcasing the game at events like E3.
When Bastion officially launched on July 20, 2011, it did well enough that they were able to leave Rao's father's house and move into their own studio space in San Francisco. A decade later, Bastion is still an indie legend, and Supergiant has gone on to produce several more highly praised indie games, with the latest being Hades.
If Supergiant had not gone to PAX with Bastion, they may never have made the connection that ultimately gave their game a well-supported indie launch.
Noclip. (2019, December 23). The Making of Bastion - Documentary. YouTube. https:/​/​​watch?v=uo7TcJ2E0-I.
J. Michael Leon's LinkedIn. LinkedIn. (n.d.). https:/​/​​in/​j-michaelleon-4388731/​.

Developers and How They Fit into the Games Industry Ecosystem

DOI: 10.1201/9781003215264-2
Part of the magic of indie games is that players can feel very close to the developers. Indies are often solo creators or working in close-knit teams, so that demo they played at an event with a developer eagerly watching their every button press could become the next hit indie game.
And they got to meet the developer. Maybe the developer replied to them on Twitter. Maybe they answered emails with thoughtful replies.
The community element of indie games is powerful, and it's one of the reasons we love this side of gaming, but the power of that magic can also be misleading. That sense of proximity to other indie developers and players can give aspiring developers the impression that the path between a new game and a new player is short and direct.
Make a great game. Show it to players. Then enjoy the wild success of being an indie developer celebrity.
But that's not really how it works for most projects. When you release a game, you are engaging an ecosystem. Players are a foundational part of that ecosystem, naturally, but if you want to give your game the best chance possible of finding financial success, you also need to account for a myriad of factors; publishers, investors, platforms, journalists, content creators, and so on. All roads eventually lead to players, but launching your game with a full understanding of the industry can open more doors for your game.
Sometimes those doors lead to funding. Sometimes they lead to platform exclusivity and support. Sometimes they lead to a devoted fan community who will love your game.
The precise way you leverage the ecosystem around indie games will be unique to you and your project, and you may ultimately decide that some parts are more important to you than others, but you still need to understand the pieces and how they fit to make smart decisions for your project.
We drew a picture to help.
A flowchart of the Indie Ecosystem.
Long Description for Figure 1
The flowchart proceeds as follows. The game developers help and contribute to the following: merchandisers, hardware and accessories, gaming events, primary platforms, secondary platforms, discord, social media, game publishers, investors, and press. The game publishers help and contribute to the following: primary platforms, secondary platforms, social media, and discord. The press contributes to social media, Twitch, and You tube. Merchandisers, hardware and accessories, and gaming events go hand and hand every time. The following contributes and builds interest in players: Merchandisers, hardware and accessories, gaming events, primary platforms, secondary platforms, discord, social media, press, and Twitch and You Tube.
We dig into each component in more depth later in this section, but here they are at a high level:
  • Developers – Individuals or teams who make the games themselves
  • Investors – Provide funding for a project, but typically do not take an active role in the development or release of a game
  • Publishers – Help developers bring their games to market, usually through a combination of funding, developer support, and marketing
  • Platforms – Storefronts and consoles where players access and/or buy games
  • Press – Publications and journalists who review, promote, and break news about games
  • Events – Major gatherings for players and industry leaders
  • Streaming Services – Content platforms such as Twitch and YouTube, where content creators broadcast gameplay and commentary
  • Content Creators – Streamers, YouTubers, and social media influencers who create independent content about games
  • Merchandisers – Brands who make gaming-related products and may license a game IP
  • Outside Brands – Non-gaming companies or organizations who have an interest in gaming
If you look hard enough, you can find nuances that our summary illustration doesn't capture, but this overall structure of the industry should help you to see that the games industry is far more complicated than developers connecting with players. Ignoring that complexity is one of the first big mistakes indie developers can make. Again, you may decide that certain elements are not a fit for your project, and that's okay, but you should have as much information as possible when you make those kinds of choices.
For most indie developers, understanding this ecosystem makes it easier to pitch to investors, to secure deals with publishers and platforms, and to see the many paths indies might take to get their games into the hands of more players. The first step in that process is to better understand how you (and possibly your team) fit into this puzzle.

The Broad Definition of “Indie” Developers

When most people think of indie developers, they picture Phil Fish anxiously watching players stumble through a demo of Fez, a scene from the popular documentary Indie Game: The Movie. One developer with a singular vision for what their game can be, pouring their heart and soul into bringing it to life – that's the classic indie game persona.
Springing from this persona is an expectation for indie games to perhaps be more stylized, to take more creative risks, and to explore ideas that large game developers might avoid.
This is largely true of indie games, but in practice, many companies are “independent” but do not fit into this stereotype of indie developers. Technically – and even this definition is debatable – an indie studio is any entity not attached to a large publishing entity. Indie developers are probably working with tighter budgets or even trying to juggle every aspect that goes into releasing a game themselves.
Just like the definition of an indie studio, the exact definition of a AAA (or triple-A) studio is debatable as well, but most industry experts agree that AAA video games are akin to blockbuster Hollywood films: large production budgets, massive teams, long timelines, big partners. In the case of games, AAA developers often function as their own publishers as well, instead of needing to seek outside support or funding.
We are hedging a bit here because official definitions in this space are murky, at best, but understanding that the indie game industry is more than solo developers or really small teams is important for finding your own success. Here's why:
  • Industry stakeholders are approximately familiar with how much scope varying team sizes can reasonably accomplish in a set window of time
  • The size of your team is a first glimpse into what a potential development budget might be for your game, or what might be needed to help support your release
  • The structure or nature of a team could have an impact on a game's development process as well at its potential reception at launch
If you misunderstand the expectations the industry has for a team of your size, you can easily talk your way into a corner. You might have a good reason for being the exception, but you will still need to address the expectation.
For example, Hades from Supergiant is an incredible indie game, but the makeup of Supergiant as a company and as a team is, today, very different from a small team or a solo developer.
They are still very much indie – let's be clear about that. However, if you, as a solo developer, pitch a publisher on a game similar in scope to Hades, that publisher will justifiably be skeptical and may outright doubt your credibility. Supergiant credits 64 people for the development of Hades, and that doesn't include the voice cast. Even accounting for the fact that some of those credits are independent contractors who were not present for the full development process of the gam...

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