Indie Game Case Study: The Story of a Modestly Successful Game

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by goodsol, Mar 31, 2005.

  1. goodsol

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    In response to a number of recent threads around here, I have posted an entry to my blog that is a case study of the life of an indie game.

    This is not a huge hit game, but rather a modestly successful game. The post describes the 9 year life of the game and how it came about, how it sold, and where it stands today.

    Most importantly, it is an illustration of how you can be successful with a game if it is targeted to certain keywords and fits a market need of a game that people are looking for.

    The permanent link to the post is here:
    http://www.asharewarelife.com/2005/03/indie-game-case-study-story-of.html
     
  2. princec

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    Most importantly it's a testament why no-one else will succeed if they take any notice of what you're saying.
    I mean come on, anything I produced in a week has a 99.99999% chance of failing to even recoup that effort. No-one here has any better odds than that. You simply see things from the perspective of someone extremely fortunate who happened to be in the right place at the right time. It's not a model for business. Further backed up by this gem:
    when, as I understand it, anyone who's anyone in the shareware business says that you need to spend at least as long marketing a new game as you did developing it, and marketing costs time and therefore money.

    This blog article is pure fantasy, but it hides behind the veneer of success through unlikely flukes. It worked for you but it almost certainly won't work for anyone else. Except of course when it does happen that person will be disproportionately revered and the legend will be blown up into ... well, just that. A legend.

    My original rants on the matter were about the reality. The likelihood. Pissing on the fire. Making people really take stock of what they were doing.

    Cas :)
     
  3. maksum

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    Thomas Warfield would MOST definitley be considered among those "who's anyone in the shareware business." Besides, it's not like he has some single "fluke" success. He has released several games over the course of several years.

    I mean really... it's one thing to state your doubt... but to completely dismiss the post as "pure fantasy"??

    Mike
     
    #3 maksum, Apr 1, 2005
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2005
  4. Bmc

    Bmc New Member

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    I think the most important thing to take away after reading that article is

    This advice should especially apply to anyone who doesn't want to bother with the portals.
     
    #4 Bmc, Apr 1, 2005
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2005
  5. Vorax

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    It is a good point, but unfortunetly, there are 100 other guys trying to fill the same niche's ;)

    "That's the problem with this town - to many wise guys all fighting over the same nickel" - (Quote from Donnie Brasco)
     
  6. Bmc

    Bmc New Member

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    when the 2 girls making out on horseback niche becomes over-saturated throw in a midget wearing a gorilla mask.
     
  7. Sillysoft

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    Haha, I actually find it kind of humorous how you seemed to have totally missed the point of the post. He talks about how you have to find a need first and then fill it. This exact strategy has worked for me. All the Risk type games (especially on the macintosh) were shitty. So I made one and all the people searching for this exact thing find me.

    It's not about how much work went into it. (Him saying it only took a few days isn't fully true, since he had the existing code in another product.) It's all about finding an existing need, filling it, and then displaying to people that you have what they are looking for.
     
  8. maksum

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    Thanks for the supporting post Dustin. I'm sure there are other examples as well. Also thanks for re-wording/clarifying the point.

    I'm actually betting a lot on this strategy as well with a project I'm working on.

    Mike
     
  9. Derek Yu

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    hahahahaha :D

    Bmc, I know your "throw in a midget wearing a gorilla mask" comment was meant as a joke, but imo it captures perfectly the mentality of what must be a large portion of indie developers: "what gimmicks can I throw on top of [successful game] to make it different but still cash in on its success?"
     
  10. Anthony Flack

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    Is that what people are googling for these days?

    In the case of Freecell Plus, what we have is an extremely well-chosen niche. People who wanted Freecell for win 3.1 only had to type that information into the search engine and voila. They knew what they wanted, they even knew what the name was (not the "plus" part, but they got the important bit). In this sense it seems more like selling an application than a game - the user knows exactly what they want beforehand.

    In comparison, let's say there was a huge untapped market for strategy games. What will people search for? If your game is like Risk you might capitalise on the awareness of Risk and try to catch people searching for that. But then again, you wouldn't be the only one. And maybe your game isn't that much like Risk. And maybe the people searching aren't always typing "Risk" into the search engine. See the problem?

    Freecell Plus filled a very specific void - no Freecell on Win 3.1. But most people looking for games can't say exactly what game they are after and search for it by name and everything.
     
  11. Chris Evans

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    Exactly... While I agree with the overall concept, a lot of games (even niche games) don't have keywords that are quite as direct.

    You could however look for niche keywords before you even start developing and pick a game based on those keywords. But then again like someone said before, it feels somewhat like creating a software utility, not a game (probably why the method is successful. ;)).

    As Anthony said there's quite a few good niche genres that don't necessarily have clear cut search terms. I'd hate to restrict myself to only niche games that have good Google/Overture keywords. It's just too mechanical when creating games, IMO, should be a more creative endeavor. We have a lot of bad casual games these days because the development is just too mechanical. I think Derek Yu illustrated this perfectly.
     
  12. Itsme

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    Well, Tom is a very successful indie and good marketer, but guessing from his post he does not entirely understand why he's been successfull.
    What he says about niches is very true - you do want to be in a niche, but guess what - the only reason he was able to successfully market in the niches is because the games he made already did exist in "offline" world (I mean card games), so the market was there for a long long time.
    Just check out words "solitaire" and "mahjongg" with overture traffic estimator
    (I used http://www.123promotion.co.uk/ppc/index.php)
    over 150000 monthly searches in one instance and almost 200000 searches in another. So you can easily guess that there are millions of people in the world looking for these games (mahjong has been around for thousands of years, I believe).
    I can guarantee that the aren't any free markets where you can just walk over and pick the low hanging fruit. This is why it's absolutely true that the business has a 1000 times easier in the 90s. If you follow through with Tom's advice (or Steve Pavlina's) here is what you'll find out - your returns will be much less than anticipated. The stuff still works, but to a much much lesser degree. The niche's don't grow nearly as fast as the number of games that cater to them - so you'll have to invest more and more time into discovering a profitable niche, yet these niches will be smaller and smaller (the big ones are taken) - not a position you want to be in if you are a business person.
    And if you are a game developer - forget about creativity. Because if you are in the niche - you have to play by the rules.
     
  13. Bmc

    Bmc New Member

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    Sheesh. Someone who has been successful tries to offer advice and some people try to debunk it. Must suck having to always validate your reasons for blaming your failures on external forces. I bet it's alot more work then it would be to just learn from them and move on. :p
     
  14. maksum

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    Precisely my thoughts. It's like this. You get advise from person "A" who has years of experience, has released several titles, has learned from pitfalls, etc. etc... then along comes person "B" (who is not successful) saying "It can't happen anymore".

    I'll choose to listen to person "A".

    Come on people... don't play the victim! Find a way to make it happen. Listening to those who have made it happen probably isn't a bad idea.

    Ok, that's all I'm saying. I'm going to work on my game now.

    Mike

    ("doesn't understand why he's successful" - oh brother :rolleyes: )
     
  15. bantamcitygames

    Administrator Original Member Indie Author Greenlit

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    Exactly. GoodSol is one of the MOST SUCCESSFUL indies, he's repeated his success with quite a few titles, so to just claim it is "luck" or that he was "in the right place at the right time" seems ridiculous. I for one come to these forums hoping people like Tom will post nuggets of wisdom such as this. I'll take that pearl and read it and reread it until I glom as much information from it as possible. So... Thanks Tom!
     
  16. Anthony Flack

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    Sheesh, what is this attitude that if someone very successful says something, there can be no further discussion? It was a good read and an interesting story, but it's still worth thinking about how it may or may not be applicable in a different situation.

    I'm thinking that if you are really serious about following this particular path, then the most sensible thing to do would be to stop thinking in terms of being just a game designer, and start looking for another one of those little gaps in the market in whatever shape it takes - quite likely some kind of application software.

    I mean, that's the gist of what the advise was. Which might be the best advise ever, but only if it fits what you're trying to do.
     
  17. Devman

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    I appreciate the advice that was given. I was brainstorming on what my next game would be about, and worked on an idea for a while before I realized that it was a lot like Solomon's Key, one of my favorite 8-bit nintendo games. Well, I went over to Overture and searched the keywords Solomon's Key, and they are not searched very often, usually in another context entirely than games. So I scratched that idea because I want the game I make to be a least a little bit successful.

    So I then tried to brainstorm about a niche I could fill, and know of one, however, making games for this niche has great challenges for a single developer, as it lends itself most naturally to an RPG, which I don't think is a smart move for a lone indie developer. But there is a hope: I need to figure out the design of a game that both fills this niche AND is craftable by me, a single developer with limited resources. Mr. Warfield's article helped me see that I need to keep in mind how I will market my game once I create it. I could have spent 1 year making a Solomon's Key-like game and then tried to sell realizing that 10 people in the world search for Solomon's Key each month, and most of them are either looking for something out a Dan Brown novel :( or looking for "cheats".

    Dustin has given us another good example/data point in hitting the Risk niche. A LOT of people have played Risk before, and I know people at my work who play quick computer Risk games on their lunch hour. So I think the moral is: find a niche and write a fun game for it! Think of ideas OTHER than freecell, solitaire, risk, bejewelled, tetris, etc.

    The trick is finding that niche. I just did a search for the main keywords for the niche I want to target, and all the top pages are quite weak in terms of good content for this niche, so I think I have found an under-served one. Now my challenge is making a game for it! There may be a reason no one has. :)

    Peace!
     
  18. Anthony Flack

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    And it will only work for you if you can answer this question - what piece of software are people googling for in large numbers, and not turning up anything?
     
  19. ggambett

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Paris Hilton, apparently.
     
  20. impossible

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    Sounds like a great idea for your next game. Paris' Private Party.
     

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