The Great Challenge of the Indie Video Game (and II): Indie or Publisher?
The original plan was to make this article Indie or Publisher? to name but the heat of the writing made me realize that it’s not really a question of being indie or publisher, because even with a publisher you can be indie today.
We’re sorry? How do you say you can be indie with a publisher?
Being independent means being in control of the creative process of game development, and nothing more. Traditionally, it was impossible to reach mass consumption without going through a publisher, which is why the publisher tightly controlled all of the video game’s marketing, communication, and production to maximize synergies. This control was even greater when the publisher also provided the necessary funding to develop the video game, since it was precisely this funding that they used as leverage on the studios, allowing them to accept or reject milestones based on whether they served their interests or not Not.
The fact that video game developers can reach virtually all digital stores independently, and the fact that few publishers actually fund a video game production process, gives the creator superior power over the publisher to mark the development line of the video game, retains control over the editor.
The majority of publishers are looking for video games that don’t need funding, where they can put their market, marketing and communications knowledge to work, and who can help make the game more discoverable for 30% of the associated royalties. Therefore, in many cases, their contributions are advice and industry experience that can benefit the overall bottom line of the video game.
This marketing and communication function, with or without a publisher, needs to be in place, and when it’s in place it means that a team member is devoting a large chunk of their time to these extremely time consuming functions, and they can reduce the overhead of the game itself. In addition, there is a scale and iteration factor in communication that speaks against a small developer, which has to do with the frequency with which a video game is developed by the creator, and which directly dictates the number of times that a developer will be able to to interact with the press without playing against personnel changes, shifts in emphasis and shifts in trend. A publisher, through the continuous production of video games, has a much greater opportunity to dilute press outreach on a more continuous basis, which can result in better quality.
The current rules of communication establish that the sooner the project is known, the more likely it is to have a community effect and that the video game grows by its launch among the audience and manages to transform this community in some way of followers into the income needed to survive as a developer. But how effective is this rule when developers do the same thing and only reach the same developer audience?
There are many tools that in some way allow indie to advance their path to independence, even in terms of communication, and while they are not seen as such on many occasions, the truth is that they can do it if you all use their opportunities.
Green light for Steam
The Steam platform is undoubtedly one of the most successful digital download platforms with its 75 million monthly active users and almost 5 million concurrent users. It was also probably one of the most difficult to achieve until they finally introduced Steam Greenlight. In addition to being useful for getting started on Steam, the Greenlight platform is a great promotional tool in three ways:
But let’s be honest with ourselves. If we get the green light, the effect will remain and from that moment the only thing that guarantees us is that we have developed the video game and integrated it into its platform to put it on it for later sale to upload. That’s when other options come into play that can work just as well for the indie as Greenlight does, looking for a goal and a promotion.
If the indie is looking for funding, they can try crowdfunding via Kickstarter or Indiegogo. The first is much more reliable for reaching more ambitious funding goals and better promotion, but the second offers a lot more options and flexibility in campaign configuration, making it a good option.
At this point it must be taken into account that 2014 has brought a strong change in the acceptance of donors in relation to projects and that the average investment in video games has almost halved, so today they make much smaller amounts with much more work to support the campaign finance.
Patreon also appeared recently, a kind of patronage based on crowdfunding models and instead of generating a single income, it modifies it to guarantee a monthly salary that allows the creator of the video game to continue working, in exchange for the achievement of monthly production milestones . . . Its eligibility is still limited, but it is a funding model that allows us to eliminate some of the dangers of non-compliance with crowdfunding campaigns and as such they can be a logical evolution of the current platforms in the medium or long term.
Alpha funding or early access
If, in addition to financing, we are looking for greater player integration in the video game development process, it may be interesting to validate the use of alpha financing platforms such as Desura or Steam Early Access, which will allow us to sell our game progress, in a very close to alpha, on the one hand promotion, feedback on our game and at the same time funding that allows us to move forward in our funding process.
From many conversations I’ve had with local and international developers, and depending on the target price of the video game in this state, you can sell a few hundred copies to a few thousand copies a month, which can represent a good flow of funding.
It should also be noted that these copies sold represent a very strong commitment to receiving early feedback and acting quickly and consistently to fix and move video game development forward. Therefore, it is necessary to guarantee that we have the resources to maintain this ability to work, at the risk of creating the discrediting of our valuable user community. Because of this, many studios prefer to maintain a low sales flow and set high prices to prevent over-purchasing by players.
From the point of view of advertising, remember that the game we release early can cause early reviews and early reactions, which can undermine the game’s potential. So be careful about making games too big, linear, poor quality or any other factor that may affect player confidence in our game and potential future profitability.
If we have doubts about our ability to carry out the communication flow management process of our video game, the best thing to do is to think about putting it in the hands of a professional who can be a publisher or a PR agency.
These agencies, lately realizing that on many occasions the publisher had a purely communication function, have begun offering advertising services to independent developers. They are therefore responsible for making our video game known to the media and gamers and, in some cases, can share it with the community management of our video game’s communication channels, in order to achieve integrated, harmonized and consistent communication with the global goals of the game video game and our study. In return, they also take 30% of the video game revenue.
Aside from these cases, there has been a recent tendency for indies to use events and other content as a promotional element.
For example, one of them is the gamejams, where the developers create prototypes in a very short time but with a strong following of social networks, which are quickly validated. Inside…