Everything's obvious in hindsight. That's a lesson that Fire Hose Games founder Eitan Glinert has learned at least twice in the past few years.
The first time happened at PAX Prime 2011, way up on the sixth floor where many of the indie developers had rented small booths two floors above the show floor. There was no good reason for everybody to keep doing this alone, Glinert thought. And out of that thought grew the Indie Megabooth, a collection of developers who band together and stake their claim on the main floor of PAXes east and west.
More recently, Glinert realized he had the power to organize something else for the tight-knit indie development community, many of whom he's seen fail "for just some stupid, avoidable problem." And the realization, coupled with what he'd been able to accomplish with the Indie Megabooth, kind of pissed him off that nobody'd figured this out before — including him.
"That really set me off thinking that, if indies can do such a good job getting together for something like showing off at a conference, imagine what they could do if they kind of banded together a little bit more when it came to making their own games," Glinert told Polygon in a recent interview.
That idea's been bouncing around in his head for the last year or so. Now he's figured out what to do with it. Tonight at a monthly gathering of indie developers called the Boston Post Mortem, Glinert will outline his plans to help fellow indies by turning Fire Hose Games into an indie developer incubator.
"Imagine what they could do if they kind of banded together a little bit more."
"You know how you kind of have an epiphany on this sort of thing and and after you have it, it's like, 'Oh, my gosh! That was so obvious. How did I not realize that sooner? Well, that's exactly where we are, and frankly. I'm shocked that we don't see more people doing it."
Glinert isn't interested in a classic incubator model, which he said were designed for businesspeople who want to create businesses. Instead, he wants to incubate games and the people who make them. He wants to create an environment where it's safe and sustainable to make games.
"It's no secret that all of indies talk to each other, right?" he said. "There's just been uncountable numbers of times when I've seen people failing with their project for just some stupid, avoidable problem. Maybe they just didn't have a little bit of money that they needed. Maybe they made a bad business decision. Maybe they didn't understand that it was time to iterate on their game. Maybe they didn't make the right connection, they didn't talk to the right person. Maybe they had some sort of healthcare issue.
"There's all these really solvable problems that come up, and it prevents a lot of indies form making a good game or from being successful. And we realized that that's the sort of thing that Fire Hose is set up to help people with. That's something that we can do to help people with."
He has "spreadsheet after spreadsheet after spreadsheet" which he thinks proves that the model can make money. And he's currently talking to investors to raise funds for the quasi-incubator that envisions.
In the gaming world, he said, the way it often works is that publishers look for good games to fund. But for Glinert, the goal will be different. The goal will be to find good developers, who will make good games. He believes it will work because he's seen it work in the studio he founded.
"We eat our own dog food. We are living it right now."
"Instead of us trying to pick the winner games, we're trying to pick the winner developers," he said. "And that's a really big difference, right? I think it's actually a much easier problem to identify people that are really good at making games, and really good at making indie games. I say that because we've done that. We have great people at Fire Hose."
There's something else he's doing inside the studio that he hopes will teach him about how the incubation model he envisions will work: Fire Hose has been practicing the model for months.
"We eat our own dog food. We are living it right now. We are currently working on four fucking games. We have lost our goddamn minds," he said with a laugh. "We're working on all these games in tandem. We're giving people huge amounts of creative control while they make the games. And we're pushing this forward as we speak."
That's Eitan Glinert's idea in a nut: Use the success of Fire Hose games to find and empower other developers to make great games. He doesn't have all the details yet — he's considering an interview process that doesn't even ask about games, at least for now — but he's working on it, and he's sure of a couple things. He wants the developers to stick around to make second, third and fourth games. But he also wants an escape lever built into the contract, so they can leave if and when they want to and their their intellectual property with them.
And he wants Fire Hose Games to be at the forefront of this evolution in how he hopes indie games are made. As he sees it, it's a way to help others and help his business, too. It's a lot like what he did with the Indie Megabooth.
"That's how I feel about the games industry," he said. "Why aren't people fixing this indie problem? Why the fuck do I have to go do it? Alright, I'll do it. Somebody's got to."