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How to sell coffee ... and design a successful indie game

Chris Plante co-founded Polygon in 2012 as editor-at-large and is now editor-in-chief. He also created and occasionally teaches NYU’s Introduction to Games Journalism course.

Hidetaka Suehiro aka Swery, the director of cult hit Deadly Premonition took the stage at today's BitSummit conference in Kyoto to advise Japanese independent developers on how to create successful games.

It's like opening a coffee shop, Swery said, pointing to a PowerPoint projected at the rear of the stage. His advice was divided into four parts.

1) Selecting the beans

According to Swery, many Japanese indie developers tend to stick to the same types of games they made at traditional studios. He thinks this decision is counterintuitive, pitting the lone developer against full-size teams operating fueled by larger budgets.

"You're independent now," said Swery. "Be more creative."

He pointed to Unfinished Swan, Journey and Sword & Sworcery as examples of Western indie games that are unlike their AAA counterparts.

2) Roasting and blending

Blending, in this case, means mixing things up. Swery said independent developers will be tempted to follow trends, thinking that will help them succeed overseas.

Instead, he said developers should make something unique. Originality is vital. With a new game, developers will have no competitors and therefore a longer sales window, leaving time to port the game to additional platforms.

3) How to choose a fragrance-enhancing cup

The cup, in this case, is the audience.

The world is smaller than ever, said Swery. Developers have many distribution platforms through which to sell their products. Find customers who will buy what you want to make, he said. They might be on the other side of the world. Just because your next-door neighbor doesn't want it, doesn't mean you've failed.

4) Sugar and milk

Add-on content protacts the life of a game, said Swery. When you decide what kind of game you want to create, you should immediately begin planning the add-on content. He pointed to The Walking Dead as an example of a game that was designed from the ground up as an episodic experience.

Starting small reduces risk. If the game is profitable, it can be expanded upon.

If you follow those steps, according to Swery, you might just create a successful game. For more on Swery and Deadly Premonition, check out our recent in-depth profile.

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