clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

There are no lucky independent developers

New, 50 comments

It's pretty rare to bump into an independent developer whose success is due to luck.

Some studios may seem lucky or even blessed from the outside, but nearly every indie that has had a hit game or seems to get a lot of coverage among the press or YouTubers has worked a very long time to get to that point.

These discussions can be interesting from my point of view because other developers often say that "the press just likes so-and-so" when the reality is that person or studio knows how to pitch their games or stories in a way that makes them attractive to the press.

I often talk to the sort of developer people call "lucky," and learning about the skull-crushing hours and evidence-based work they do while working on the game and getting it to people is eye opening. Luck is what happens after you spend literally hundreds of hours doing the often-boring work other people don't want to do.

The video embedded above by indie developer Simon Roth goes over everything that has very little to do with making a game. It's the stuff that's not sexy, that creative people don't like to think about. How to do market research. How to figure out what your game is likely to sell, and how much it will cost to make. How to share data and get it. How to track everything so you can figure out what works and what doesn't. Check out this super-sexy still to see what I'm talking about.

indie luck

Marketing, promotion and tracking data aren't part of the creative process most people imagine when they talk about creating games, but this sort of behind the scenes work is often what separates a team that stays alive for another year to keep making games and one that goes under.

It's also worth pointing out that, while Roth lays out his experience in the video, he doesn't have years upon years of experience making his own studio sustainable. "We have three years behind us and another three planned out ahead of us," he explained via Twitter when someone asked if he was able to put these concepts into practice.

It's tempting to shut videos like this off if you're a small developer because you don't want to think about this stuff, but running a studio is as much about business as it is about making games. Maybe even moreso. There are plenty of beautiful games no one has ever heard of, and just as many terrible games that sell well. ideally you have a good game that also sells well, and the advice in this video can help get you there.