Should your next indie game be for Mobile, PC, or Console?
By: Adrian Bardan | 3/19/17
Hi fans and indie devs,
In this post I will try to answer the question, what kind of game should you make for your next indie game project?
Here's what I've learned so far about making different types of games.
Mobile is for people who know how to:
- grow their userbase,
- constantly optimize features of a game to increase in-app purchases (IAP) based on user behaviors,
- are actively seeking "whales" effectively monetizing addict behavior (probably)
I started making a mobile game. I didn’t know how to market anything. I got no traction in the few months it was on mobile stores.
I then tried getting my mobile game on Steam. I got attention there right away, (some very negative). So, I decided to focus where I
was getting real attention, meaning mobile ended up not being my thing.
PC dev is for people who are:
- ready to be exposed to a large ecosystem of very passionate people,
- willing to put in the effort to make a “real” game (whatever that means),
- able to get dumped on by some very vocal idiots. (This will categorically end up happening no matter which direction you go. It’s a consequence of putting yourself out there...)
I tried to port a mobile game to Steam Greenlight in 2016. Some people hated me (apparently the Steam community doesn’t really like mobile ports - who knew?), but I ended up with real attention right away. So, I decided to turn that game into a “real” PC indie game. (That's Grim Dragons, by the way.) I managed to get Greenlit. I work on improving my game all the time. It’s been exciting and frustrating. I’m pretty sure the work will never actually end… “we cannot get out… the end comes soon. We hear drums, drums in the deep…”
Console game dev is for people who can:
- deal with uniform hardware configurations (and limitations),
- get console licenses,
Well - I have no experience with this one yet... But I will certainly try to port my PC games to consoles once I finish them. I'll let you know how that goes.
So, now to answer the original question: Should your next game be for Mobile, PC, or Console? The answer is obviously…
The longer explanation: think strategically (long-term strategy) not tactically (short-term “make it or break it” sales campaigns). Consider your long term strategy and where you are now. If you’re working on your first commercial game and think you’re working on the next Minecraft or Angry Birds… well… good for you - reality will sink in soon enough. :)
Here’s my experience: I worked on a game for 1.5 years, got tired of it and put it on hiatus. (Money made: $0) I worked another year on the next game, Grim Dragons, and got tired of that one too. But, I managed to get this one greenlit on Steam. So, I decided I’d better commit to the grueling effort of getting this one done. 6 months later, with tons of upgrades and improvements, 25% of the game is completed. In Feb 2017, I went to Early Access.
And my sale stats for month 1:
- Units sold: 49
- Gross sales: $273
- Dev time to money: 1.5 years (more like 3 years)
Note to self: congratulations, you’ve just moved up from a full time hobby to a failing business! You can now afford a year’s worth of toilet paper! (WHY MEEE!!!) :'(
Still, I love what I'm doing, I really believe in it, and I'll keep going until I make it work!
You'll probably find you'll need to develop the same type of attitude if you haven't yet. That means that after running a marathon, you'll basically have to become someone who can eat marathons for breakfast!
10 points of advice
With the above caveats, here are 10 pointers to help you decide what game to make next:
If you’re starting out, mobile looks very attractive. The top ones earn tons of revenue for games that look simple to make. This won’t be you. Rovio had to fail 51 times before their “overnight success” in Angry Birds. (Do you even have the budget and manpower to experiment with 51 games in the next 5 - 10 years?) Also, 99% of mobile games are not financially successful. (The 1% that are, are that way due to massive amounts of constant effort and preferential featured status.)
You’ll also probably get a bad rep with the PC crowd if you try to create mobile games first then switch to PC games. (This didn’t actually happen to me - I’m largely unknown and didn’t have a reputation for making mobile games. But I did get flamed for trying to Greenlight a mobile port.)
Remember, these markets are different. Mobile games don’t look good on PC markets. A PC game should be substantially different from a mobile game.
A better way: commit to either PC or console games first. Yes, they require more dev work. But the work for these will be somewhat comparable. You can port the same game from one platform to the other without community resistance.
You can always make new mobile games related to your main money making PC or console titles. This won’t get you accused of creating shovelware and won’t drag down the prices of your PC and console titles.
Console games will have the advantage and restrictions of uniformity in hardware. I’m not sure if there are Early Access type programs for consoles since I’m going the PC route first.
PC game dev will be easier to get into with unfinished games - think Early Access. Of course, if you know how to build your own audience and secure your games you can always get community involvement while you’re developing your game without getting on a major store first… (Early Access was the way for me to get my start.)
- The #1 thing to do is learn to market your product! (That's assuming you already know how to make a good game.) Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if your game is a “good” one or not (though, please make the effort to make it good). Your game will NEVER sell itself!
- The biggest thing you have to worry about in increasingly saturated markets is gaining visibility, trust and long term recognition from customers. As one of my favorite marketing leaders, Grant Cardone says, "Your biggest enemy isn't competition. It's obscurity!" Take some time every week to think of ways to reach more people with your game. Then do those things! Learn marketing! The more you persist, the more people you’ll actually reach.
Always start by doing the sales math! Consider this example:
(I haven't even taken into account things like expenses and net profits.)
- You’re selling a game for $10.
- You want to make $100,000 in gross sales.
- Meaning you need to make 10,000 sales. (100,000 / 10 = 10,000)
- Assuming you can achieve an "average" conversion rate - that is 2% to 5% - you need to reach a minimum of 500K people. (10,000 / 0.02 = 500,000)
So, Indiepocalypse aside, learn about the market you’re trying to go into. Make a "good" game that fits that market. Slap a real price tag on that bad boy. And remember, a game won't sell itself. Once you're ready, your number one goal should really be learning how to effectively reach more people with your product!
(y’know - if you can commit to reaching 500K people…)