Advice from Making Indie Games that Sell

watermark

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So I watched this talk:

According to this guy, in order to make a game with the best revenue on Steam, you should:
1. Make a game that's moddable.
2. Make it multiplayer (but not local 4 player)
3. Make an action RPG, First Person Shooter, or City Builder.
4. Make a longer game as longer games make more money.
5. Make a game that's "dark and moody" rather than "light and happy".
6. Make a game with a Mature rather than an Everyone rating as there are more adults than kids who buy on Steam.
7. Streamers are only useful if your game is highly replayable (i.e. procedurally generated), but not story heavy which only allows 1 playthrough.

I think he does make some interesting points backed with some solid looking evidence.
What do you guys think?
 

pasunna

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I don't watch it...
I don't see a point of these coach etc etc...
when he him self is not that super successful about what he talk at all...

what he good at is talk and analysis
and... what easy sell that not hard to know...
the hard part is make a finish project from that concept
that's why you see multiple youtube clip about how make a successfully thing
but none of them owns a title that success...

and the real success Title owner not even have youtube account or update it twice a years...

well...that just me
before aim for market etc etc
just aim for make project finish...
and... in good quality...

unless the game you make is not your indie but a living job...
or you bet all you saving money in it
then take it seriously...
 

Shaz

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I tend to agree. Unless he's basing his statements on personal experience, he's just guessing and making assumptions, as people cannot share their sales/revenue figures, and even if he can see how many downloads a game has received, he has no way of knowing how many of those were at full price and how many heavily discounted. Just because someone wants to play a game doesn't mean they'll buy it.

I can see logic in some of the points, but with others, I've seen people here say the exact opposite based on their own experience.
 

Andar

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I haven't watched the video either, but from the points you made there are several where I would place a lot of questions. And as Shaz I think those points rather prove that the video creator does not have any real experience in game development.

just to take one point:
4. Make a longer game as longer games make more money.
That is almost absolute crap if you think on it more carefully.

yes, longer games can be more expensive, simply because people are willing to pay more money for games that will keep them occupied for a month as compared to one that keeps them occupied for a week.
But longer game also means more work to create that game, and more money to go into game creation for everything until you can get your first sales. And that rarely translates into an equivalent rise in the sale numbers once you go beyond a certain point, especially for indies that do not have an equivvalent team for handling the work and marketing and so on.

There is a reason why the market for "casual games" - that are games where you have both limited gametime and limited development work to get them done - is a lot larger than the market for full games.

Making a longer game increases both the amount of finances needed and the risk of failing the project before it can be sold, so especially for indies the advice should be to start with a short game that is of high quality instead of starting with a longer game.

Some of the other points are better, but again they sound more than personal opinion than really based on statistics. Especially as all of those points need to be implemented before they can make money, and some of them are too difficult for indies to handle all at once
 

Shaz

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I can confirm from my experience that longer games make more money.
About twice more. They take 4-5 more time to make, too
haha - great point! So while they might make twice as much money, the ROI is only about half as good, then?
 

Indinera

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haha - great point! So while they might make twice as much money, the ROI is only about half as good, then?
That's a general idea of course. My long games made great money, but shorter ones were never that far, and so much easier to make.
 

standardplayer

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Right or wrong, this did actually inspire me. I think any talk from an fellow indie developer about how to make it, as long as they've done something, can be helpful.

I mean, at the end of the day, it's up to you to sort out what you hear and what it means to you, anyway, and you should never be listening to something and accepting it as absolute fact.

Test stuff out. Check it against your own knowledge or research/hypothesis, and if you find the data in error, then take something positive from being able to discern that. Pass better information forward.

I would never make a game according to someone's advice, but I will totally consider advice and see what it means for me and my project. Often times it results in a good change, even if it doesn't resemble the advice.

I do like longer games, for me it's probably a generational thing. I grew up when NES ruled the gaming world, and was 18 before PS3 era came around. I'm used to longer games, and I'm used to games being completed when you buy them. More importantly, I should say that one of the MAIN things I personally ask myself when buying a game is 'how long will I be able to play this until I complete it' (not including full-blown 100% completionist stuff)

I do like procedural generation, also for the same reason. When i grew up, once you beat most games a few times, you would only replay out of boredom or love. At least until enough years passed to where nostalgia played a factor.
My goals have never been to sell a lot of small games or even specifically to make money. (Don't get me wrong. I want money. I will gladly get paid for my work. But it's not specifically what I'm here for).

Moddable games is a no brainer. Some will care, some won't. But modders build crazy, dense communities around games and add content for free, keeping your game relevant for a while, and even if the game itself doesn't continue to bring in revenue that way, the familiarity with your name and brand could have a foothold in a community of actives.
No one is gonna not play a game just because it's moddable...so it won't hurt in that way.

Now while I personally agree with the more Mature games being more successful, I think this underestimates our current times. Kids have like, a weird amount of buying power in some countries like mine. It's tedious to get into here, but let's just say I think this bit of advice is outdated.

And the genre thing, from a monetary standpoint, which is where I think they're coming from, I think they're most on-point with the city-builder games. I think those are very common on mobile games, and mobile games can actually generate quite a bit of money. Action RPG....I think putting that in a list of things most likely to make money sounds weird, but that's just me. I've no research to back this up.

And as far as making any points about this person not being well known, none of us are. So our recognition of that as a reason not to listen is like saying 'don't listen to what any of us are saying right now'. I can't hold anything like that against someone. Most well known people come from the unknown, unless you were born into some kind of Truman Show scenario XD
 

V_Aero

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I just dont like it when Game Designers use such advices as step-by-step instruction to make a game just because it's "cool".
 

jkweath

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Haven't watched the video, but based on the points outlined I'm guessing none of the advice there is valuable to me. No plans on making a multiplayer, procedurally-generated, mod-able action RPG here (sadly).

I do wonder what this point is based off of, though:

6. Make a game with a Mature rather than an Everyone rating as there are more adults than kids who buy on Steam.
Maybe it's explained in the video, but how does this make sense? Unless the data supports adults buy more mature-rated games than, well, everyone buying E-rated games, then I imagine you'd get more sales by just having an E rating and letting everyone buy it.

The last point makes much more sense to me:

7. Streamers are only useful if your game is highly replayable (i.e. procedurally generated), but not story heavy which only allows 1 playthrough.
Very much agreed here, though I follow a different train of logic. I would imagine that, if a viewer watched a streamer play through a story-heavy game (like most RPGs around here, including mine), they'd be -less- compelled to buy the actual game since you could argue they've already experienced what the game has to offer.

Just as an example, I've thought about buying the RPGMaker game OneShot before, but I actually watched Markiplier play the bulk of it awhile back. I already know what happens and the experience was close enough to what it'd be like actually playing the game, so I don't plan on ever buying it.

But for games that are more about the gameplay (the MOBAs and battle royales), they're fun to watch but playing the game can be an equally rewarding experience. In the past I've loved watching--and playing--League of Legends and a select few other games.

Don't get me wrong, I'll hand out a Steam key to any streamer that asks for one, but I've never received nor do I expect an uptick in sales.
 

watermark

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@jkweath Actually the guy showed statistics collected using Steam Spy and other tools, which I assume is real to the best of his ability. As you can see below, an M rated game makes X times that of an E rated game assuming the data is valid.
gdcmakingindiegamesthatsellscr1.jpg
What I liked about this talk was that the guy didn't just come out and say these things, but rather first he showed some stats, and then hmmm what can we deduce from this? Of course we all know stats can be skewed depending on how it's made, but it does offer some surprising insights. I for example, always assumed the E rating would have more sales because more people can buy it, so more M rating sales was surprising to me.

Another one was this genre graph which corresponds to the ratings above:
gdcmakingindiegamesthatsellscr2.jpg
Crime, dark fantasy, and survival horror top the list.

Which makes me wonder whether I should change my more lighthearted story to something darker and grittier. We do know from RM that horror games are perennial favorites, so there's some correlation there.
 

jkweath

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Actually the guy showed statistics collected using Steam Spy and other tools, which I assume is real to the best of his ability. As you can see below, an M rated game makes X times that of an E rated game assuming the data is valid.
Oh, neat! Maybe I should actually watch the video and check out those stats, but... meh :kaoswt2:

I accept that Mature-rated games probably sell better than E-rated, then, but I still have more questions with that train of logic. This is obvious, but I doubt the rating itself is what's driving the sales. My guess is that most E-rated games also happen to be family friendly/child-oriented, which evidently sell much less than survival, dark fantasy, crime, etc. games, which are probably mostly M-rated.

Another factor (that I haven't looked into) is probably that Steam's player base is mostly older teens-young adults who'd be much more into M-rated games. I'd bet money that, if these were stats for Nintendo Switch game sales, they'd probably be flipped.

I'll be taking these ideas into consideration for my next game. I was strongly leaning toward making a casual light-hearted RPG, but maybe something with a darker story would sell better...
 

slimmmeiske2

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I watched the video. It was an interesting watch. (Btw @watermark, when I pressed play it started playing somewhere near the end of the video instead of the beginning. You might want to check the link).

Some background stuff that I want to mention (since people don't want to watch it): the speaker had a good game that didn't sell as well as they'd thought back in 2014 (nor after they did an expansion of it in 2016), so he started collecting stats and researching why their game didn't sell well. This video is also from 2018 and as he mentions himself "some of the findings could be outdated by next year".
As for the longer playtime argument making more money (starts in the video from 14:01 if you're interested), he says Steam rewards you more visibilty if your game is longer, hence the higher revenue. (There's no public data regarding development budgets, so he couldn't make a comparison there.)

Another factor (that I haven't looked into) is probably that Steam's player base is mostly older teens-young adults who'd be much more into M-rated games. I'd bet money that, if these were stats for Nintendo Switch game sales, they'd probably be flipped.
The speaker mentions the same thing (that Family-Friendly games would probably have the highest sales on the Switch).

I just dont like it when Game Designers use such advices as step-by-step instruction to make a game just because it's "cool".
That's not what the video is about. These are just findings, not step-by-step instructions or a guide. He's sharing his results hoping it's helpful to some. I realize the opening post makes it look like a guide by using numbers instead of bullet points, but if you'd watch the video you'd realize that's not the case.
 

Raizen

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While I could agree that mature games sells more, mobile gaming is HUGE and its most colorful and family friendly. The biggest difference is that is revenue doesn't come from selling games, the are from ads. If you see it that way, it balances by a lot the graphs, having that child game sell directly is indeed harder, but how many kids play those games and generate revenues from all those ads?

I think we are in an artistic setting, I don't really like the idea of "that game doesn't have an audience, its going to flop!", if you make the game exactly the way you imagined it to be, being the dream game for whatever tastes you have, you are not alone in the world, others will also like your game. That is, if you did it the way you always imagined it to be.

I don't think I am completely right on this one, but I still believe we should make games as arts and not just $$$, doing what we love the best way we imagine it to be I still think is the way to make the game sell well.
 

jkweath

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we are in an artistic setting, I don't really like the idea of "that game doesn't have an audience, its going to flop!", if you make the game exactly the way you imagined it to be, being the dream game for whatever tastes you have, you are not alone in the world, others will also like your game. That is, if you did it the way you always imagined it to be.
That's the dream, at least--and that's the advice a lot of people tend to gravitate toward (i.e. make a quality product that you care about, and people will notice)--but in practice it often just doesn't pan out.

I believe I made a thread on this board awhile back about the game "DON'T GIVE UP", which the developer spent years developing, pouring his heart and soul into, attended conventions, advertised like it was his job, etc. - the end result was that he made less from it than if he'd just worked a part-time job for a month.

That's just one example, but I could probably scroll through Steam's RPGMaker tag section and find at least a couple hundred games that fall under "the developer's dream game that sold less than a hundred copies" category. Hell, I have a couple games there myself!

The solution isn't to swing in the opposite direction and just make a game that "checks all the boxes for what sells the most", but to find a healthy balance between what you want and what potential customers want.
 

JosephSeraph

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To chime in on the Mature rating topic... The history of ratings, particularily as it applies to the US, is rather dense and contradictory.

Check this video out:

As you can see, often media is adjusted in such a way as to sound more edgy than what it is to have increased market appeal. Then ratings themselves are adjusted. Then creators adapt. And so it goes, on an on, with a feedback loop between creators and ratings.
 

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