Profitability: lots of small games or one big game?

Parallax Panda

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@Indinera
An interesting thing about your (early?) games. I know you made several games in a short time frame which might indicate you took the “many small games” route, but at the same time, didn’t they have a lot of maps and really long playtime?

Would you consider those early games large or small games? Maybe you thought of something that you could cut back on that allowed you to do big games...fast?
 

Indinera

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The early games were large, some very large. I took around 6-9 months to make them which, by my standards, is a long time. As a comparison I can make a sizeable (but of course smaller) and profitable game in just one month.

At the beginning the market wasn't as saturated so the "many smaller games" approach wasn't so relevant. A lot of players enjoyed to dive into a really long and involving game. Now most of them dont have as much time and don't see much difference between a big and a small game. And of course devs face more competition in a saturated market.
 
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In any discussion about commercial profitability, marketing has to be added to the discussion at some point.

Are people simply just putting their games on the market and posting about it on social media? Are they paying for advertisements? Are they actually going out on foot to get news about their game around? Are they cutting videos and making posters/flyers? Are there celebrities or influencers supporting the game somehow?

A large game does offer more options for marketing even if by the very simple fact of having more content to demo than small games. This can of course backfire if the game itself doesn't have the quality to warrant certain options of marketing.

An important question to ask might be whether at some point a large game becomes more profitable than an equivalent work quantity of small games based on how it is marketed.
 

Indinera

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Are they paying for advertisements? Are they actually going out on foot to get news about their game around? Are they cutting videos and making posters/flyers? Are there celebrities or influencers supporting the game somehow?
All of these have a big level of uncertainty.
The real question here is "how much level of control do you want to give to luck on your career"?
If YOU want to stay as much as possible in control, then smaller games are the safest option, especially in today's saturated market where greatness isn't even a standout in itself (or a guarantee of anything) and most people don't care anymore about length or scope.
 

eluukkanen

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Depends on the approach. In some cases you want focus of small maps, but again sometimes vast "World Map" maps won't do too much harm if there are not too many of them.

As Indinera mentioned, small maps give more control. I would say that you can control large maps as well, but the problem comes of the development time for the big maps, if you want to have meaningful stuff to do in them. Also, with large maps, organizing them well becomes very important.
 

Indinera

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I meant control of your career but that's also true of maps and generally games. Small games are far easier to betatest than long ones, it's not even linear, the longer a game gets, the more bugs can pop up and be all over the place.
 

bgillisp

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I meant control of your career but that's also true of maps and generally games. Small games are far easier to betatest than long ones, it's not even linear, the longer a game gets, the more bugs can pop up and be all over the place.
Agreed. I finished making my game in Fall 2017. It took two years to beta test it due to how long it is, and even then I'm sure a bug or two is going to pop up. There's a reason no AAA game is ever bug free.

And yes, AAA games were not bug free back before online either, you can still find bugs in Pools of Radiance (the 1988 version) and many other RPG's. Some got patched, and some we just had to live with.
 

JosephSeraph

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you can still find bugs in Pools of Radiance (the 1988 version) and many other RPG's. Some got patched, and some we just had to live with.
Or at the ultimate example...
upload_2019-9-13_16-7-1.png


edit: Actually, the FF7 example is probably the most ironic because it's the game that a lot of RM devs classically wanted to make, it's such a large odyssey, and just look at the sheer size of that buglist.
 
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All of these have a big level of uncertainty.
The real question here is "how much level of control do you want to give to luck on your career"?
If YOU want to stay as much as possible in control, then smaller games are the safest option, especially in today's saturated market where greatness isn't even a standout in itself (or a guarantee of anything) and most people don't care anymore about length or scope.
The saturation of the market itself could be having a detrimental effect on the visibility of small games. There are ways to brand a large game that wouldn't be viable for a small game, such as calling it an "epic adventure" or "world-spanning journey".

A large game can theoretically be used to open up parts of the market that a small game can't, and become all the more visible with the right marketing strategy.

In this way, one could argue that a small game has its own aspect of gambling due to the saturated market where small games are far more common than large games.

From this line of reasoning, it could be surmised that large and small games have both overlapping and distinct reliances on luck in different areas because of how diverse marketing options can be.
 

Parallax Panda

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@Indinera
Ah, thank you for the clarification. I was of the mindset that you had made those first epic games in as little as 3-4 months. I thought I read something like it somewhere but it was some time ago and you made a lot of games so I'm probably confusing things. Makes sense though.

@Storyteller-Hero
There is luck involved in ANY game creation, obviously. But the main reason smaller games would offer you greater control over your career (in my opinion) is because you diversify your risk. Making one large projects is like going All-in in poker. It's usually not the best strategy. Unless you really know what you're doing. And let's face it, if it's your first game - you don't.

Even for more experienced devs, betting everything on one game is still risky, unless you already have a library of smaller finished games behind you that can support an eventual failure. A bigger project usually doesn't only mean more time spent after all, you probably need a bigger budget for the game as well as it'll require a longer soundtrack, more sprites , character art, and so on.

And as for marketing. I don't think a big project has that much of an advantage. It's all about if the game is a good game or not. Sure, it's hard to brand a 3-hour game an "epic adventure", but it could be "an unique experience" or have a "gripping story" or whatever other floskel you'd like to put on it.
What will make a difference is the quality of the game and marketing. And like @Indinera said, people don't seem to care that much for huge games nowadays. At least not more so than they do for shorter ones. I for one is actually turned away by large RPG's since I know I'll never ever get to finish them because I don't have that much time. And for everyone who want's those epic storys I'm sure there is at least one person like me who doesn't.

Also consider this. The market is saturated already and it looks like it'll continue to be so, and possibly get worse for each year. If you make three games in two years instead of one, you'll release something faster and it'll start to earn you money faster. So when your two years in the making game has been out for one year, one or two of your shorter games could have been out for two years, thus being ahead of the curve when it comes to combined earnings. Money that could have been invested into your third project to increase it's quality maybe?

It's a complex matter but I do believe that if you seek to make money, on STEAM it's all about making many games, and their combined earnings over time. It's not just about what you earn in the first month or first year, but what you can squeeze out of those games for the coming decade and beyond. So the sooner you get something out there, the better it'll be for you.
 

Indinera

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@Parallax Panda
More or less 6-9 months for the Laxius Forces, 5-6 for Asguaard, The Book of Legends, and 3 Stars, 3-4 for Dreamscape, Witch Hunt etc.
Depends on the overall length and complexity. B)

Your message is spot on. :p:thumbsup-right:
 

Musashi

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OK, I want to defend the other side here because apparently everybody thinks that small games are the only way to go unless you want to bet your career on a single game. As someone making a living from making the same game for 2+ years now and releasing another very successful one during this time with a team that took almost 2 years to finish I think I can help expanding this discussion.

First, you don't wait until you finish a 3 years project to start marketing it. There are ways to know if your game will be popular way before its release date, specially now with the early releases, crowdfunding campaigns, ******* pages and so on.
There is no saturated market that can block the success off a good game imho. Bad marketing can though, and if you think big games are a big risk because you might lose years making a game nobody likes, then you probably aren't too good at it yet.

Big and small games are 2 different markets that requires different approaches. Both can be profitable with almost 0 risks involved, you just need to study and understand which one is better for you. Your game being a big hit and making millions might have some luck involved, but just being successful/profitable? No luck at all. Using the right words in your description, the right tags, pricing, where and when to publish it, all this matters a lot and you need to test and learn those things, because not understanding this can make it seem like it's only about luck and will make it like that for you.
You also must consider that maybe you're actually bad at making games instead of always blaming the market. You can always learn how to make better games unless you keep blaming things outside your control.

It doesn't really matter what works for other people though, you need to be true to what kind of dev you are and what kind of games you'd be happy making. I myself would never be able to spend less than a year making a game and get the results I want, so I stay away from small games for now. To me, making one game per year is making small games. I can barely finish a 15 minutes game for a contest here in a month, I have no idea how some people can finish commercial games so fast, probably because I like to go for complex 'original' systems instead of the basic RPG Maker formula.
The biggest problem in making big games in my opinion is that you can get tired of your own product, so you'll have to fight the urge to start a different game to explore new ideas. You'll also improve your skills during the time you're making it so you'll also have this constant desire of remaking things, so it's not for everyone too :blink:
 

Parallax Panda

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@Musashi

Interesting angle. While I have no such experience, I can agree that it's likely you can lower the risk of a large project by doing certain things. The most obvious would be to do what you said yourself, basically sell the game before it's finished. Early access is one thing, Kickstarter another and in some cases, I guess an active ******* campaign might even work. And if you manage to do that, then yes. You're already getting paid so you would be able to get a sense of how well the game might do.

Although, I have to say that I've looked around and the only RM games I've seen financed with a lot of support on ******* are games which "content" wouldn't allow the devs to publish them on STEAM, this forum or many other platforms anyway. And I think if that's the kind of game you're making (I'm not saying you are), then an active crowdfunding campaign is probably the best way to publish the game since the market is kind of... discriminatory against that particular genre.

I'm not sure I'll agree that luck doesn't play a big part though. Unless you've build a big enough fanbase and reputation that you KNOW you'll sell XZY number of copies, luck is always a big factor. You can migrate some of it with skills and knowledge of course. But unlike large AAA companies that have the funds and resources to heavily influence the market small indie devs usually don't.

I for one is very curious as to what you're doing though so if you like, feel free to shoot me a PM or something with a link.
 

Indinera

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for one is very curious as to what you're doing though so if you like, feel free to shoot me a PM or something with a link
Same, it'd be interesting to know which game(s) it is.
I've made quite a lot of really big games in my career, and I've got a community that digs them, so there's really an opportunity there, if you do have a few games like this up your sleeve. :ninja:
 
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Pots Talos

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Lots of small games is probably the correct answer but I would say make what you envision and have fun doing.

I released my first title last year and it took over 7 years to make and has over 100 hours of gameplay. Sales aren't great on Steam alone but going out to conventions is really where the money comes in, of course this costs money too. Luckily we've made back the money it cost to create the game and the small sales we do get is enough to help fuel our next title which we are making smaller but more custom.
 

Indinera

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100 hours and you skipped a release on my website? :dizzy:
(it's also where the money comes in, especially for such huge games, which my community loves above all else :D for the record I once released a 100 hour-long game too, and it did super well on my website - second best-seller ever - at a price of $29.99)
 
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Musashi

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@Musashi
Although, I have to say that I've looked around and the only RM games I've seen financed with a lot of support on ******* are games which "content" wouldn't allow the devs to publish them on STEAM, this forum or many other platforms anyway. And I think if that's the kind of game you're making (I'm not saying you are), then an active crowdfunding campaign is probably the best way to publish the game since the market is kind of... discriminatory against that particular genre.
Indeed, ******* is way better for the adult games market right now (and Steam accepts those kinds of games now btw), but I've seen regular games have some success there. I'd say the monthly releases is what gives those kind of games some advantage in that platform - releasing a new version every month is insane and most developers can't do it generating enough new content. Anyway, every game has a right platform for it so I believe what I said is still valid for any kind of game.

Yes, I'm making an adult game right now ( so I don't think it's what @Indinera is looking for =P) and I'm preparing to release it on Steam soon as well. Because I focused on making a fun game besides that kind of content, I'll have the chance to release a SFW version if I want (this was my plan since the beginning) and I believe that's a great strategy to fund a game if you have no problems with it :unsure:

@MusashiI'm not sure I'll agree that luck doesn't play a big part though. Unless you've build a big enough fanbase and reputation that you KNOW you'll sell XZY number of copies, luck is always a big factor.
Having a big fanbase is great because you know you'll continue to sell a lot with every new game - you won't have to start again and build your fanbase every time you release a new game, and unless you start making really bad games you know you'll be able to continue to go well. This doesn't mean that the success of your first paid game is based on luck or having a big fanbase. To build a big one you need to constantly release good content/games anyway, so or you know what you're doing, or it's just luck every time.

I know I made a lot of mistakes and didn't go with the more guaranteed ways to make a lot of money (which I learned after I started anyway, but even so they were not the kind of games I wanted to make) and I was still able to make a profitable game, luck definitely wasn't on my side, unless you see having the right skills and noticing a market in a good moment and jumping into it as luck, but it's not xD

I plan to transition back to the SFW market soon though because I have some game ideas I just have to make, so maybe in a few years I'll come back here and say it's all luck :LZSlol:
I'm super open to discuss the market that we can't discuss here and talk about my game with anyone interested, feel free to send me a PM =)
 

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