The games industry is always in flux which is why it appeals to me. When things become static and predictable they also become boring. Game companies seem to reside on a precipice of abject failure or great success. This post will look at the hardships and finish on a positive note.
Raph Koster goes into the current state of the troubling financial scenario with game companies at Gamasutra. Most apps on the app store don’t break even (including games) yet we see games like Flappy Bird come out of seemingly nowhere. As a result, the “smart” companies are taking fewer risks and the path to consumers is harder than before for small companies.
So what happens when markets mature? Well, whoever had the largest piles of money tends to start swallowing up more roles. And they get entrenched, and they stay entrenched until there’s a massive enough shift. In those mature markets, creators have to compete on money. Not creativity. Not innovation. Money. Money in the form of marketing spend, in the form of glossy production values, in the form of distribution reach.
If that’s not depressing enough, at Pixels or Death they have an article with interviews on developers who have dealt with failure. The article was inspired by none other than the talented Alex Bethke.
“In 2010/2011, I was hired as a contractor for a studio to be the lead programmer on a Facebook game which was going to be something like Farmville meets a tower defense game,” Bethke begins. “It was a great project with a ton of personality, but it also inevitably ended up in the ‘failed’ column on my personal score card due to the fact that it only made it to public beta before one of the main partners pulled the marketing budget, dooming the project to obscurity.”
On the brighter side, not only can we learn from the failures and difficulties of people and companies that have come before, we can also learn from success.
The talented people from Vlambeer have created a toolkit that contains “a number of tools, and talks that can help with developing, marketing and releasing games.” They include the ever excellent resource of PixelProspector (which will be revamped this summer).
Just like you were told in kindergarten – try to learn from other peoples mistakes. As adults we can critically assess success and try to replicate it.