Navigating educational games can be an arduous process at times. Sometimes games are too blunt in their teaching while most educational games are difficult to find for a variety of reasons. Despite these difficulties there are more games being made every year with the goal to educate people. And a study this year found that 55% of teachers surveyed use games weekly.
Whether selling games and apps directly to consumers or to institutions, there are unique challenges. Sosnik and White find that most developers have great ideas but they are missing one (if not more) pieces of the puzzle. Perhaps they don’t know how to include assessments mapped to standards. Perhaps they don’t understand how to bring an app to scale. Perhaps they struggle with marketing, or engagement, or user interface. Co.lab has designed a program “tailored to the specific needs of games-based learning startups” that brings together “NewSchools Venture Fund’s educational and edtech expertise and Zynga.org’s access to best-in-class talent and resources from the world of commercial games.
Changing policy mandates and funding at the local, state, and national levels, though typically a slow process, will be critical to redefining developmentally appropriate technology use in classrooms.
Simple, clear guidance (e.g., a short fact sheet that defines developmentally appropriate use, public awareness campaigns) could immediately begin to influence ECE providers’ and families’ understanding of appropriate technology use.
To address concerns among early childhood educators about the lack of models or exemplars of effective, appropriate integration of technology into ECE, demonstrations of appropriate use should be developed and distributed to provide support to these educators.
Existing software and application rating systems are useful in providing simple, accessible assessments of media content can help busy or uncertain providers and families, and these types of systems should continue to be supported and updated to provide support.
There is a problem in the independent gaming industry that has been present for years but is gaining attention: there is no solid business plan to follow. For other industries there seems to be some rues, guides, or other ‘rules of thumb’ that startups can use. Not so in the gaming industry.
The gaming industry for independent (small) studios is an uphill battle. It takes more than just a good game and good talent.
This week TechCrunch posted about this problem in the mobile market space: Mobile’s “One Game Wonder” Problem. The notion that all a company needs to do is keep making games until they create the next Flappy Bird to make it successful. There is a problem with that insofar that all these peaks in sales lead to treacherous valleys. From TechCrunch:
It’s barely a year since King unseated Zynga as the number one game maker on Facebook. A long-time purveyor of casual web games to a relatively small audience (30m according to Wikipedia), King had its one game wonder moment with Candy Crush Saga, a match-3 game not dissimilar to Bejeweled but innovative on its own terms. Beautifully produced and highly addictive, it transformed the company’s fortunes and led to a couple of other “Saga” games that rode its coattails. King floated an IPO at $22.50 and seemed unstoppable to some.
But then, not unlike Zynga, suddenly the news has turned sour. Despite generally-increased metrics across the board, revenue expectations have been missed, leading to a confirmation of the suspicion that the company isn’t able to grow. The fear is that the motherlode game has peaked, and with no obvious contended to replace it that means the party could well be over. And so the stock price fell (at time of writing it’s at $13.53).
Sure, that’s an extreme example of very successful companies, but the peaks and valleys happen at all levels. It’s true for mobile and beyond. There are studios that had a great game but are barely heard from again. There are tons of examples of games that fail right from the get-go (here,here,and here).
The takeaway here is: There are a lot of options for publishing your game, and the sands are shifting quickly. Don’t blindly jump into a plan without knowing what your potential audience size is there – talk with others who’ve tried it, read “numbers posts” and be realistic about your expectations. Get to know your distribution partners – their support is crucial to your success.
This leads me to think the only plan one can have is to try to make games!
The problem with that is not everyone can afford to put the time into game development given the low return. Its hard to pay rent and all that jazz when the annual take-home is so low for an independent designer.
Non-salaried solo independent game developers made an average of $11,812 (down 49 percent year-on-year) last year, #indiedev
There are some good guides for marketing your indie game. It was only a few years ago that marketing was frowned upon by indie developers and that good games will get the attention they deserve. That’s not the case anymore. This could be a sign that the indie game studios are learning and growing.
Indeed, Radiangames just posted the sales data on the games they released at Gamasutra. The impact of good marketing is evident (it also shows that having a plethora of games is an advantage). I have no idea how one gets featured on the any app store, I’d like to as it means a greater chance of success:
I feel very fortunate to have my games featured as often as they have, as it means thousands more in sales. At the same time, getting an Apple Editor’s Choice or top banner is worth far more than being in the middle or latter part of the New & Noteworthy list.
Over at the New Statesman (of all places) they look into how the very notion of the one game wonder is bad for both the longevity of the industry and games as a culturally expressive medium. This raises the issue of what we’re sacrificing as a gaming culture to ensure good profits.
The dominant story of this video game-making generation is the one about the struggling artist who made a breakout hit and never needed to work again. As a result, the industry’s conferences obsess over how to make effective moneymaking games or, at very least how to make a sustainable business.
This focus on financial gain rather than artistic gain is, arguably, at risk of turning video games into a cultural backwater. The big business side of the industry is characterised by creative conservatism, sure-fire bets based on bankable precedents.
So what to do?
After writing the above I feel that it paints a gloomy picture of getting into indie game development. As someone who makes independent games for a living I assure you it’s tons of fun and very rewarding (plug for my company Wero Creative). It is possible to make a living off of games even if you don’t make a Flappy Bird. Don’t worry things are good will always be able to cheer you up.
Personally, I know that the lack of a clear business plan is a problem but I also love it. With no clear set way of doing things it means that anything is possible. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the person to shake up the industry with a radical new approach!
Most game projects fail due to scope and ambition, so start small if you’re just starting out. Remember even AAA level games suffer from scope and sometimes stop development because of it.
To encourage a note of optimism here are some ideas to help change the business world of indie games:
Don’t make a business plan, just wing it.
Make games in your spare time as a hobby and hope that one day the revenue will add up.
Don’t just learn how to make games, learn to market them.
Get a publisher.
Check your scope.
Start small and build.
Lastly, here’s the tally of revenue of that Radiangames posted on the sales data.