Good article for home coders. (gamedaily)
Tips for The Independent Developer
It's not easy being an independent developer, especially during a time when it's becoming more and more expensive to make games. But there are ways to get around that if you know what opportunities to look for. Jon Goldman (right), CEO of Foundation 9, shares some of his survival strategies for independent developers.
As the industry makes the transition from current-gen consoles to the next-gen platforms, video game companies will need to adjust their strategies to make the most of what can be a turbulent period for some. Independent developers in particular may need to think carefully about how they wish to proceed as the cost of making games continues to rise.
GameDAILY BIZ tapped the mind of Jon Goldman, Chief Executive Officer of Foundation 9 Entertainment, which is currently the largest independent developer in North America. Goldman shares his viewpoint on the indie scene, challenges facing independent developers, and survival strategies.
"I think there are two challenges I can point to. One is the proliferation of what appear to be viable platforms, so it's very possible that all of these platforms are viable and there won't be examples like Dreamcast where they go away. That means you need to make a much bigger technology investment in a lot of platforms... The second challenge of course is financial based on what the publishers are facing. If you look at any of the analyst reports on publishers, [the revised earnings] is going to cause them to put pressure on development budgets as well," Goldman explains.
"And just as you're getting new platforms that are 'bigger and badder,' I expect there's going to be a lot of concern and caution on the part of publishers and how much they want to spend on these new platforms so that's going to create some strain on next-gen."
["You can't just hope that you're going to go into a meeting with a publisher, have a good idea together, and that publisher is going to spend tens of millions of dollars on you. You've got to invest in yourself and take the risk out of the equation for the publisher."]
Pushing for originality
Unfortunately this caution can also contribute to the oft mentioned "sequelitis" syndrome the industry currently faces, as publishers are more averse to taking risks on original ideas.
"The way we look at it is we've got to take more risk and we've got to queue up those original ideas further; we've got to take them beyond the concept stage and in some cases beyond the first playable stage to the point where [like] we've done on previous projects where we were actually helping to shape the other media opportunities around it, so that we can help take the risk out of it and actually get an original deal done with a publisher," says Goldman. "And for a lot of independent developers it's going to be harder—and I'm not saying it's going to be easier for us—but you're going to have to spend more resources and take more risks to get something original started. And consumers want that too. They don't want to just play version 4 of a game."
Not all independent developers are built like Foundation 9, however. What if they don't have the resources to forge other media opportunities to lessen the risk associated with new IP? Goldman suggests that these developers should perhaps enter into partnerships, thereby pooling resources—Foundation 9, after all, is an amalgamation of 5 different independent developers.
"I would encourage them to take the sort of approach that we've taken to building size, drawing together with like-minded groups. I also think that if you're a developer person, you need to have somebody in your organization who's spending all their time on the business side of things. We also amassed resources by working banking relationships; you know, simple, boring things like that that allow you to have the resources to invest. But it does come down to building a pool of resources that you can invest in yourself. You can't just hope that you're going to go into a meeting with a publisher, have a good idea together, and that publisher is going to spend tens of millions of dollars on you. You've got to invest in yourself and take the risk out of the equation for the publisher."
As for the independent developers that are so small that they are literally working out of a garage, Goldman says, "I think those guys need to get into a larger organization one way or another because put yourself in the shoes of a publisher; would you make a $15 or $20 million bet on some guys in a garage and say, 'You go hire 40 of your friends and figure out how to set up a company'?"
Look for market opportunities
Another possibility for independent devs that are just getting started is to look at areas that typically are less resource intensive, such as mobile gaming. "Alternately, they have to find market opportunities such as mobile or online that can be addressed with 3, 4 or 5 or 10 guys in a garage. Or they can specialize in a particular area that they can own. Maybe they can focus on design services or some particular part of the equation. [But] the risk there is that you don't get to own and commercialize the IP; you just set yourself up as a vendor," Goldman warns.
"But I think for people who want to participate on the next-gen console side of things, just very bluntly you need some size and scale to be able to compete there, let alone have a good idea, just to be a credible production resource."
Goldman says independent developers should be careful not to get caught up in the next-gen hype, however. "People who really want to make games need to look at the expanding market for games and not get caught up in a particular platform. Interactive play is expanding everywhere LCD screens and memory are becoming available. There are lots of opportunities to be that small start-up in a garage that may not be for making PlayStation 3 games in 2006."
One potentially big opportunity for independent devs is digital distribution, which enables them to avoid the complications of retail. Whether through the PC or a service like Xbox Live Arcade, games offered digitally with mass-market appeal can be advantageous for the indie scene.
"The expanding mass market is a great place to be, not only creatively, but financially. You know, all the people who are serious gamers now or 5 years ago or 10 years ago are entering a different life stage and may not have the time to play the sort of games that game developers may ideally want to create. So there are opportunities to create interesting games for this expanding mass market; the development risk will be lower financially, so that means you can recruit more quickly and therefore make profits more quickly and then apply those profits back into your creative endeavors or for some people making money is an end unto itself. But I think there are going to be lots of opportunities for people who think outside the box and look where people are playing as opposed to looking where they want to make games."
by James Brightman
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Just out of curosity, assembler do you have any plans to release games?
The problem with "Releasing games" for a platform, is even if you have Dev tools (which are prohibitively expensive to most), you have no license to make said games. The best you could do is like what was done with KallistOS for the Dreamcast, and ride on the ambiguity of copyright law by deving for a system with your own dev tools.
THEN you need a manufacturer and a distributer (Unless its a dreamcast game... then you can offer an ISO). Good luck with that.
I think one of the main points of the article was to say that smaller dev houses should band together to amass enough capital so they could qualify for real publishing liscenses. These days you'd never get anywhere unliscensed, best case senario: you write a cool game and use it in your resume to get hired into a bigger developer. Manufacturing is trivial, if you have the cash, you can get your disc stamped (cart based platforms are a bit different, as you still need a liscense).
That's my plan...
Originally Posted by ProgrammingAce
Realistic entry level opportunities with near 0 technology investment: PC (Steam or clone of it), Xbox 360 Live Arcade (Flash), GBA
And if you can tell me where I can submit a game for the Xbox 360 Live Arcade, I will go learn Flash...
Put together a working prototype that's fun and addicitve and you can get it published on Arcade. If you don't want to use Flash, put it together in C++ or C#. Prototype has to come first, but once you've got it up and running, getting the dev kit is the easy part.
Originally Posted by mairsil
My advice? Buy a 360 wired controller if you don't already have one and put together a version of your game on the PC that works with said controller. Then, come back here and post about it. Kev can verify this with server logs if he likes, but more than a few people from Redmond hit this site on a regular basis.
I make more money than a programmer... less hours and less stress, so no.. no games from me.
Yeah, I plan to use willing members of the community as "beta testers" (i.e. guinea pigs) when I get things to a workable point. Sadly, this probably won't be until after my doctoral qualifiers in May.
Originally Posted by hl718