Polygon has an article up about the challenges of indie game devs, focusing around the fact that there are so many games being made and released on Steam that it’s hard to stand out. It reminded me of my post back in 2017, and especially the discussion in the comments section between myself and Raph Koster, which is well worth checking out again, and not just because I was right again about the next PUBG coming along (Fortnite).
This quote from the Polygon article really stuck out to me though?
He relates a story of a developer friend of his who lives just down the block who obsessively combs through SteamSpy and other public data, trying to pinpoint the perfect genre to strike, but remains paralyzed by a lurking sense of uncertainty, the buck and jolt of a market stuffed to the gills with excellent games.
So we have a (presumably) struggling indie dev trying to dig into Steam sale numbers to find the perfect time to launch a game in the perfect genre to profit. You know what’s missing from all of that? Said indie dev having a great idea for a great game and making it. Wild huh? Do you think Minecraft, ARK, Stardew Valley, Banished, PUBG, or LoL came about because someone picked the perfect genre at the perfect time, or because the people behind those games were passionate about an idea and ran with it?
I also find the whole complaint about too many games a bit comical. The ONLY reason there are ‘too many’ games is because there are too many devs, and the ONLY reason there are too many devs is because too many people want to get into that line of work. The ‘problem’ really is self-correcting.
Additionally, we have to accept the fact that most indie devs just aren’t good at what they do. They make bad games with bad marketing plans and bad business models because they don’t have the ability to do better. Gamer time is limited, especially, as the article points out, since we have titles like PUBG/Fortnite eating an inordinate amount of gamer time with no real end in site (how very MMO-like of them, eh?), so why would you play a game made by an average dev when there are tons of titles made by top 10% or higher devs? And that’s the problem most people don’t want to accept; being average at anything that’s highly competitive means you are likely to fail. I’m sorry (I’m not), but that’s just how the world works.
If the bottom half of all Steam games disappeared overnight, the average game dev would still struggle, because the average player still isn’t going to have time (even if they have the money) to play something average in what is easily the golden age of gaming. Gamers are absolutely spoiled right now not simply with choices, but with top-tier choices in almost all genres. That’s great for all gamers, even the average ones, but it’s a tough environment for the average dev.