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Why Bundles and Steam Sales Aren’t Good for Most Indies

As many of you know, Cardinal Quest programmer & designer Ido Yehieli joined the team last month and is now toiling away at the code for Auro: The Golden Prince.  Today, he’s got an important point to make about the nature of game-pricing in today’s industry, and particularly how these things are affecting independent game developers.

Don’t we all love crazy Steam sales, the Humble Bundles and their newer ilk?  Players get games for cheap, developers get loads of money & sometimes even charities get a nice chuck of change!  A straight up win-win situation, right?

Wrong.

Well, it could be right – but only if you are one of the chosen ones that gets picked by the gate-keepers.  But just like with the App Store race-to-the-bottom, it isn’t for the other 90%+ of us indie game developers.

Changing Expectations

If you strain your memory and try to look back beyond the mists of time and into the long forgotten eons of 5 or 6 years ago, you’d remember that the price for a desktop indie game used to be about $15-20.  A cheap “casual” game would cost you maybe $10, and at these prices if you’d sell a couple of thousand copies you’d have (hopefully) covered your meager development costs & could afford to work on your next game.  Of course not everything was giggles and ponycorns, but people understood that price point to be the expected, normal price of an indie game.  That is, however, no longer the case.

Apples & Valves

Others have written about the abysmal situation at the App Store far more eloquently than I may hope to do myself, so I will spare you of any such futile attempt.  According to experts from CasinoAppList.co.uk, a leading gambling intelligence and facts website, “it’s almost impossible to sell indie-games for iOS or Android that cost more than $1.99.”  The trigger of a similar phenomenon on the desktop is Valve’s digital distribution system & game store – Steam.  Steam has frequent sales in which they often sell games for 50-75% off for a few days, which shoots sales of those games through the roof while making the developers (and even more so, Valve) heaps of money.  The other thing it does tho, is make players expect all games to be priced that way.  That $15 indie game of yesteryear? Might as well be $500 these days.

We Are the Indie 99 Percent

Whilst maybe 1% of indie devs do really well out of such things (with those running the stores/doing the bundles doing even better), it’s made things a whole lot harder for the other 99%.

We’ve now got this tiny minority of ‘super-indies’, that are basically getting the majority of the ‘indie game’ media attention and the majority of the money.

bluescrn

There are thousands of indie games out there.   The vast majority of these do not get into the Humble Bundles. Most of them do not get on Steam, either (Steam’s quality control is extremely uneven and inconsistent, and lets in plenty of shitty games as well as leaving out plenty of good games). Of those that do get on Steam, most never get into lucrative, high-visibility sales.  Saying “just get on Steam/Humble Indie Bundle” is about as helpful as suggesting that you should win the lottery.  It’s not a valid business plan and no one (except maybe the people in Indie Game: The Movie) can guarantee your number will come up.   And the race to the bottom means that if you don’t you will still have to sell your games for a penny on the dollar.

What Can We Do?

Sadly there is not much any of us can do about it. Of course, there are also some positive long-term consequences to the current situation (a lot of people who never played indie games before now do), but as a whole it mostly means that the situation has become even more of a “winner takes it all”.  One thing you can do, is to head to places such as Indievania, DesuraGameolith or even your favorite developers’ web site and buy some little-known indie games at a fair price.

It will probably not be enough to turn the tables, but you might just make a starving little indie’s day a little better.

-Ido.

Speaking of helping out some smaller indies, why not contribute to our Kickstarter campaign for our upcoming game, Auro: The Golden Prince?

idoyehieli • 11/24/2011


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Comments

  1. col000r 11/24/2011 - 12:01 pm Reply

    One positive thing about lower prices: Instead of buying one game for $20, some people will now buy 4 games for $5 each and more developers get a piece of the pie.

    But yeah…Indie doesn’t feel so independent anymore if you can only survive by getting on the AppStore, Steam and into Bundles…

    If you want to help out small developers: Buy directly from their website, that way they get the biggest part of the money.

    • idoyehieli 11/25/2011 - 12:22 pm Reply

      Another thing you have to consider are payment processor fees (e.g. paypal is 3,4 % + €0,35 EUR), which mean that 4x$5 is a lot less than 1x$20 because the base fees are incurred 4 times.

  2. CrazyEoin 11/24/2011 - 12:10 pm Reply

    This is something that I’ve been thinking about recently. I dont really have any kind of proper solution unfortunatly. As you say though it has highlighted the Indie game to the limlight, which is some small thing to be thankful for.

    Prehaps a pick-and-mix approch for the likes of Indievania etc, that is all the indy games are in one place and the user can purchase a bundle of say 5 games for €5/10/what ever and then choose from the huge list what 5 games they want?

    Again, its no solution but might even the playing field and allow buried gems to come to the surface? Thoughts?

    • idoyehieli 11/25/2011 - 12:25 pm Reply

      Right, I don’t think there is a solution, just like there isn’t really a solution to Walmart moving into town and driving mom&pop shops in downtown out of business.

      What I was trying to get through was that there might be long term negative effects to the crazy sales & bundles, and that we should at least acknowledge that among all the praising and cheering.

  3. Milkbot 11/24/2011 - 1:06 pm Reply

    What I like most about Steam isn’t the sales, but the centralization of my games on one platform. I can look through my library. I can see news about projects I’m looking forward to in one place. It has a solid community in which I may chat with friends or compare scores. I’d be more than happy if I could buy a game on an indie’s site and receive a steam key, though I’m pretty sure that steam is still going to take a cut of that. If I could buy from an indie site, so that the developer could receive the highest cut and still receive a steam key, well I would be the happiest little clam about.

    • idoyehieli 11/24/2011 - 1:17 pm Reply

      The problem is not with steam’s cut, but with Steam not even letting some games (which might be better than some other games they do let on) get on the service.

      Since some people *only* buy games on steam you basically have this gate keeper that gets to decide which game is worthy enough to be made available to a wide audience.

      For me the whole point of indie games is experimentation and thinking outside the box, and gate keepers by their very nature hinder that.

    • JohnTDouche 11/24/2011 - 2:40 pm Reply

      To be honest I think this type of “Steam or no sale” attitude to be toxic to the industry and developers. And extremely lazy and apathetic on behalf of those who take this stance. Just because Gabe Newell’s all cuddly and friendly doesn’t make Steam’s monopoly any less damaging.

      I also have a library where all my games are kept and can launch at the click of a button. It’s my games folder on my desktop.

      • idoyehieli 11/25/2011 - 12:28 pm Reply

        I agree.

        Let’s hope at least Desura will be making some headway in that direction, so at least we’d have alternatives.

      • Anthony Thomas 12/02/2011 - 3:38 pm Reply

        How does steam in any way have a monopoly? That is a ridiculous notion. As to them being gatekeepers are you suggesting that they should let anyone put whatever files they want up on steam and label it as a game?

  4. Kriss 11/24/2011 - 3:30 pm Reply

    Steam and humble are problems, not solutions.

    Possibly the worst thing about them is that your audience will blame you if *they* dont select your games for publishing.

    We can call them publishers right?

    I do actually have a crazy plan that both reduces and increases the price of a game as well as bypassing central distribution services and including the marketing feedback loop of a shared deal.

    All I have to do now is build the damn thing and, you know, build something to release using it :)

    • idoyehieli 11/25/2011 - 12:29 pm Reply

      I would like to hear what that plan is!

    • Dock 11/27/2011 - 11:13 am Reply

      Venture capital helps a lot when setting up a publisher or initiative like this, it seems.

      Having an online account, such as Minecraft, has also proven an effective means of publishing. This only really works with online focused games like Minecraft.

  5. Kame 11/24/2011 - 6:30 pm Reply

    Hmm, you say all that and yet: take a look at Dungeons of Dredmor, never part of the HiB, never part of a big steam sale, priced at 4.99, wildly successful.

    My recommendations? Make your games cross-platform, Mac and Linux users have proven time and again they’re willing to pay more for a game than Windows users and it generates free press. And release yourself on more than one distribution service, ie Desura. Users are lazy these days and don’t want to have to go and download updates. I’ll buy a game directly from a devs site if I have to, but I don’t like doing it.

    • Chariblaze 04/02/2012 - 11:40 pm Reply

      And four days later, Dungeons of Dredmor was added to the Humble Introversion Bundle.

  6. arahman32 11/24/2011 - 6:56 pm Reply

    Seriously, Steam isn’t the be-all end-all to sales. If all you can do is whine about sales, that basically means you aren’t either publicizing your game well, or your game is no good. Look at Minecraft, for example. Not on Steam, but still wildly successful. Don’t just rely on Steam or HiB, try publicizing it well, and if your game is good, sales will quickly come rolling in.

  7. Adam 11/24/2011 - 7:41 pm Reply

    Steam and HIB bring new consumers to the indie market. Are you seriously reminiscing about the era where indies had no viable distribution channels?

    Your hardcore indie gamers from 5-6 years ago aren’t likely to change their habits because of Steam. They didn’t need it before and they don’t need it now. If their money was enough to survive before, why isn’t it now?

    The only difference now is that there is even more money coming in from people who didn’t buy indie games before. I’ll grant you that you aren’t getting a big slice of that pie, but it’s still more than what you were getting before.

  8. Nicholas Lovell 11/24/2011 - 10:56 pm Reply

    You are misdiagnosing the problem. It’s not about Steam or humble indie bundles; it’s about technology and economics.

    Basically, making one more copy of an indie game costs nothing (or as close to nothing as makes no odds). So smart business people are looking for ways to make more money by selling the game at a lower price. When the cost of making one more copy is nothing, it costs you nothing to give the game away for free or at a very reduced price.

    This issue isn’t going away. There is no mileage in worrying about how to keep prices up. They are trending to zero; now work out how to make money from that.

  9. John 11/25/2011 - 3:15 am Reply

    @Nicholas

    > it costs you nothing to give the game away for free

    But let’s not forget the cost to create the game in the first place.

    The way I see it, I predict in-game ads.

    • idoyehieli 11/25/2011 - 12:31 pm Reply

      And this is already the way mobile and flash games are going.

      I am hoping tho that it doesn’t extend into *all* games.

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  11. Lawrie 11/25/2011 - 12:21 pm Reply

    @Nicholas

    If I don’t go into work today, it didn’t cost me anything, I didn’t have to pay for a day off. But I lost the opportunity to make X amount. Opportunity costs. Right now I’m developing an indie title, it costs me nothing to make, but I’m missing the opportunity to make £20k+ a year as a programmer.

    The whole point of the article is about peoples idea of the average cost of a game. If we look at starbucks, it’s going to cost around £3 for a coffee, people are accustom to that price, when you think whether you’re prepared to pay that for a coffee, you don’t think about £3 could get you an indie game (or 4) with several hours entertainment, you compare it to other coffee shops. This is called price anchoring in behavioral economics and it’s a powerful force.

    The article is saying that prices used to be higher and people were happy to pay it, it was the average, it was expected. The opportunity has been lost to make the old prices.

    PS. I don’t personally know if it has been good or bad overall, trying to quantify the increased revenue for all games outside of bundles and steam because of increased visibility of indie games as a whole is pretty impossible. Working out if people have anchored to a new lower price is much easier to quantify, and I think it’s true.

  12. Pekka Väänänen 11/25/2011 - 1:20 pm Reply

    If everyone else is selling at $1.79 on the AppStore, why won’t you for example offer 1/3 your game for free then, and let the users pay if they’d like to have more content? Free-to-play is just shareware all over again, and it might be just what you need.

    Also, being a true underdog can be beneficial too: you can provide personal customer support and interact directly with your games’ community. You could also try to find an unsatisfied niche, and sell your game at a premium price (>$20.00) to such people. Does it really matter if you make five $5.00 sales or just one big?

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  14. Steve 11/25/2011 - 4:33 pm Reply

    One way to mitigate this is to make sure your games are cross-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux). Larger audience pool and non-Windows platforms do pay more (sometimes considerably more), plus you can get media coverage easier, because you’re in a smaller pond.

  15. Robert Boyd 11/25/2011 - 5:52 pm Reply

    Hi, this is Robert Boyd from Zeboyd Games here (Cthulhu Saves the World). Our games have been successful (100k+ on Steam at $3 in about 4 months) but we’re not rich or anything like that. A few comments.

    I think people are looking at the past with rose tinted glasses. Sure, all the indies sold their games for $10-20 back in the day, but how many of them were actually successful at those prices? I daresay the percentage wasn’t any better back then than it is now. If anything, I imagine it was probably much worse. You never heard about indie developers making millions 10 years ago but that’s not unheard of these days.

    There are what, hundreds of new indie games coming out EVERY single day when you count the PC, smartphones, and consoles. There’s no way that anyone can keep up with that kind of volume, so of necessity, some games are going to get a lot more attention than others. It’s disappointing when a good indie game gets overlooked, but that’s just the nature of the business (and it happens for many good retail games as well).

    One of the great advantages to Steam is that there is a gatekeeper. When you have 3-6 new indie games coming out every week, they can afford to give good publicity to each one. If they had 300-700 new indie games coming out every week, they couldn’t and individual sales would suffer.

    You can still sell your games for $10-$20 and be successful, assuming you have a high quality game, good publicity, and get on a major distribution service. Some recent examples of huge hits include Orcs Must Die ($15), Dungeon Defenders ($15), and Terraria ($10). These all sold six digit figures at a relatively high price tag over a very short period of time. And of course, there’s always Minecraft.

    The fact of the matter is that these days, the indie game field is drastically more competitive than it was 10 years ago. The tools are better (and often free), the marketplaces are better (Steam, XBLA, the App Store, etc.), and customers are used to the idea of buying indie games online now. The downside is that with the increased competition, you need to do more to be successful. You need to make a high quality game that stands out from the crowd, but just as importantly, you need to promote it effectively. I think promotion is one area that most indie developers fail at. They make a good game and think that’s enough. It really isn’t with so many games out there.

    Oh and Indie Royale got like a hundred submission in the first week. If they say, “Interesting game, we might get back to you next year.” they’re not just giving you a polite rejection email – they’re swamped and they’re trying to work their way through all of the good games that have already been submitted.

  16. Ksempac 11/25/2011 - 9:57 pm Reply

    I’m an indie fan here, but only as a gamer, I’m not a dev (or at least not a game dev). And I do not agree with your analysis for 2 reasons :
    – 5 or 6 years ago wasn’t such a great time for indies.
    – Second I’m happy Steam acts as a gate keeper.

    It so happens that, as a gamer, I do remember indies games from 5 or 6 years ago. I was a student at that time, which mean I had a lot of time, but not much money and an old PC. Therefore I started to look at indie games to find cheap, good games, that I could play on my crappy computer.

    Yes, at that time, the indie game price was often 15 or 20$. But the thing is no one knew about them, because the indie game was a small community, where everyone knew everyone, but no one outside the community knew about it.
    Moreover, games took years to complete, and it was unthinkable for a dev to drop its daily job and focus and his game, because he knew he couldn’t live from it. This means there were few games with enough content to be sold (many of them were more like tech demos), and often with limited technology.
    One thing was very symptomatic of that. 5 or 6 years ago, there was a game which was still in development, and never showed to more than a handful of selected people. Yet that game still managed to rack multiple indies awards for several years. That game was Braid. Everyone was waiting for it, as a kind of messiah of the community

    Then the Xbox360 came out and Microsoft did two great things. Not only did they created the XBLA, but they also managed to got Braid on it. That was the spark that was needed. Slowly, everyone gamer heard about Braid, and then discovered that there were such a thing as an “indie game”.

    And now several years later, we have indie devs who can quit their daily jobs, and manage to live of their Steam sales. Yes most people will grab their game for 5$ in a Steam sale, but on the whole it’s still a lot more money than before. Common gamers now buy and talk about indie games, even weird/unconventional ones such as the binding of Isaac.

    That brings me to my second point, the gate keeper. As I said, I’m only a gamer, i do not know the conditions to be accepted by Steam. Like every selection, it may be flawed. Maybe the process could be more clear, or slightly improved, but I do want them to make a selection, to be a gate keeper.

    You mentioned Indievania ? I went to Indievania, the day they opened. Yes there were good games that aren’t on Steam. But there was also a lot more bad games, including a VVVVVV knock-off, which was horrible and had a name clearly intented to confuse consumers.

    Indievania ? No thank you. I do not think you help indie games by accepting to sell everyone of them. Devs that make good games get lost in the sea of crap, wherease the consumer has to waste hours to find one good game in the list (I’ve now got a job, I’ve more money and less time). At least on Steam, if a game is in the list, there is a good chance it’s good.

    Finally, I would like to say that as long as Steam promotes indie games, it will benefit all games, including the ones not on Steam. Why ? because it keeps indie games in the mind of gamers. And if they know about them, they will follow them on twitter, facebook, etc.. I came here because I’m a twitter follower of Robert Boyd. I also follow notch who oftens tweet about one new indie game he heard about, which prompts half a million followers (!!!) to check it out.

    Heck, I already know about Auro. I can’t remember if I heard about it on Gamasutra or through an indie dev on Twittter, but it’s proof that indie games are everywhere. 5 or 6 years ago ? You would have been invisible, excepts to a few die-hard fans/friends.

  17. Colin Walsh 11/26/2011 - 5:48 pm Reply

  18. motorsep 11/27/2011 - 5:30 am Reply

    I agree 100% with the author! Steel Storm: Burning Retribution participated in the HIB3, we were promised super sales due to the bundle, huge marketing and the most important thing – the user base. We were paid fixed sum, ~0.5% from what HIB3 made. As I suspected, we got no extra sales (sales dipped everywhere because “thanks” to HIB our game’s market got saturated), virtually no extra helpful marketing and the worst thing ever – there is no way we have been able to reach people who got our game through HIB3. According to HIB people, those customers are their’s and unless it benefits HIB, they will not move a finger to reach those people and let them know about new stuff we have for the users. It sucks. I do not believe in all these charity bundles. The organizers make money using some one else’s product.

  19. Brandon R. 11/27/2011 - 11:50 am Reply

    I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I feel sort of bad for indie developers, since there seems to be little doubt that most of them have been backed into a corner by the current pricing/distribution standards and aren’t getting paid enough for their hard work.

    On the other hand, as someone who just wants to play fun games, I am endlessly pleased by ridiculously low sales prices on Steam and crazy cheap Humble Bundle deals, and would not trade either for anything. Indie developers may be out there living in hobo jungles rubbing their hands together over trashcan fires, but inside I’m safe and warm and happy, paying $5 or less for games that I’ll be playing for dozens of hours each.

    I wish I could say otherwise, but I think in the end I prefer low, low prices, even if that means that most indie developers are going to shrug, say “Eff this noise, I can make more money flipping burgers or answering phones,” and get out of the business entirely.

  20. Andrew P 11/27/2011 - 12:33 pm Reply

    Gabe N. has always stated their intention is to promote and aid Indie developers. The problem here isn’t what Steam is doing it’s what they aren’t doing. They aren’t expanding their Indie base rate fast enough due to their “quality commitment” and required testing taking so much time.

    Should it really be up to them or the Humble Bundle outfit to ensure access to all Indie developers? Not in my opinion. The cream rises to the top and if a game is really good word of mouth and developer persistence will make it a success somehow.

    There is a small and recently developed indie game called “The book of unwritten tales” that few people have ever heard of yet but will be soon. It is already receiving excellent reviews on Metacritic with a few positive player ratings.

    Why? Because the developer has apparently done an exceptional job creating his/her game. The only way to currently buy it is through their website or on Amazon and it has a steep price of around $30. They know they have a good thing in their hands, They have a professional website and I’m betting their game is a modest if not immense success.

    Game developers aren’t always the best businessmen, marketing agents or PR reps. Aligning themselves with others who are will do more for their games than crying over the dog eat dog nature of the business.

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  22. RoundhouseKitty 11/27/2011 - 2:55 pm Reply

    Interesting article! It’s worth noting, though, and I know this is only about Steam and other visible games, that you forgot to keep in mind that sales also encourage impulse purchases – like mine. I’ve found myself buying games I would not have bought at all otherwise during sales or promotions. :)

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  25. Ady Carter 11/27/2011 - 6:43 pm Reply

    What if any impact on the revenue model is the almost subscription based income from OnLive bringing?

    Anyone looked much into it, their “playpack” subscription package seems pretty full of indie titles

  26. Nuno Cruz 11/27/2011 - 8:41 pm Reply

    Minecraft

  27. SM 11/28/2011 - 12:14 am Reply

    I feel like I just listened to a whiny actress tell me that there are too many other pretty chicks in L.A..

    • Bryce Pelletier 11/28/2011 - 2:18 pm Reply

      Yeah I have to agree! As an active Steamer and developer I can say that I DO NOT expect indie games to be uber cheap. I know they cost money to make an so do all the gamers that I play with that buy indie games. The fact of the matter is that not every indie game is great let alone good. So, yeah, if I am going to spend $15 on a game I want it to be awesome. Titles like Scorgasm, Braid, Frozen Synapse, Xotic and such are what I consider worth the $15. Not all indie games are even close to that level of fun and each of these games has room for improvement, which leads me to the question of when are indie developers going to stop bitching and start building together. Indie game dev is not a place that 90% of people are going to make a bunch of money and it never has been! You said it yourself, “A cheap “casual” game would cost you maybe $10, and at these prices if you’d sell a couple of thousand copies you’d have (hopefully) covered your meager development costs”. It’s always been about breaking even, but that 1% never intended to “break-even”. They poured everything they had into a game and got a number of other good devs to contribute. It’s time to learn by example, not complain about the obvious.

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  29. Ywen 11/28/2011 - 10:26 pm Reply

    Humble Bundle are not to me a way to pay a cheap price.
    They are to me a way to have good indie games ported under Linux.
    Desura has recently taken this way, that’s a good thing.
    Being multiplatform is a condition for an indie games ro reach some success.

  30. Mazen Abdallah 11/29/2011 - 12:07 am Reply

    Indie Bundles may lower the price people are accustomed to paying for indie games, but they also make buying games in general a better option. It’s likely that someone would be an insensitive douche and believe that he’s entitled to games for less, but it’s just as likely that this person would believe he was entitled to them for free. If it’s Bundles vs. Piracy then I’ll choose bundles. And that’s just the pirates. If you even buy games on PC, you’re a considerate enough person to know that you should give developers their due, so I very much doubt you’re going to assume a sale means all games everywhere should be cheaper

    Plus, on top of that, sales are not a novel concept by any stretch. They’re just a sales tactic. Every other business has them, it makes sense that indie will also have them at some stage.

    As for Steam as a gatekeeper, I think we’re entitled to some numbers on such a claim. Yes, there are indies that aren’t on Steam but I think you have yet to establish that many of those indies didn’t want to go the steam route to begin with for one reason or another. I wouldn’t go as far as characterizing the indies that make steam sales the 1%, considering their recent fall sale had nearly 300 titles on it. Steam deserve credit for giving indie titles good placement alongside AAA titles ( there are 4 indies on their front page right now) and promoting titles that platforms like XBLIG neglect.

    You have to admit at the end, that while bigger platforms aren’t as sweet as people make them out to be, they do offer chances for developers with smaller titles to make it big. A pretty sizeable amount of small developers, I imagine.

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  35. motorsep 01/08/2012 - 5:17 pm Reply

    Steam give indies a good placement? Muahahaha. Are you on Steam as a developer? Cos I am and I know too well how it works.

    Indeed, upon release your game is placed with any other game, so you appear to be equal to AAA titles. However, after the first week on Steam, indies are not treated the same as AAA title. Please don’t forget that Steam is no charity. They are there for money. So if your game didn’t become instant hit, you are screwed. You don’t get to see the front page, you don’t get to have Mid Week Madness deal, your DLCs are not going to be on the front page and even to get into that little space of “Featured games” on the front page your game has to show certain sales.

    Plus, UDK and Source based titles are “special” (judging by the number of promotions these titles get).

    So Steam is a huge help for indies, I don’t deny it. However, it’s only good for so long. It doesn’t solve the issue of games becoming a shovelware.

  36. Michael 01/15/2012 - 1:46 am Reply

    It’s funny to me to hear people pining for the golden age of 15 dollar indie games sales who (I imagine) also snicker at the record industry trying to protect their own hides with outdated business practices.

    You can’t make niche games that only apply to a couple of people anymore if you want to make money. It’s not any bundle’s fault that it’s like that, in fact it’s the exact opposite.

    The main flaw in your argument is how much easier it is to get exposure nowadays. BUY SOME ADVERTISING! You can get ads EVERYWHERE for much less money then ever before. (Incidentally, I bet most people who hold your point of view have adblock on 100 percent of the time).

    The whole thing reeks to me of wanting to have your cake and eat it too. “I want to make ART! beautiful, unique, snowflake art that expresses my innermost feelings! And you know what, I ALSO want it to sell like crazy.”

    To say that the humble indie bundle does anything but increase exposure for indie games as a whole (how many indie games were selling like crazy before it?) is nothing but sour grapes since your own game isn’t selling.

    Buy some advertising, hype yourself up, make a great product and sell the shit out of it. If you want to make money in this or any industry you have to be a businessman. Successful businessmen don’t complain about the playing field, they figure out how to win the game.

  37. order fullfillment for distribution 02/10/2012 - 5:36 am Reply

    Truly when someone doesn

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  40. Anon 02/15/2012 - 9:12 am Reply

    Well, it’s obvious you can’t have people’s attention on ALL indies, even if it’s your job you’ll miss some of them. There’s so many people making indie games I don’t have the time to read about all of them – and playing them all is just plain impossible.

    Oh, and a lot of indie games are just bad, or not funny, or not adapted to the current gamers/market (= are not fun for the audience of 2012).

    Even with the best business model ever, the market for wargames or indie isometric-3D or 2D RPG will never grow that much, gamers’ pockets won’t suddenly be full of money, gamers’ minds won’t be full buying impulses, gamers’ free-time won’t suddenly grow.

    A lot of indie developers want the happy side of “doing what they want”, they want to forget these publishers, the “evil” old system preventing them from creating their games like they would like to. But these evil publishers are mainly the result of the market and the current generation of gamers. People are buying Activision/EA games because they want that kind of games, because they accept to be greatly influenced by marketing campaigns, because they do NOT want to make additional efforts when choosing their games, because they accept peer pressure as a valid factor in their choices.

    SuperMeatBoy was at the right place, at the right time, contacted the right people in the media/blogosphere/etc, marketed the game to the right people. But suddenly, many indie developers thought “OMG OLD-SCHOOL PLATFORMERS ARE BACK” and even right now, there is hundreds of indie devs making their platformers. I’m not joking.

    They just got it wrong : there WAS an opportunity for a hardcore platformer like SMB at that time.
    What the indie had to do was : Why SMB worked ? How that opportunity showed up ? How did the SMB devs identified and targeted that opportunity ? And which opportunities are most likely to be open for us in the next 2-3-4-5 years ?

    Same with the multiplayer indie games, requiring more than 10 players simultaneously to become playable/enjoyable. What were they thinking ?! gosh…

    Thinking that your game will work only because it is good and/or original is totally missing the whole point of the entertainment market (“market” doesn’t mean “traditional retail/digit publishing market”, this is the whole market we’re talking about here), people have a specific and limited amount of money, time and buying impulse to spend, you have to accept it.

    If your objective is making a living out of it (it implies a LOT of consequences), you have to do what the publishers are doing : calculating risks, evaluating opportunities and market trends. The only differences with the publishers are :
    – you need a lower amount of benefits per project to be viable
    – you have the ability to target smaller and more specific opportunities (= you have more flexibility)

    But :
    – you can’t get funds from shareholders and banks
    – you can’t target bigger opportunities (both in terms of manpower and marketing power)
    – you’re heavily dependant on the project benefits (= need to pay the rent)

    You still need to sell licenses (aka “copies”) to earn money.

    It’s like all the kids going to the art univ or dropping out, wanting to live out of their music/art.

    At first they pretend “bah I don’t need money I’ll sleep on the couch and eat whatever I can find/people give me”. Noble intentions.

    Then, for the music kids, they realize they need instruments, sounds equipment, a phone and the numbers/addresses to get gig opportunities (= they need a manager/to become their own manager), they need transport (car/van), they need a structure to record and sell their songs (recording CDs, burning them and selling them, and/or setting up a website + selling it on all platforms like itunes).

    Then they realize they need to pay a lawyer, to negociate contracts and royalties rights, to be able to sue the big recording company when they’re not paying them or stealing their songs.

    They also realize they need a steady flow of money to live decently, to get an access to culture, to have a partner, to have friends, to have kids, and so on.

    Then they realize it’s extremely hard as an artist to get a steady flow of cash, so they need to either work for an agency, or pick up as much on-demand work as they can, or aim for project with a bigger pay. They’re now working like an employee, or like a slave.

    Pretending you’ll only live off your “pure” art is pretty childish. You’re never free, you never do “what you want”. Society hates freedom, everyone have to deal with it.

    People who think they’re really doing what they want, are simply accepting it needs to be your hobby.

    But even then they only *think* they’re free, when they’re actually not free at all.

    In fact, you’re greatly limited by yourself (=> you’re defining your own “market”) : you don’t have unlimited time, you’re only enjoying (since hobbies have to be enjoyable, or they become chores) specific things, you will get bored of the same activity overtime, and your tastes will change one day.

    Many programmers making games for fun reported similar difficulties around their personal projects : some have a hard time starting their project, knowing what to do first, so they rarely even see “if it would work out good” ; while some others are always starting new projects, then dropping them halfway because they lost interest in it.

    You never do what you want. Accept it.

  41. IndieGames.com - The Weblog Indie Game Links: Bundle Du Jour
  42. Anon 02/15/2012 - 11:33 am Reply

    “If you want to make money in this or any industry you have to be a businessman. Successful businessmen don’t complain about the playing field, they figure out how to win the game.”
    QFT

    Also, listen to Robert Boyd, he’s saying true words. Indie devs really need to learn how to promote their games.

    Also, Steam and Indie Bundles aren’t driving the price down for gamers. There is just too many games on the market, while the actual potential customers growth didn’t keep up with that speculation bubble : even if the amount of roguelikes players doubled, the amount of roguelikes available on the market more than quadrupled.

    With that in mind, when people see an indie game, they don’t think “oh, I’m really lucky, that’s a new original game ! they are so rare these days !”, instead they see it as “oh, yet another indie game, whatever”.
    => That’s why the connection between the userbase and the devs actually weakened, you can’t be an hardcore fan of 20 bands at the same time.
    => That’s also why people still have the same gaming budget, but it’s spread over many more titles (even if they don’t play most of them).

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  44. We pay you CASH 03/30/2012 - 8:47 pm Reply

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  45. Galebourn 04/03/2012 - 5:11 am Reply

    It’s sad that indie bundles make it so hard for other indie developers these days.
    Still, I think that many games that would have been released for free some years ago (as flashgames on newgrounds or other websites) are now turned into commercial games.
    Many games I got from the indie bundles are just bad and it makes me sad that these developers get the money but others do not. I miss the times when you could play through a game, today most indie games are puzzle platformers and dungeon crawlers without any goal whatsoever. That’s why I had way more fun with Wizorb than with most of the indie bundles I bought in the last few months. Yet, I think Indie Royale at least did something to help other indie developers as well: I and many other people got into Desura. I never used it before but since then I bought many games there (Some of them are bad as well, but that’s beside the point).
    I also agree that Steam’s quality control sucks, I still don’t understand how they could reject an awesome game like Deponia so many times.

  46. Sidben 04/03/2012 - 9:38 am Reply

    Just leaving me 2 cents here.

    In my case, developers are not losinh sales. Steam got me out of piracy, the sales are cheaper than going out and buying the pirate CD. Pirate indie games can also be easily found if you know where to look too.

    If wasn’t for the huge discounts and bundles, I just wouldn’t buy thes games. The only indie games I would buy full price are Minecraft and Reccetear, and I would never pay $30,00 or more for any game, even before Steam. The last big game I bought was Warcraft 3.

    On the other hand, I don’t buy any game on Steam that isn’t at sale price (only 2 exceptions so far, both the Carpe Fulgur games). I also find myself avoiding to buying indie games because I know they may end up in a bundle some time soon.

    It’s not actually a “lost sale”, if the game wasn’t cheap, I would not buy it.

  47. metal572 04/03/2012 - 6:13 pm Reply

    I will agree that steam should allow more indie games on their store. If people are willing to buy it then why should they care is how I see it. And I will also agree that the idea of only buying something if it is on steam is ridiculous. I love steam and have many games on it, But if I want a game that is not on steam I still buy it. However I don’t agree that people think ALL indie games should be 5 bucks or anything like that. For example, I just bought 3 indie games for 14.99 each (granted one of them, jamestown, included the soundtrack and dlc) on steam. Am I a bit sad I missed the bundle that had 2 of these games in it? Sure. But They are still worth the money. To be honest the indie bundles have exposed me to games I probably wouldn’t have played otherwise. For example I recently completed VVVVVV, and I loved it! If it wasn’t for the humble bundle I never would have even known about it. Virtually every market has “those” products that get all the attention and popularity, it is just how the world works. Also, if anyone happens to know of some really good indie platformers (other than things like braid and VVVVVV and super meatboy) please do share.

    • metal572 04/03/2012 - 6:32 pm Reply

      Also, the indie bundles have undoubtedly contributed a great deal to indie games as a whole. I dont remember indie gaming being so popular 2 or 3 years ago, but now everyone is playing an indie game (be it minecraft,terarria,smb,braid,osmos,killing floor,jamestown, or anything else). Plus the bundles make it very easy to FIND the games. I tried indievania and I think their selection is a bit lacking. If I only look at games for pc, that are released and in english, the list is about 250 games. There are thousands of indie games, and it seems most of them arent on indievania, desura, or steam. So it seems one problems is that most indie games arent made easily accessible (Not saying all games should be on steam, but they should at least be easy to find if you expect many sales. and yes, i did look on google for “indie platformers”.

  48. Andy Hughes 04/12/2012 - 12:23 pm Reply

    Good. Your cheap shit isn’t worth more than a couple of quid.

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  53. InterPreneur 01/29/2015 - 11:23 am Reply

    Well as a business man, I have to say your article is quite depressing. I find the theme interesting, as well as your opinions. But fortunately, no one made it in business thinking that way. Maybe Steam’s approval process is steep, and it’s hard to get selected for a Humble Bundle. Why though? Is your product good enough? Are there not 20 more bundle sites than humble? Have you used everything in your power to make your game enticing to new players? If “getting into Steam or Humble” is the only way to go about it then why don’t you?

    If you believe that your game is not good enough, make it better. If you think it’s better, then work on your marketing skills.

    If you have a good game, there will be thousands of willing players to spend hours with it. But not if you don’t show it to them.

    The competition can always be overthrown, heck you still see games on humble etc. that sell without any steam cards or achievements. Without controller support when there should be etc. The most features you have, the wider the audience you can capture.

    Well it’s not a secret, probably more than half of these thousands of bundles are selling to people that want to boost their steam levels.

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