Inside this article, you're going to learn how to transition from being a game dev modder, hobbyist, employee, freelancer to a successful owner of a video games company.
If video game dev is just a hobby to you, that's great. But if you're stuck in your life... you hate your job, you hate what you do... you hate people looking down at you because you are a "gamer" and you make video games... and you want to become a success, then you need to learn what I'm about to teach you.
What I'm about to teach you is NOT boring technical stuff. It's not about how to incorporate. It's not about how to write business plans. Business plans are just "business guesses" anyway.
No. What you'll learn are the non-obvious business basics most game devs never grasp. And because most indie game devs don't grasp these basics, they often fail at their goals.
So, stop this video, stop reading. Go get your favourite drink. Put on your favourite video game soundtrack. Come back, and let's learn some new insights about business basics so you can build a successful video games studio and make some good money!
Here's your first business basic insight...
Customers Pay Your Wage Vs. Company Pays Your Wage
The very first insight most game devs never get is where the money comes from.
And their biggest reason their video game making career fails flat, and makes no money is because they don't understand where they get paid from.
For example... a game dev will work for some big company. They get paid every week or two. Their wage is a given. Of course, if the company sucks, then this isn't true. But for the most part, wages are guaranteed.
This is a HUGE problem when a game dev then decides to go off on their own. They don't realize the true impact of losing a guaranteed income.
This is obvious, sure. Every game dev knows that they're taking a risk when they go on their own, and they are losing their guaranteed income.
But here's the insight I want you to learn... here's the non-obvious experiences you'll face...
Your wages are no longer coming from some big corporation. Your wages directly come from the customer.
This subtle change has a huge impact on how you see your video game dev studio.
For example, when you're a hobbyist, you don't care about where money comes from. You just want to make games that people love.
But if you're doing this to become a success in terms of making money, then where you get your money becomes VERY important.
Most game devs are scared of this notion of: customers now pay their wage. So they resort to Kickstarter campaigns, they want investors, they want a publisher to pay them.
But again, this goes back to employee thinking. As an employee, they got use to getting paid... getting a wage regularly. And Kickstarter, investors, and publishers are a great way to get paid regularly.
I know it sucks. I know it's risky to let go of "employee thinking" and let go of the notion that customers now pay your wage.
But once you take full responsibility that YOU have to pay yourself, then you'll build your self-efficacy. Self-efficacy means how much you think you believe you can accomplish a task.
This is the FIRST business basic. You need to rely on yourself. You need to get comfortable that customers now pay your wage. That it's up to you to get paid.
When you rely Kickstarter, investors, publishers, you are using OTHER people's money. You are basically back to being a sort of employee.
This "employee thinking is the single biggest reason why game devs fail. When they don't see money coming in, they quit. When they don't get their funding, they don't persevere.
When you rely on yourself, you become a better game developer. You realize there is a balance between what you want and what gamers want. You start seeing opportunities to build games that everybody wants, but nobody is making.
If you rely on other people's money, you lose that drive to survive. You lose that skill of making a video game everybody wants, but nobody is making yet.
This leads me to business basic insight number 2...
You Are Closer To Danger Than Ever Before
When you're working for a company (or even as a game dev hobbyist) you are sheltered from all the danger.
What I mean is, when you're inside a company, you are hardly responsible for the results. You you hardly ever responsible for what the results the company produces and makes.
For example... The company has you sit there and be coding monkey. You do one specific job all day. Your results are not the END results. What you finish gets moved onto another person.
You're hardly ever responsible for the entire results of what you do. You're just responsible for your little chunk of that video game.
But once you leave, and become an indie video game dev, you are now responsible for ALL the results.
This sounds obvious. But here's the insight...
When you're working in a company, it's safe. Yeah, you may worry that if you don't do a good job, they may get rid of you.
But you're not at all close to the danger. You know who's closest to the danger? The CEO, the owner. Everyday they are worried about how they will get their next customer. That's all they do. They hired you to make sure that you build them a game. But their job is to keep the customers coming so they can pay you and so they can pay themselves.
This is a big shock to an indie game dev who goes off on their own and starts their own studio. They didn't realize how important sales and getting customers is. They thought that they can rely on their talent as a programmer, and the money will just keep coming.
And as an employee, this is what happened. Talented people get rewarded. Well, not all the time. But for the most part, if you're talented, you'll have a better chance of keeping your job and getting paid.
But once you leave that security of a company, you're talents mean jack shit.
You'll finally realize that working for yourself, you are RIGHT NEXT to the danger. You are no longer sheltered by a company and its resources and it's wages.
That's why most game devs go towards funding and getting a publisher. It's safe.
But now that you know that it's your responsibly to face the danger, you'll have a better chance of succeeding. This won't be a shock to you. You'll persevere a lot more when you know that danger is part of being an indie video game dev.
This leads me to business basic insight numer 3...
What You Spend Your Time On Should Always Be On Creating a Customer
Remember, gamers pay your wage. What you make will be judged by gamers. And gamers judge by their wallets. Your success depends on what a gamer likes and doesn't like and is willing to spend money on.
Gamers don't spend money on your talent. Gamers don't spend money on your ideas. Gamers don't spend money on your hard work.
Gamers don't care about your talent, your ideas, your hard work. Gamers are self interested. They spend money on what makes THEM happy or satisfied or what fulfills their needs.
Your video game is just a way to get what they want.
And this is OK. When you're out making video games for a profit, knowing this will help you sell more copies.
Again, if you're a hobbyist, you don't care about all this stuff. You just want to make a game YOU like. And if it's successful, it's successful. And that's OK, too.
But if your success in video game development also means you want to make a lot of money, then you need to realize that your job is to create customers.
Yeah, you're still creating video games. But the reason you're making video games is to create customers.
Without customer, you have no video game dev studio. You have no money. You have no resources to make a new game. You'll always be relying on other people's money (i.e. publishers, investors, even employment).
If you truly want to free yourself from other people's money, and become self reliant, then where you spend your time on is very important.
If you spend your time on making video game YOU like, and hope other gamers will like, then it'll be very tough to become a successful video game studio.
Your job is to balance what YOU want and what GAMERS want. Knowing what a gamer wants is a business basic. Trying to force or convince a gamer to play your game never works.
Now, I'm not saying to pander. I'm not saying to stoop to the lowest common denominator. I'm not saying to pick the low hanging fruit.
No. I'm actually talking about the total opposite.
When you spend all your time making games so you CREATE new gamers, then you're really out there trying to discover what is NOT out there, yet.
What I mean is, you're not making games that are already out there. You're making games that nobody has played ever... but want to play.
Look at games such as Undertale and Binding of Isaac. These game devs struck a balance between a game THEY wanted to make, and a game customers wanted to play but nobody has made yet.
AAA game publishers are the ones that pander. They constantly make games because of what market research says. They make games that are safe. They only make games that can be turned into franchises.
But as an indie video game dev, you can make what the hell you want. You're not constricted in your creativity. You can explore new game mechanics. You can experiment with story and gameplay. You can experiment with art and animation.
But this can't be done just in a vacuum. What you explore, also needs to be directly connected to what a gamer wants.And this is what I meant by when I said you're closer to danger.
You might come up with a truly innovative game, but if a gamer doesn't care, then you have to go back to the drawing board.
You are closer to danger because what you make can be complete failure... or a huge success. Your live by the sword. And you die by the sword. Gamers judge you with their wallets.
The good news is, you can make games you love to make, and the type of games where gamers will buy.
Let me show you how...