Here Are 3 Ways To Protect Yourself From Losing Money
Innovation and doing something brand new that the game industry has never seen before is what attracts gamers to indie games.
But as an indie game dev, you're very vulnerable. AAA games can (and will) swoop in, and implement your ideas -- and get all the credit.
Inside this article, you're going to discover a technique to help you maintain your lead as a innovative indie game dev.
And, you're going to get a new perspective on innovation and how it can grow your game company.
Here's what you need to know...
Why Do Gamers Love Innovation -- And Why Does It Lead To More Game Sales?
To a gamer, innovation means one thing: they're going to get something...
The word "new" is jam-packed with benefits to a gamer. New means that the gamer is going to get something that nobody else has seen or experienced before. And people want to be "first in things" because it gives them an advantage.
For example, being first means a gamer improves their social status. Knowing something that nobody else knows also gives you an advantage of having influence over others. And being first in things means you can become an authority.
Ok, that's great... but why am I talking about the word "new"?
The reason I'm telling you all this is because being NEW sells itself. NEW is a huge motivating factor in selling something because being the "first in things" is a basic human want.
In other words, gamers go out of their way to find you. You don't need advertising, you don't need marketing, you don't need PR.
This human need to be "first in things", is how indie games survive. This is one advantage you as an indie game dev have over AAA games...
You can take risks and uncover something NEW a gamer has never thought they'd want...
You see this all the time with games that seem to come out of nowhere...
Indie games like Journey. They set out to make games with a different emotional experience. This simple idea of giving a gamer a NEW emotional experience that no other game has done before is why they succeeded.
What I mean is, think about it... most games offer only a small variety of emotional experiences -- especially AAA games. And the indie game devs at Journey designed a game that would give a gamer something NEW.
This is important to know because the NEW feeling is what drives gamers to indie games. This is an indie game's number one selling point. A gamer knows that if they pick-up an indie game, they're is a possibility that they'll discover something new.
Brothers of Two Tales. Binding of Isaac. Papers Please. Fez. Minecraft. Amnesia.
These games offered totally new emotional rewards for gamers. No other AAA games were doing what these indie games did.
This leads me to another insight I want to share with you...
Texture vs. Polish
Indie games have TEXTURE... while AAA games have POLISH.
What I mean is, "texture" is rough... it's not perfect... but it has depth and meaning. Texture sticks. It grabs your attention. But it also serves as a way to spread word-of-mouth.
Journey had texture. And gamers who played this game discovered something brand new, never done before. I'm not going to spoil it for you if you havn't played it. If you have, you know what I'm talking about.
Same with Undertale. Gamers wanted other gamers to play the game because they wanted them to experience the same thing they experienced. Having "texture" in your game leads to word-of-mouth. It's basically free marketing.
On the flip-side, you have "polish"...
Polish is smooth and shiney. Being slick gets you attention as well. But this polish often fades. And something very polished means there's nothing to grab onto, and it's easy to slip off. But polish sells because people are attracted to shiny and new.
My point here is, indie games focus more on "texture" and less on "polish". While AAA games focus more on "polish". Not all the time, but majority of the time.
AAA game companies know that "polish" isn't enough to keep a gamer playing. They know that in order to make their financial forecasts, and profit margins, they need the "texture" of an indie game.
So, what do AAA games do?
Let me show you that next...
AAA Game Companies Are Risk Averse To "New", So They Become Campers
I've talked about two new ideas with you... NEW and TEXTURE.
These two ideas is what keep gamers attracted to indie games. And AAA games know this. They know that indie games have an advantage over AAA games in regards to getting attention.
While AAA game spend millions on advertising and marketing, a little indie game can sometimes outcompete them in profits because an indie game can survive on NEW and TEXTURE.
So, what do AAA games do? They steal ideas from indie games. They let indie games take all the risks, and watch what is profitable, and what is not.
They're campers, waiting for an opportunity.
And when an indie game comes out with some new idea that is highly profitable, AAA games use their advantage of being a camper.
AAA games can't take the risk of being new, innovative, or go too deep into meaning. They need to maintain a mass market. Deep, meaningful games are not always a good selling point. But at the same time, AAA games are losing gamers who do want deep, meaningful games.
So they let indie games take the risks, and figure that what works and what doesn't. Then AAA games swoop in and take what works, and put it in their own game. Then they use their millions from their ad budget to market to gamers that they are "new" and doing something "innovative".
It's hard for an indie game to protect themselves. It sucks that AAA games use this tactic and profit it from it.
But what you'll learn next is not so glum. In fact, this is another opportunity that you can use to be even more of a leader.
Let me show you 3 ways how to project yourself, and how this is a blessing in disguise...
3 Ways On How To Maintain Your Lead as an Innovative Game Dev
So, here's everything you've learned so far...
- NEW is attention grabbing -- gamers gravitate to NEW because they get a reward for "being first in things"
- TEXTURE is what makes a gamer stay and play the game, and gets a gamer to spread word-of-mouth
- Texture are things like innovative game play, new emotional story, something new a gamer never thought they'd want
- Polish are things like graphics, accessible game play, streamlined mechanics, looking what gamers already want and giving it to them
- Because POLISH is shiny and new it also attracts gamers
- But POLISH isn't enough to keep gamers playing because polish fades rubs off
- So, AAA games look at what indie games do in terms of TEXTURE and then use that in their own games
- AAA games are not risk takers like indie games, so they camp out and watch what's profitable and what's not
- Then AAA games use their ad money to market "their" new innovative feature
So, how do you save yourself from worry, time, money, work? As an indie game dev, you go out of your way, and work your butt off to bring a new experience a gamer never has had before -- only to have a AAA game swoop in and use that idea.
How do you maintain your lead?
Let me show you how in 3 ways...
One: Do NOT Become Protective
To protect yourself, don't protect yourself? This makes no sense. This is counter-intuitive, but here's what I mean...
When you come up with something brand new, something innovative, you want to protect and maintain that idea. YOU want to be the one to get the credit for it. The last thing you want is somebody else profiting from your idea.
But there's a difference between ideas and execution.
The best analogy is a lesson I learned from Chef Mario Batali. He said that anybody can steal his receipes, open up a restaurant next to his, and offer the same food. But they will never be Mario Batali. Chefs that follow never become leaders.
Mario Batali isn't protective. He knows that his ideas are just that -- they aren't real, they aren't tangible. The ideas, the recipes, the menus -- these are not tangible things.
In other words...
Ideas are NOT achievements.
The achievement is in the execution of the idea. Mario Batali makes food that tastes nothing like anybody can make. Even if you have the same ingredients and recipes, you won't be able to replicate Batali exactly.
It's the same with your innovations. People can copy you, they can steal your ideas. But the value in something is NOT the idea... it's the execution of the idea where all the value lays.
So, what do you do exactly? My favourite saying is, "the more you tell, the more you sell". In other words, the MORE you talk about your ideas, your innovations, the more you become an authority.
This is why it's important to start a devlog, a YouTube channel, a podcast. Talk about your game, how it's innovative, what you're doing new, what you've discovered.
So, don't focus so much on the idea. It's the execution of the idea that is more important. Anybody can come-up with an idea -- even the exact ideas you have. But not anybody can execute those ideas like you can.
And at the same time, talk about your ideas, your new innovations, as much as you can. Demonstrate to gamers how you're executing your ideas. Talk about them in your devlog, in your YouTube videos, in your podcasts. The more you tell, the more you sell.
This leads me to my next insight...
Two: AAA Game Fuck It Up Anyway
I just told you how the less protective you are about your new idea, your new innovation, the MORE you actually protect it. By executing your ideas and innovations, you are actually protecting them in away.
This is because anybody can copy ideas. But not everybody can execute those ideas like you. And the more you talk about, the more you share your ideas, the more of an authority you become. The more you talk about it, the more you own that idea.
Also, ideas are NOT achievements. It's the execution of them that where the value lies.
And this is where AAA games mess up.
When an AAA game tried to add TEXTURE into their game, it comes off tacky, and not genuine. Gamers can see through what AAA games are trying to do. Gamers know when a AAA game is trying to pull your emotional strings. Gamers know that AAA games aren't interested in giving you a new gaming experience... they're only do it so they can sell more copies.
Look at what happened at E3 in 2017...sports games with a story?. Who knows, this might work. But the general feeling is that adding story in a sports game won't be pulled off very well.
It's the execution that is most important. And AAA games will mess up this execution. AAA games focus on POLISH more than TEXTURE. They know how to make a game pretty. But they have a very hard time having both.
Only a few AAA games can pull this off. Witcher 3 has both POLISH (pun intended) and TEXTURE. Mass Effect 1 and 2 has both as well.
So, I'm not saying that AAA games only make games with polish... and only indie games make games with texture.
But it's rare for AAA games to have both. AAA games can take your innovations, your new ideas, but they can't execute them like you can.
And this leads me to my last point...
Three: When AAA Games Take Your Idea, You Know You're Doing Something Right
Trying to project your idea and fighting others so they don't take credit is a natural reaction.
But when you do that, you spend all your energy FIGHTING rather than creating.
So, think about it this way...
When somebody takes your idea, you know that you've gotten to a point of notoriety. This means that your idea, your new innovation, is leading -- and people want to follow you.
My point here is, what made you come up with something innovative in the first place, nobody can take that away from you. Even if they steal ALL your previous ideas and innovations, they can't steal that part of you that created that innovation in the first place. They can't steal that innovate drive you have.
This innovative drive is what keeps you new.. You'll always be a leader if you focus all your energy on being new and less on trying to project your ideas.
Plus, NEW doesn't last forever. And trying to "protect" new is futile.
A Perfect Example of an Indie Game Dev Innovating and Adapting
The best example is of this is Penumbra: Black Plague made by Frictional Games in 2008 (the same devs that made Amnesia: The Dark Descent).
It was one of the first survival horror games that focused less on combat. This made the gamer feel a real sense of fear when they couldn't fight an enemy.
Then about 2 years later, Silent Hill came out. It had the same sort of game play where the focus was less on combat, and more on finding ways to avoid the enemies, or slow them down.
I'm not saying that Silent Hill ripped off Penumbra. I'm saying that at that time, an innovation came from an indie game... and then when it worked, other devs ran with the idea.
Games like Outlast, Slender, Five Nights at Freddy's all were inspired by the mechanic where fighting fear isn't done with guns.
My point here is, this type of mechanic gives TEXTURE to a game. And these types of innovations usually come from indie game devs who are willing to take a risk -- like NOT adding combat in a game.
Then Alien: Isolation swoops in, and gives the game both POLISH and TEXTURE. It has the polish of a AAA game. Plus, it took the idea of "no combat in horror", and this added texture to the game. (There is combat in Alien: Isolation, but the major focus is on stealth and finding ways not to use your gun).
Then what happened? Gamers started to get tired of the "new" idea of no combat in video games. This idea got over saturated. And the "new" idea no longer got attention.
That's when Frictional Games came out with Soma. It was a game now focused on psychological horror and not the traditional jump-scares and stealth.
See what I mean? The devs at Frictional Games help pioneer the horror survival / stealth sub-genre. Other devs took the idea, and AAA games took the idea, too.
But when this sub-genre got over saturated, Frictional Games adapted, and come out with a NEW innovative idea.
Innovative ideas get stolen. And that's ok. It means you're doing something right.
Frictional Games could have easily kept going with what worked for them. But they knew better. "New" doesn't last forever. But "texture" does. And it's the indie game devs that focus on creating new experience and focus on "texture" that survive.
My whole point is, there's so much competition that it's going to happen: ideas will be stolen, ideas will be used as inspiration. It's the games that adapt and focus on creating "new", innovations, and focusing in "texture" are the ones that will be sustainable.
Why care about being "sustainable"? Let me show you the benefits...
The Single Most Important Question a Game Dev Must Ask Themselves Is This...
What can gamers GET from playing your video game that can't get from other games?
Think about it. It's not an easy question. When I ask game devs this question, they come up with generic answers like, "immersion", "fun", "action", "play with friends", "unique story", unique gameplay".
Or they just don't know.
Why is this so bad? Because if you don't know how to communicate your new ideas, your new innovations, then it doesn't matter how much "texture" or "innovative" your game is... it's going to sit on the digital-shelf with zero attention.
Being "new" isn't enough anymore to get attention. You need a way to communicate. You need a way to use words and images and videos that persuade a gamer to actually look at you, and realize what is in your game.
This is what AAA games are really good at -- they're not good at innovating, doing something new, but they are really good at communicating that they are "new" or "innovative". AAA games know how to persuade gamers.
But that doesn't mean you can't do it either.
So, how do you communicate in a way that markets your game better than AAA games can? How do you maintain your lead in being new and innovative?
By answering that question you see above. By knowing exactly what your gamer can get from your game, and not from any other game, is your starting point.
And, I want you to get specific and measurable when answering this question. "Unique gameplay" or "unique story" isn't specific or measurable.
For example, when you say your gameplay is unique... how, in what way? Why is it different than any other game?
And here's what I mean by making it measurable: Is this innovation something gamers want? How many gamers care about your new innovation? Or... How many new features or unique ideas does your game play offer?
Get a number. Being tangible is important in being persuasive.
The reason I want you to get specific and measurable is because this will help you differentiate your game from all the others.
By knowing exactly what makes your game unique will help you communicate that part of your game, in your marketing, your blogs, your videos.
Doing this exercise by answering this question...
What can gamers GET from playing your video game that can't get from other games?
...will help you discover for yourself what's innovative and new about your game. And this will help you create content like videos, blog articles, and marketing for your game.
And remember, the more you tell, the more you sell. The more you talk about what's unique and innovative about your game, the more attention you'll get.
You can't assume a gamer will take the time to analyze your game and try to uncover what's new and unique. No. Gamers always judge game superficially. It's your job to craft a message in a way so the gamer knows exactly what your game is and isn't.
And this exercise of answering that question, will help you come up with content, marketing, videos, articles that will help your game some attention.
And you want attention because it's going to help you sell your game and so you can make good money as an indie game dev!