11 Factors That Can Kill Your Game Business

Game business question regarding profits was posed at the Indiegamer thread. I made a brief post at the forums, and decided to describe bit deeper these factors on the blog too. Here are 11 factors that can kill your game business.

#1 – Portals as your main distribution channel when you don’t have a “portal type of game”
If you create a violent, fast-paced FPS game where you need to shoot everything that moves (and explode the rest) you might not want to go through portals where people play cute little restaurant service games. It just might happen that the players that like your game won’t play portal games. See also point #2 before making any judgements.

#2 – NOT going through game portals
In some cases the portals might be the best option. Some developers don’t want to go portals because of some reason. They might think that portals are evil or are afraid that portals would steal their customers (might be true – I’m not saying that couldn’t happen). But, in some cases the developer could actually benefit from portals – and because he doesn’t even try this distribution option he might kill his business soon. Remember to check out point #1 as well.

#3 – Focusing too much to new customers
It’s one of the first taught “marketing secrets” that selling to old customers is much easier, faster, cheaper and more profitable than selling to new customers. Some people put their attention to get new customers when in reality they should pay attention to their old customers.

#4 – Releasing new games instead of add-ons and expansion packs to old games
Some indies focus solely on creating new games and never consider selling add-ons or expansion packs. Even if some of your old game doesn’t feel like “new enough”, the players might actually want to get 15 new levels in a form of an expansion pack. Add-ons are much cheaper to create than new games.

#5 – Not taking advantage of alternative revenue generating streams in addition to selling your game
Those developers who already have established a solid customer base might find it useful to sell other people’s games (affiliates). Some developers might have solely focused on selling their game, and forget that there are many alternative ways to generate revenue even with free games. Advertising and finding sponsors might be good way in addition to selling the game.

#6 – Use of brand new technology to create games
Let’s face it, DirectX10 is used only by couple of percent gamers. If you have a game that uses the latest technology you might miss 98% of the markets. Latest technology can kill your game business.

#7 – Not working with the right team
You gotta have the winning team (or contacts) to create your dream game. Not having the right people doing the right things won’t get you anywhere. Naturally you can do things solo, but even then you might need to find the right people to do some contract work for you, and that’s not always easy.

#8 – Not having clear short term goals
People preach about the importance of long term goals (like I’m doing in the next point #9), but short-term goals should not be forgotten. Even if your vision is to become the most innovative developer in the planet, that shouldn’t mean you shouldn’t have short term goals. Having clear goals for next couple of weeks and months is a good thing in my books and helps you be more productive.

#9 – Not having clear long-term goals
Like mentioned in the previous tip: your long term goals will help you to take steps on the right path. You don’t need to have a goals listen in certain format. Feel free to use a notepad, desktop wallpaper or whatever – as long you as have one clear goal in your mind. Something that reminds you why you are doing this. Having a long-term goal will also help making short-term decisions.

#10 – Spending too much time in front of TV compared to producing your game
This is pretty obvious. Procrastination is sure-fire method for killing your game business.

#11 – Not paying attention to world markets
Poor USD exchange rate is a big issue for non-US developers. The dollar value has come down a lot in couple of years, and in the last months it’s been really low. While there’s not much what average Dave Developer can do about the dollar rate, he can still prepare for the risk. In case of dollars, he could try different currency. Or perhaps he could take dollar rate in the calculations when budgeting or projecting sales for example. If he doesn’t, one day he might wake up just to realize that his company profits have dropped 20% in one year because some banks gave loans too easily.

Juuso Hietalahti