Spotify For Indie Games… Subscription Model? (Part 3)

Earlier I looked Kongregate for new indie games. Also forums announcements. And nowadays occasionally check out Steam’s “indie games” list. There are some places where to get indie games – like indie xmas calendar that got tens of games right away.

I’ve now heard these both things about subscription: “subscription model won’t work” and “it would work”. I have bit mixed feelings about this, but whenever in doubt I start thinking of World of Warcraft. That game is running on subscription model (sure, it’s old as hell) and there’s other providers (like tv channels) that uses the same model pretty successfully.

So, why it wouldn’t work for indie games?

I can spot a few reasons.

Indie games are small fish
Big fishes are all about casual gaming, or facebook gaming. Saying “indie game” brings me the image of zombie shooter.

Eh.

Well, you get the point. Casual games are different beast and indie games are often some sort of shooters (zombies, aliens…) or something bit different. And this means there’s less players.

I’m wondering that does it make sense to have this “indie portal” or indie games service?

Last Christmas, there sure was tons of developers (as those 70+ comments prove) who wanted to promote their stuff. So my gut feeling is that there would be developers interested in this.

But would there be gamers interested too?

Would I pay $10 per mo to get play any indie game I’d want? That’s a bit biased question since I don’t play much games… but I would guess that even for research purposes that could be useful. It might be fun to check new games, play them a bit and then switch to new indie games.

Comments?

This is the third and last post about this spotify indie games portal thing for at least a few days. Tomorrow and next week will feature something else.

Spotify For Indie Games…? (Part 2 out of N)

Yesterday’s post about spotify for games detailed some of the ideas I had for this system. I want to openly think more about this. I’m seeing some challenges:

Technical issues?
I really like spotify: you can download the music to your computer (when you have subscribed to the service) and there aren’t too big copy protection issues there. So far I’ve managed to use the thing offline as well. So, naturally I would like that this spotify for indie game portal/service/thing would be as easy to use. No hassle playing.

I would think that probably some sort of “wrapper/launcher” software should be in use (thinking similar to Steam for example). There you could find & launch games and get recommendations and all that stuff. I don’t know what would be good technology for this. I have no doubts that it wouldn’t be possible.

Another alternative could be use of website, and play games in your browser. Games would be packed & played via browser (using a plugin). I’m thinking pjio.com here.

Getting developers in
My gut feeling is that if the system would think developers first and give the major part of the cake to them, I think there could be decent amount of developers & games that would get in the system. I also think promoting the system is to developers is not going to be the major issue.

Payment processing
With some experience on payment processing with developers and affiliates, I think this part of the system could be somewhat tricky. I don’t know how, but the system would definitely need automated tracking for payments, then list for example paypal info for each developer and then somehow (not sure if this is even possible) automatically or (more likely) with as little manual work as possible the payment could be sent monthly to developers. I’m smelling some issues here, but not too big ones.

Free version?
Spotify offers free version, but I’m not sure how well this would work in the gaming industry. Perhaps instead of showing ads, you could play demo versions for free. Not sure if this would be a good solution, but I feel that letting players play totally free, and show (annoying) ads wouldn’t work as well as it does in spotify. I might be wrong.

Anyway, the free/demo version thing should be planned & tested properly. I guess benchmarking competitors (Onlive and others) could help in this.

Getting gamers to join
And then there would be of course the trickiest part: getting gamers to actually buy something. It would require enough games, and then probably tons of promotion to get the ball moving. I’m not sure if this would require outside funding or investor (or kickstarter… or whatnot), but I don’t think is totally impossible thing to first get enuf donuts for promoting the thing, and then eventually get gamers to join. And when more gamers join, the more developers join and the snowball effect starts to kick in.

Other issues
These aren’t the only things to take care. There’s also legal issues/contracts with each party. Then there’s servers and their handling. Different platforms and so on. Probably some more.

Why say these things out loud – shouldn’t I like keep these business secrets hidden!?
Possibly… but then I wouldn’t get the ball moving.

I think this concept is a pretty good itself. But, getting from “idea” to “fully established portal” takes a bit more than writing couple of thoughts on paper.

Like said, I’m thinking out loud.

More thoughts on this? If AAA thing is somewhat covered (in several countries), and possibly more companies joining the movement… I’m pondering how well could indie/casual type of portal solution work.

What do you see as the biggest challenges? How well could this work in your opinion?

Would you be interested?

“Spotify For Games”

This biz idea keeps coming to my head: spotify for games. I’ll briefly explain what spotify is for those of you who aren’t familiar with the service. Basically, with spotify, you can listen to music for free (with some ads here and there) or you can buy monthly subscription for $9.99 (or so) and listen to all the music without ads. There’s tons of music available – possibly everything you can imagine.

Now, I was thinking this same concept for games. We could start with indie games if you wish. Bit like WoW except you get to play tons of games.

Basically, for a monthly subscription (let’s say $9.99) you can play any games you want as long as you keep subscribing to the service. It might be possible to have a lite version which would show ads here and there until you get so annoyed that you want to (1) stop playing or (2) buy the subscription (or (3) more likely: find a hack)

The revenue share could go so that major part of the pie would go to developers (let’s say 70%), rest of it would be split between publisher (10-30%) and perhaps with affiliates (20%). These figures are just in top of my head.

How would developers share the pool of money? I’m thinking that the playing times (and/or downloads) could be tracked. The more downloads/playing time one game gets, the more money that game earns.

Just thinking out loud.

What you feel about this? Part 2 – “spotify for indie games” continues here.

Sixth Golden Rule For New Indies

I just read the five golden rules for new indies from winterwolves blog.

I’m adding sixth one:

6. finish your game
By finishing games, one learns how to finish games. That’s a crucial thing in this industry. It’s okay to prototype and it’s even okay to drop projects, but if you follow the fifth rule (“no epic projects”) then you should also focus on this rule.

What’s the next golden rule in your opinion?

5 Stupid Game Development Mistakes I’ve Made (Do Not Try These At Home, Serious Problems Might Occur)

Game development has given me possibilities to do tons of mistakes. Here’s some of the most stupid mistakes I’ve done during these years. Like they say in tv ads: do not try these at home.

Mistake #5 – Getting a development team
Around 2001 I was working on this “MMO” game which started from the idea of “having this dark island where guy moves with a cool torch in his hand”. That’s not a bad start for a MMO, but the worse idea was me getting this “development team to work on profit basis”.

Okay, I eventually found a good friends (this part of the MMO was not a mistake, Tim) but other than that it was a huge mess. I remember taking aboard some people who didn’t have a clue on things. One guy was saying he was a “texture ‘expert’”. Which meant he shot (or “loaned”) some photos of some ancient museum swords. That’s like pretty nice, but spending 2 months to some helmet images that will never get in the game was not such a smart move.

I was thinking that “the more people get in, the better the result will be”.

Now I realize that “the more people got in, the bigger the trouble I was facing”

Okay, maybe some “we’ll share the profits later / do this thing for free” team can prove me wrong, but I thought it was heckofa mess. Fun mess though.

Mistake #4 – Not getting a development team
The other alternative (after realizing how big mess it is to have tons of people around) was to try do everything related to my big idea on my own. This was perhaps a slightly smarter move than getting a huge group (at least for people like me) but then it became obvious that I need more time & donuts to get the ball moving.

Alone, with not enuf skills (modeling, programming, designing, mapping, sounds, music… you name it) it sort of became obvious that this path won’t work.

Well, good news is that from this mistake I learnt that outsourcing and purchasing 3rd party stuff can be a solution. And also the smaller the project scope, the bigger chances for solo survival there is.

Mistake #3 – Choosing a bloody long company name
The reason why I always direct people to gameproducer.net is instead to my company site (polycountproductions.com) that my company name is so bloody long that I just find it easier to use a shorter name. This means my company stuff is “somewhere in the back in the papers” and I haven’t even updated the site for long.

Not such a bad mistake, but still annoys me after 5 years and I keep thinking “I should change the company name”.

Mistake #2 – Starting about 17 projects simultaneously
I’ve improved my skills on this area, and nowadays I have only 1 game project going on simultaneously. I still get new ideas for games and simply write them down or discuss them a bit with my friends, and then write them down. Earlier (long, very long time ago), I might have got several game ideas and plans going on. I still have several side projects and things going on/fading away here and there (it’s just so fun to start new things), but I’m getting better at focusing on one main thing and getting that finished before new stuff.

Mistake #1 – Not making enough mistakes
During the last 5 years in this company gaming thing I’ve been doing more mistakes than ever in my life. I’ve probably learned more than ever in my life. Mistakes are good. Gotta keep doing more of them.

Somebody has said “if you aren’t failing ever, then you are not fighting in the right league” (or something like that, I might have made a mistake here).

Me likes that attitude.

See also 10 worst game production mistakes (article written 3 years ago).

Stop Micromanaging Artists. Drop the Leash. Release Control. Let Them Do Their Things.

I’ve used two methods when working with artists. The first one was telling them what to do and then pointing out “flaws” in their work and ignoring their recommendations and then eventually realizing that (1) they have quite a bit more experience on that stuff than I do and (2) this approach doesn’t work. I sort of tried to keep the control over creative stuff, and could not let go. End result: time wasted in communicating the vision back and forth, poorer quality of work.

The next method worked better: giving ideas/concepts/videos/pointers to material that described what kind of style I was looking, and then told them to “use your artistic freedom” to get it done. This has worked wonders: this resulted in much less time needed for communication and more motivated artist who will surprise you with the quality of his work*.

Let the artists do their job. That’s why you hired them.

* Bonus tip: he’ll also surprise you with the “hours spent” sum if you don’t have any control over resources that he is supposed to use on the work.

Do You Blog (Why? Why Not?)

I’ve been blogging since late 2005. I like writing down my thoughts and this blog has served as a great biz channel so far. Hundreds of thousands of (unique) people have visited this site after the launch (which is pretty cool when I stop to think about that).

I suppose I like doing this, and I guess some of you like reading this stuff (since you keep coming back).

Do you have a blog? Are you blogging actively? Why? Why not?