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?

12 thoughts on “Spotify For Indie Games…? (Part 2 out of N)

  1. Wrote another blog post… and now read your comments.

    Feels almost like Desura should implement this subscription model :)

  2. I think the formerly goal of Desura was to ease the mod install/update in AAA games. It’s being made by the ModDB team who has a tremendous community. The good news for us is that they don’t limit that to mods, so indie games will get their chance to be on-board.
    Features for developers are listed here:
    http://www.moddb.com/groups/desura/images/developer-functionality
    It’s very closed to Steam, the only difference I see for now are:
    - no DRM (it means that each developer should take care of it)
    - no Steam cloud (not a big deal IMO)
    Note that I may be wrong here since I don’t have access to the beta.

    Interesting articles about Desura:
    http://www.diygamer.com/2010/03/desura-steamlike-client-indie-games/
    http://www.indiegames.com/blog/2010/02/indepth_will_desura_rival_stea.html
    http://www.moddb.com/games/overgrowth/news/our-thoughts-on-desura

  3. I’m sure developers would love it, but getting the customers would be hard, if not impossible. There’s tons of indie games, both free and not, and most of them are of a quality no one would pay for. Same would propably be true for this service. You would basically ask customers to subscribe to a service where they get access to some good games and a whole lot of bad ones, when they can get pretty much the same all around the internet for free.

    I think adds would be the only way to go, but even then I doubt the revenue would cover the costs. An online store for indie games with free demos and easy access for developers would probably fare better. Getting a customer to pay a one time purchase price for a single quality product is infinitely easier than getting them to subscribe to get that same product and a lot of other ones they dont want.

    The big difference to the music market is this: there’s a lot less quality music available for free than there are indie games. The only way to compete against a free product is with a lot higher quality, and I dare say that would not be achieved on a ‘spotify-for-games’ kind of service. Only the best of the best of indie games a worth a purchase.

  4. @lone: hmm, how’s that different from Steam for example?

    @Sam: “start out small with only a few indie developers which would make legality less of an issue, and it could just be a portal to your particular indie games. That sounds more plausible to me”

    Hmm, but how that portal would be different from … well, other portals? (I guess it’s true that there’s no indie game portal at the moment, but I think subscription model wouldn’t work if there was only a handful of developers).

  5. from their website: “Desura is a community driven digital distribution service for gamers, putting the best games, mods and downloadable content from developers at gamers fingertips, ready to buy and play.”

  6. I have a pretty good idea the amount of work that would go towards something like this, it’s not very hard but more just a lot of work. My thoughts for something like that would start out small with only a few indie developers which would make legality less of an issue, and it could just be a portal to your particular indie games. That sounds more plausible to me. I like the idea you’ve put out here though, because you’re right it would be good, but it’s a lot of work and time before you can get to that stage.

  7. Why? I cannot put my finger on it… but I just love how spotify works. I like how WoW works. Maybe that could work in indie games as well?

    Steam does not accept many indie games, and when they do, you are looking at 3-5 weeks process to get the game online.
    (I do love Steam and everything they do). Just thinking out loud.

    What’s Desura?

    @Sam: yeh, very true.

  8. Why another model since Steam works perfectly?
    Ok, Steam rejects many indie games (including good ones: puppygames…), that’s the problem, but there’s already a cool indie competitor on the way:
    http://www.moddb.com/groups/desura

  9. There will need to be dedicated team of web developers willing to invest time and money into making this happen. I’m not sure how many, but their main focus should be solely on this venture, a crucial component for at least the first 1-2 years.

    As mentioned, there will be no game development for them as all projects will be placed on hold in favor of this project. A sacrifice but a worthy long term goal.

  10. Good points .

    And yeh, this definitely would mean stopping everything else (well, of course there’s always time for blogging). This is a big thing if wanted to done properly.

    More thoughts?

  11. IMO support and development/maintenance of such a service will be a lot of work. Another point will be competition with other gaming platforms like this. There have to be some unique and enjoyable features other platforms don’t offer. A flexible technology and experienced web developers have to be found. This may cost some donuts ;)

    The idea sounds promising but also seems to be a big load of work. Like writing an MMO or something. The downside for me is that managing such a service would eat up all my game dev time. Therefore I really would enjoy writing games for such a platform, managing it is another story.

  12. (Updated/cleaned the blog post a bit. I really need to start doing better proofreading *before* publishing the post ;))