16 September 2010

Indies and Digital Distribution Markets - by Jason Clark

Image Courtesy: Pocomoke Tattler

Load. Aim. Fire.

Now, you look down the line and see if you killed anything.  This is what it's like as an indie developer making the best guess on which digital distribution markets to introduce your product(s) in.  We all want to have that 'Eureka!' moment when your app or game is approved and sales take off within minutes of availability.  Yet deciding where that moment is most likely to happen for one of your games is something that should be pondered in the embryonic stages of design.  Why choose iTunes, and the iOS platform?  Does WiiWare make sense for your target audience?  What is going to make people purchase your game on Steam?  I'd like to shed light on a few ideas to consider, and then feel free to respond with your own.

1. Market Trend.

It's important to keep your eye on the ball.  Where are most people going to buy games in the current market?  More importantly, where are people going to purchase games like the one you are planning to develop?  Sometimes, the answers to those two questions are different.

2. Competitive Climate.

Where there is a lot of competition, there will be less of a chance that you will succeed.  This is pretty obvious I'm sure, but sometimes choosing to develop a game for a market that you are not as familiar with or comfortable developing in could give sway the odds in your favor, especially if that market isn't as saturated with competition.  Ubiquity is relative to market.  Look at where you heaviest competition is, then think about setting up your base next door.

3. Know the niche.

Knowing the success stories of other titles placed in the markets you wish to enter is a moral imperative.  Postmortems are 'must-see TV'.  What are the secrets to success in your specific market?  How do you increase your visibility in a specific market?  These are all things to consider alongside the challenges of creating your title.

4. Is revenue the sole motivation?

OK, so this is more of a question than a rule to live by:  Is it fair to say that market selection could be made for strategic reasons rather than concrete financial gains?  Is business posture and positioning another solid factor?  Are you eventually trying to form a relationship with a publisher or partner that typically deals in one market or another?

5. Indies are Farmers.

Lastly, our jobs are technical and artistic, much like the job of a farmer.  Making sure that the process of creating your title is efficient, that the hangups are minimized along the way, and that the product is delivered to the consumers fresh and in season are all direct parallels we indies draw from the farming industry.  Knowing this, deciding to grow and sell corn (a mobile game), versus oranges (a XBLA title) is important to consider early on, not to mention how repeatable that process is going to be for your 'farm' once your brand is established.

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Jakub Janovsky
12 Sep 2010 at 10:30 am PST

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