No Time To Play

Weekly Links #37: Talking Business

by on Sep.21, 2014, under Miscellaneous, News, Review

I’ll start this week’s newsletter with a signal boost. Friends of mine are working on a new RPG, a steampunk mystery, and they need some funding to make it happen. Details are scarce right now, but here’s what they have to say about it:

So, check out Hounds of Londras on Indiegogo, and spread the word. Thank you very much.

The other big news this week is that itch.io has released a detailed set of statistics about the service, and while they’re written from the perspective of running the store, most of them are of considerable interest to the aspiring indie game developer. Let’s look at a few highlights:

  • Only 30% of developers sell even as little as one copy. Of any game. In other words, 2 out of 3 gamedevs never ever make one cent from their hard work. I knew it was bad… but this is just… Just treat it as a hobby if you want to avoid disappointment.
  • You need to promote your games heavily; nobody else can do it for you. And word of mouth works best. Make sure you have a blog or other website of your own, because that’s where your fans will look.
  • People don’t pay for Web games. Clearly, if I want any measure of financial success (read: enough money to pay for my web hosting at least) I’d better switch to making downloadable games. Which I just started doing this summer, but I have a lot to figure out yet.
  • Mobile doesn’t matter. I already suspected this from the traffic stats on No Time To Play, but when only 6% of the games sold on itch.io are for Android, I think it’s safe to say that’s not where the money is. Oh well, one less technology I need to learn.

Out of the observations above, #3 is the most interesting. Judging by the mad success of Kickstarter and Patreon, people don’t seem to mind sponsoring upcoming projects. But rewarding creators for something they already made… simply doesn’t happen. No wonder Flattr is hardly used by anyone. I guess people want to feel like they’re buying something, even if it’s just a bunch of bits that cost nothing to replicate? Definitely something to keep in mind.

In other news, a bunch of older games are getting their engines open sourced. And the #gamergate scandal continues to escalate, with Anita Sarkeesian receiving no less than a… bomb threat this time. Cue naysayers pointing out that dumb kids make phony bomb threats all the time. Sure. Everything’s minor until it happens to YOU. And speaking of that, here’s yet another -gate coming up: Grimoire, an RPG that’s been in the vaporware stage for 18 years now, is about to have its name stolen by a trademark troll, according to several sources. (And I do mean stolen: when you come up with a product name, and then a trademark troll forbids you from ever using it again, simply because they have $$$$$ and you don’t, that’s called theft. It happened to me a few years ago, and I’m still furious.) And sure, one might argue that an actually upcoming game is more deserving of using the name than the one that’s still vaporware long after even Duke Nukem Forever was released; but seriously? Trademarking generic words again? When did it become acceptable for people with money to buy the English language outright, by the word and the letter? (No, really: you just try slapping the “i” prefix on any product name and see what happens.)

Last but not least, while it’s not as common for open source games to build on each other as it is for more practical-minded software, when it happens it’s awesome. Ascension: Adventure is a retro dungeon crawler based on Heroine Dusk, which I reviewed a while ago. The new game features more maps, more monsters, and updated art — enough to make it feel like a different game. Too bad that grinding monsters is still the only way to make any progress at all. Exploring only gives minor rewards, at too much of a risk. Or maybe I’m just not a RPG person. Still a worthy effort, of course.

But it’s late and for once I have my newsletter done early. See you!

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Weekly Links #37: Talking Business by Felix Pleșoianu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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