2014 vs 2018: The Shape of Success Before & After the Indiepocalypse

Notes on a talk by Jason Rohrer

  • Speaker made 13 games in a row without making any money
  • Financial success is a long term project, both for developing a reputation and for getting good at making games
  • Expect failure; don’t give up after failure
  • Indiepocalypse
    • Came from a string of public failures from companies with a successful past
    • Aztez: zero concurrent players
    • Scanner Sombre: 1 concurrent player
    • Where the water tastes like wine: 4 concurrent players
    • Tacoma (from creators of Gone Home): 11 concurrent players
    • One Hour One Life made $600k in 4 months, still going strong
    • If these all failed, what chance do I have?
    • Still possible “against all odds” (?) to succeed
  • Are the successes just lucky outliers?
    • Lots of games successful (airport CEO, feed and grow fish, etc.)
    • Thousands of games more successful than One Hour One Life
  • Launch day comparison
    • An order of magnitude more games released per day in 2018 than 2014
    • Hard to stay in the press’s attention, hard to get reviews
    • So much more competition for attention!
    • 2014 had launch day peak, with slow tail of death
    • 2018 had a terrible launch day, but sales actually went up first week, didn’t drop as precipitously
      • Launch week versus launch day
      • Way more YouTube videos made in the first week for the newer game, and way way more views
      • Top video ever made had 10x more views
    • This peak-followed-by-drop is actually the hype curve!
      • The press is dead today in terms of influence on sales
      • Articles written seem to have almost no effect
    • sources of word of mouth today
      • YouTube, like watch this before you buy x, or a Let’s Play
      • Twitch streaming
    • Increase your average playtime and retention, increase your word of mouth
      • For 1h1L, 10% of people came back to it for 4 months or more
  • Old indie model: have you played x (short, interesting experience nobody has ever done before)
    • This is a “consumable,” like The Witness
    • These peak and fall off into oblivion
    • Can’t make a video of this, because you spoil the whole thing
  • New indie model: do you play x—stuff you can keep coming back to
    • These are infinite unique situation generators like Stardew Valley or Subnautica
    • These grow over time
    • Multiplayer is one way to achieve this infinite situation generation
    • These act as video generators too, without ever spoiling anything
  • Look at what you actually play, rather than what you might like to play
  • Thus, Indiepocalypse is more like consumable game apocalypse
  • TL;DR: Make infinite unique situation generators
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