Indie and AAA developers are in essence the very same thing. They are there to create video games, get as many people to play them, get money and then make more video games. This then keeps cycling until one day there is no money and no games. Sadface.jpeg. Triple A developers will spend millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars to develop their games with most of that money being thrown at the marketing department. So how are indie studios meant to compete with the powerhouse that is the Triple A. With so much money available for marketing plus the ridiculous audience reach that Trips has, how would an indie developer compete in this industry. Where would they begin? Indie vs Trips in a 12 round bare knuckle fight! Who’s your money on? Personally I wouldn’t bet money on either of them considering how hit and miss both sides of the industry are. I digress however. Small disclaimer before we begin:
*I don’t know SHIT about video game development nor am I going to go into specifics on making a game (mostly) so take anything I say on the development side with a pinch of salt as these are just the ramblings of an idiot on the internet*
The Triple A industry has had the same approach to video game development for the past 5 years give or take. We have this really popular game that loads of people absolutely adore so we should keep making more of this game. Why? Because it’s an easy cash grab and worked the first time so it can work again. Then we throw millions at the marketing department and show them our market research and target audience. Marketing creates ad all over the gaff for people to be annoyed by until eventually the game makes millions of dollars and the cycle can keep going on and on forever. Prime example is Assassin’s Creed. Hell even Blizzard expanded beyond the Holy Trinity of WoW, Starcraft and Diablo and took a chance on smaller titles like Hearthstone. I don’t think that game has actually taken off all that much…cough. Even when Ubisoft tries to make a new IP they’re too scared and rigid and need to slap on an Assassin’s Creed sticker in the name. Black Flag is a great pirate game. It’s an awful Assassin’s Creed game and it’s mostly because the assassin bit is tacked on as an afterthought. They had so little confidence in this great game that they actually hamstrung it in order for it to not fail and reach maximum potential. Which it would have had it been called something other than Assassin’s Creed. So why do they continue to do this? Why keep making the same shit over and over? Because it works. Plain and simple folks. Doesn’t matter how average the game is people will buy it. People buy Fifa, Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Football Manager to name just a few every year.
How do they do it then? Marketing *insert aliens meme here*. Marketing is their most powerful tool at their disposal and they are not afraid to use it. No matter how average the game is the marketing team at a Triple A studio will make it seem like the greatest fucking thing on earth. Look at The Division or Destiny when it first launched (expansions have made the game more intuitive and interesting) and they are very basic cookie cutter FPS MMO games. They just both happen to be wearing different outfits at the same party, sucking the cock of a quarterback in the bathroom in order to be popular. That is marketing speak for “reaching a wider audience”. So how would an Indie studio compete with this then?
Let’s say my studio called “Cooldown Raptor Jesus” wants to create a small rpg game called “Murder Everything”. How would I approach the development of the game in order to try and get as much eyes on my title as possible? There are a few ways to do this some of which are fairly common sense. “Murder Everything” (ME from now on) will need to be different than most rpgs on the market today. How? I don’t fucking know, this is all hypothetical you mong. Possibly a different combat mechanic than the rest. Maybe it takes one aspect of an rpg and makes that bit the majority of the game i.e just kill everything for exp with no story. There could be lots of things we can do to make it stand out but the most important thing is that the game DOES in fact stand out from the rest. This is pretty much the only way, in my not so humble opinion, that an indie developer can make a successful game in today’s market. Their game has to stand out by being totally different than most games in order not to be casually brushed aside in favour of another title. This is actually our biggest challenge and our biggest advantage. Triple AAA studios have investors to answer to so they can’t stray from the formula too much in order to make sure the investors get a significant return. This is why Ubisoft continues to make Assassins Creeds every year with little to no deviation from each title’s predecessor. They have to churn out the same shit because if they go against the investor overlords there is hell to pay.
Cooldown Raptor Jesus has no investors but we are willing to take your money for doing absolutely nothing. We can make any game we want and no matter what PR bullshit Ubisoft or those larger studios spout they cannot make the same claim. They have to consider the investor almost every time before development begins. This is what gives us the edge over the AAA guys. We have creative freedom to do and make what we want. We do this with a small tweak in an already existing genre. An example of adding a new twist to an old genre is the classic indie title Braid. Adding a mechanic from Prince of Persia gave it a neat little twist in an otherwise cookie cutter platformer. You can also use Super Meatboy in this instance. They both add their unique flavour to an already existing recipe and what you get is a delicious cake. Mmmm cake. In order to get sales,which is what were here for at the end of the day, we have to entice players with something new. Something they never thought that they’d want in a video game but all of a sudden can’t live without. I don’t think it needs to be said but let’s face it, it’s a lot easier said than done. Now obviously we want as many people playing ME so how do we market our small indie title in order to achieve this. This is where I feel an indie game falls short or where a studio makes a small miscalculation. They don’t market the game well enough though there are a few one hit wonders that were successful without any marketing. If you had actually read it, I went through a whole list of gaming trends that you can read here. One of the points mentioned in that trend article is that just because a game is great doesn’t mean it will do well. So I can spend all of Cooldown Raptor Jesus’ resources on making the best RPG of all time but I am not guaranteed a successful game. Fuuck me!
So we need to make sure that there is enough time taken throughout development and after to advertise like shameless whores! Here is where the Triple A is king. Or is that Madam?** In order to fight against them we have to use their biggest weapon against them. Problem is they have more money than we do so how do we market the game in order to get big cash prizes? The easiest is probably to let guys on YouTube show your game off. Ubisoft, EA, Konami (FucKonami) will more than likely make content id claims on their games so we as an indie studio can use the lads and ladies of the tubes to show off our game. FOR FREE!! MWAHAHAHA! Bow before my superior knowledge of manipulation and clever advertising! This marketing strategy combined with the X-factor that makes the game stand out gives us a much better chance of reaching that potential I talked about. Obviously my take on this is somewhat simplistic and would make developers cringe should they read it but the one thing to keep in mind is that marketing is important. How important is marketing you say? Marketing has become such a large part of daily life not just in video games but in other areas such as UFC or soccer. Both of these have media days assigned to talk to press to advertise their next fight or to talk about the next match. Video games are no different. Marketing is a tool to be used so we shouldn’t shy away from it. Don’t snub it as if your game is going to be the next best thing so who needs marketing. You should embrace it like you would a toilet seat after coming home from the pub. It might take a while to get used to but after the first 5 or so times it gets a lot easier. Ah my sweet porcelain princess!
This is why every big AAA title is splashed across loads of websites, on tv on YouTube ads to name just a few. It’s also the reason why so many mediocre or bad AAA titles get so many sales. They are well aware that a good marketing campaign can do wonders for their games. Their Juggernaut of a marketing team is quite frankly unstoppable. Just look at the live action advert for Fallout 4 with the Wanderer playing in the background. That ad sealed the deal for me to buy that game on launch. Marketing is incredibly powerful and should ALWAYS be used but used wisely each time. So what’s the point of marketing a game if we’re not getting AAA levels of eyes on our product? The point here, obviously, is not to “beat” the AAA studio at their own game but use their tactics to benefit our cause. Simply by allocating resources to marketing we are reaching an audience we wouldn’t have initially. Other games opt for a different approach to their indie titles. Games like The Stanley Parable was a tongue-in-cheek look at video games that got popular mostly due to the YouTube coverage and its quirky “story”. Indie games like ours, Murder Everything in case you forgot, can also just be story driven rather than focusing on pure game play. Thomas Was Alone is an example of this where the main character was a small square. The entire game is story driven with minimalist game play BUT the game play served the overall “vision”. What do I mean by that? I mean that if you are doing a story heavy game you still need to have an excellent game mechanic that pushes your story forward. The game needs both of these aspects working in tandem for a much better, more complete experience.
A game focused solely on game play can thrive without a hint of story e.g Rocket League but a story driven game with no game play may as well be an interactive novel. Yeah that was a slight dig at all those shit games where the game play is pretty much non-existent and was effectively treated as a side note. Unless of course that was the initial intention then you’re just a piece of shit mate. This is why doing a story heavy game is less likely for our studio, Cooldown Raptor Jesus, because it’s a lot easier to make a game purely mechanic based than story driven. It’s easier because you only need to focus on the game play. Again I go back to Rocket League as a example. As a result it narrows the scope and focus of our development and is a reason why so many first time studios make very simplistic platformer games. One is not the better choice over the other though but it does depend on the talent available to our studio. If we have a team that is lacking in narrative skills then we can focus more on game play.The only way Indie developers stand a chance at competing in the same market as the Triple A is to try new things. Mechanics or story that the other guys simply cannot do for fear of failure. By the same token we need to take what works for them and apply it to our development the biggest of which is marketing. Even small minor marketing campaigns can do wonders and is highly recommended. Creativity, Freedom to do new things and a game called Murder Everything. These are the weapons we use against the Triple A communist pig-dogs!
* Mind may not actually blow up. For legal reasons of course.
** It’s a joke about brothels. Cause the AAA treat their workers like common prostitutes!