Sunday, March 14, 2010

How to make a Hit Indie Game (for XBLIG)

An opinion piece on Xblig success...

So we have seen a number of real hits on the XBLIG channel on the Xbox360. It has been a little surprising just how well a game can do. Ok, so very few are really breaking through at this point. But we do have a few. Obviously the lead at the moment on this is Zombie game, but there are others that have proved to be very profitable by the creators. We know that people have to download your game to see it. They are likely not to buy it unseen. However how do ya get awareness for your title out to those 35 million Xbox owners ?

Some have just been plain lucky, others have been given great awareness. Most however had had a great deal to do with several things, in my opinion.

I will get this one over with first. If you are lucky enough to get some notoriety or mention on Major Nelsons Blog, or one of very many lucky things. The name of your game can get out there, whether it's in outrage or amusement or real interest. I will name for example one 'A Kitchen Sink War'. This game was the xna starter with a few different graphics and it is terrible (sorry authors). The horror and outrage was awesome to see, but i'll bet it downloaded so freaking many. Example number two will be, yes you guessed it. The Massage apps. The newest one allowing you to pleasure the other controllers. This makes me wanna puke tbh. Outrage is one of the words i would use for this. But they have been popular. They have had so many downloads and one that declared months ago that it had made over 60,000 dollars, freakin ell! My third example is Major nelson mentioning massage apps again. This boosted their notoriety immensely and it hit kotaqu and more. Many downloads were had at this lucky turn of events.

Some games have brilliant design, some not so much. But what effect does this truly have on sales ? Obviously noone really knows, but i suspect that if your game is badly designed, once they download it. It will not sell. Maybe we only really need to design the trial period. Then they can suffer the rest of the game. I do know that a lot of the most 'popular' games have had a nice design. they have tried to be succinct and honest about their play. Another thing seems to be to lose the idea of a unique design. Those games seem to be relegated to not being downloaded, or only being downloaded about 3000 times in their publishing month. Most of all, whatever you make, make it feel solid. Make it feel like a place people don't mind being.

This is similar to design, but it does not matter how well you design your game or your menu. If your implementation is crap. Noone will care. If it feels harsh and unforgiving, they won't want to stay around. So take a little bit more time on that joystick debounce and make it work for your game. The most popular games are generally well programmed. Even if they happen to be anotehr twin stick shooter for example.

Marketing ?
I do not have much to say for this right now. I have personally tried quite a variety of routes to get my stuff noticed. So far to no avail. I have read everything about this subject i can in the last few months. I am most assuredly having more success. But it doesn't really seem worth the effort. It appears that hoping luck will take me somewhere is a more likely scenario. Though i paint this in a dark light, have no fear. As i am an optimist, and i beleive that if we just keep trying, one thread that we started might just get lucky. So if we put more threads and lines out there in our marketing campaigns. We just might make ourselves lucky.

This was going to be a discussion on how to make a better Xblig game. But it appears i have waffled long and hard, and not got to that yet. So it can wait for another post.

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