Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
WittyUsername

What Causes "That" Indie Game to Become a Hit?

Recommended Posts

So, I started thinking about how we're living in an age where there always seems to be a new hot indie game that gets a lot of attention and it just blows up. Mostly, this is because a couple of YouTubers gave it attention. It got a good reviews from the dudes, then others follow the leader and sooner or later, it gets meme'd to death. Creator enjoys cash money-money for a bit, then after a couple of months, the new hotness comes along, and the indie game still gets a handful of purchases and mentions but isn't as sexy as it once was.

However, while this might make indie games being a ticket to the dev life, truth is most indie games don't get that much attention. The majority fall to the side getting a few hundred sales, if they're lucky as Five Cups at Underdoki gets all the love and glory.  Why's that? Quality surely plays into it but I'm sure a number of the ignored crowd HAVE to have been pretty good overall.

Does promotion play into it? Maybe. Obviously Let's Players and Reviewers are the dudes who give it the major hype but how'd it reach their ear? Luck? Did they see a game and it looked interesting and they just went for it? Did a friend they have on Steam present it to them? Did the creator go, "Heeeeeeey... so I have a game..."

And more importantly, what drew people to take a chance on these titles? price can vary wildly, I notice most indie games seem to charge less than 10 dollars with Cuphead being the exception that I know about being the more expensive side of 20 buck-a-roos. On the opposite end of the spectrum Doki Doki is free.

Perhaps it's just me, but it's hard to imagine many people willing to risk money on something that's unproven.  Hell, I feel greedy with 5 dollars.

I suppose, with Let's Players, these indie games are an investment into their careers. But still, so many games out there, what turned these things into the Chosen One?

What gives these particular indie games the "It" factor that turned them into unknown titles from a rando into internet icons with various fanarts and memes?

I dunno how many of you saw the rise of a particular indie game from nobodies, I know I haven't. Maybe someone who has could give some insight. Maybe you were on a message board one night when a dude posted about his upcoming project that no one knew would explode.

It's just fascinating, though. My view of my own purchases would probably never take a gamble on a title I haven't heard much about and yet there's apparently many who will. Or maybe there isn't, it was just the right few who would.

Your thoughts? Maybe you have a completely different perspective and it's not Youtubers who cause the popularity? Maybe you feel that the cost/risk factor isn't that big of a deal?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A lot of times, it can be the creator's already established reputation giving them attention (Undertale, Doki Doki Literature Club). Other times, it's just word of mouth until it reaches someone big (Minecraft, Five Nights at Freddy's). Or maybe it'll just blow up completely out of nowhere (A Hat in Time).

It'd be great to tap into that potential when making a game, but it's an impossible gamble sometimes, an unfair game that picks up one project from the millions out there. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Polkadi~♪ said:

A lot of times, it can be the creator's already established reputation giving them attention (Doki Doki Literature Club)

Oh right, yeah. I remember reading about Dan being a modder for Smash Bros and was apparently somewhat popular in that community. There's probably more to him. Interesting that'd translate to a visual novel. But I suppose being friends with some in that circle gives him a boost.

 

Of the indie titles that's popular, it and Minecraft (granted, only VERY recently) are the only ones I've ever played. DDLC was free -- which I guess is what got me thinking about all this. I'm cheap with money (I did buy the pack to give him some cash because I did enjoy it) but I know not everyone is.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sometimes it'll be price for me. Like the amount of times I passed on Axiom Verge because it's £15 and didn't look THAT interesting to drop that amount on it. Until I got a Switch. Saw it was on that but in physical form and read tonnes of reviews praising it as a great Metroidvania. I've been enjoying it ever since.

 

I pass on a lot of them because they all go for the Retro 8-Bit/16-Bit look and makes everything look and seem a bit same-y, if that makes sense. 

 

But I highly recommend Axiom Verge if you want a good Sci-fi Metroidvania, and if you like Old-Skool Ninja Gaiden, check out The Messenger! Also on Switch. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think there's any one reason. Word of mouth seems to be the main one but promo from YouTubers and low prices are also prominent factors. Sadly, luck of the draw also applies quite often.

I've searched for and purchased indie games for a variety of reasons.

  • Freedom Planet - A platformer (my favourite vg genre) that filled a void the Sonic series (then my favourite series) failed to at the time.
  • Celeste - Heard about it a lot which encouraged me to look it up. Found out it was a platformer and was instantly drawn to the gorgeous art.
  • Undertale - It goes without saying that I also came across this one via word of mouth. Ultimately I was drawn to this one because of its music. This is actually how I get into a lot of the games I play. I love vgm and when I listen to it I always imagine and eventually want to see it in game with full context.

There're plenty more but each of them fall somewhere in each of the above categories.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Certainly the jump from Steam to more economically beneficial and moderated platforms like the Switch and even the Epic store has helped indie devs from what I can gather. They don’t have to compete with all the shovelware and content, and face false assumptions about their games quality due to steams stigma at this point. They got more breathing room to promote their games on those other platforms 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To be fair, Undertale is probably one of the best games ever made, so I think the success of that was mostly just because of how extremely high quality it was.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's a lot of factors (game quality, word of mouth, connections with other people), but honestly, it's just luck. A lot of people have gotten lucky from popular streamers/youtubers playing their games, but nowadays, the most popular streamers only play a small selection of games. Unless you're EA with their 1 million dollar payment for Ninja to stream Apex Legends, you're probably gonna be real out of luck.

I've always seen people who have experienced moderate success but in terms of blow-up popularity, that's a lot less common (especially with the huge rise in the amount of game releases, you're really competing against literally everyone). Regarding that, here's some things I've seen work:

-Building and maintaining the community of your game yourself: I've seen developers run smaller communities (I help moderate a discord server for a indie project, so I've seen what these kind of servers look like firsthand) to varying levels of success, but it's pretty much always been a net positive. If the developers are actively participating, the community will be 100% on board from the announcement to the game to its eventual release. You'll also be able to get more people who may not know the game to learn more about it by simply joining the community, wherever it be on Reddit, Discord, etc.

-Show up at events, not just the internet: I've seen this work firsthand! One of my upcoming projects, UNBEATABLE, got a lot of traction when we demo'd it at MAGFest 2019 (people were lining up just to watch the TV display and listen to the music). Getting at events, no matter how small will really increase a game's chance of visibility, especially because most indie game showings are technically attractions at events, so people will want to go and check out the games for fun. Unfortunately, money, time and transportation can severely impede the ability for this to happen. The online equivalent of this would be game jams and digital conventions, which is starting to pop more often (check notgdc.fun)

-Get a publisher: Yeah, no kidding about this one. A good publisher will help out with all the legal stuff, provide additional resources (i.e. money, QA, additional contractors), but also marketing. That's not something a lot of people have success with but a lot of publishers have been responsible for certain games breaking out! Some examples of highly successful indie games include Enter the Gungeon (Devolver Digital), Not Tonight (No More Robots), Hello Neighbor (tinyBuild), and most recently Forager (Humble Bundle). Publishers weren't solely responsible for these games succeeding, but the amount of resources Devolver Digital must had provided surely helped in Enter the Gungeon becoming one of the best selling Switch games of all time. 

-Try to get the attention of the press and influencers: A lot of game journalism sites are often really busy trying to cover bigger releases (Which is a bit of a issue in itself), but still try contacting them anyways! Having presskits and constantly sending emails to sites could help get attention. Also seek for smaller sites too, any bit of coverage helps, so as long as they aren't trying to scam you. As for streamers/youtubers, you can pretty much try doing the same thing, it's pretty much how tinyBuild get their games all over the place.

-Release on as many places as possible: Don't just think Steam. Try to get it on as many storefronts as realistically possible (itch.io is starting to become a more popular haven for smaller indie games). Just know that many storeplaces have different standards and terms (for ex. Steam places many restrictions on its store, requires a upfront fee that will later be refunded, and takes a 30% cut. In comparison, itch.io is very lenient, allows multiple ways of selling games, and you can adjust itch.io's cut from 0-100%). Consoles will prob need the help of a publisher (and like Steam have many rules for their storefront, usually have a 30% cut and also require lots of certification processes)

-Interact and meet more people in the indie dev space: Don't think I need to elaborate on this. Just go in the space, have fun and make friends! That's pretty much how I've gotten around.

Either way, none of these are really "guaranteed" ways to succeed, but it's what I and a lot of other people I know try to do to better our chances. If anything though, most of my friends seem to just get lucky and their games get a lot of visibility on Twitter on a random day, sparking either a increase in patreon pledges or tons of sales.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Many of the early "indie" [personally call them small developers since they often having very few staff or even one person] games got popular just because they had staff members from games companies in the past. Broken AgeShovel Knight and even Fez are very good examples of this, even Shantae can be considered a popular indie series. It is still like this for a few games such as FTL/Into the Breach were done by ex-2K staff. If it wasn't from a games company already then heavily associated with a community like Undertale and Freedom Planet, the latter was a Sonic fan game originally that happened to be a bit more unique when it came to SAGE at the time. Some early indie games were involved with the industry but didn't work on any games before or did Flash games/shareware games. One of the earliest indie games ever Manic Miner was made because the programmer was talented enough to code on the Spectrum, yes Manic Miner could be considered an indie game today. Nowadays with kids on the Internet, it is pretty much what entertains them more and down to luck. It could even be a bad game that gets attention for the memes and not out of quality. Maybe a well known streamer played the game out of boredom.

Alot of it is also just down to the type of the game. Indie games were made to be either filling a void left behind due to that very few publishers want to invest in that genre (e.g. beat em ups, platformers until more recently, classic RPGs, shoot em ups, well 2D games in general at one point, arcade sports games, arcade racing games), something different or were made out of limited resources, as is the case of many of the early ones and still is to a extent. At one point people thought every indie game looked like a NES game even though actually quite a fair bit weren't technically (even something like Shovel Knight is slightly more advanced than the NES).

There have been a few indie racing games lately trying to get fill that void outside of the simulations (e.g. Milestone motorbike games, Forza, F1, etc), think the only success story was Horizon Chase and that was because the developers were such big fans of Top Gear (the old SNES game) that they put their passion into making the game. Plus it had a different model in terms of marketing as it that it was a mobile game at first that got a console/PC port later on. Many indie racing games have either stumbled on the final corner (e.g. Xenon Racer, GRIP) or didn't even get off the starting grid (e.g. 90s Arcade Racer).

Sadly though many of the indie games are fighting in the same space. Not the same space as AAA or traditional publishers/developers like open world, action adventure, FPS, online battle royale, loot box/slot machine simulator, puzzle for mobile. Can recall that quite a lot of them are Metroidvanias or platformers for instance. So now that they have to really stand out to get attention whether its art style, gameplay mechanics, level design. Within the past two years we had Axiom Verge and Hollow Knight for Metroidvanias, Cuphead for a run and gun, Celeste, Gris, A Hat in Time and not as successful Yooka Laylee for platformers with the latter two being 3D. Those are just the noticeable ones.

Also when it comes to attention, it seems to move from pillar to post. First indie games got popular on XBLA then when that well dried up moved to Steam or even the Vita and now it is Switch as well as various PC outlets. Why they move? Too much competition and in case of the first two got really over-saturated with crap while the Vita just died. It will happen on the Switch and probably always has right now, more so on the US store due to the rating systems/translations that many indie developers can't afford or don't want to do.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The main thing is that they need to offer *something* that makes them unique, especially something that mainstream games used to cater to. It doesn't even necessarily have to be first, as AHiT showed against Yooka Laylee.

 

 

As noted above, just look at the Metroidvania genre. There's Bloodstained, there's Shovel Knight, there's Shantae (generally). Then there's 14000 other same-ish games that no one will look at no matter what store they are on. Even if all of them were 100% passion products worth playing (as opposed to the more cynical way the follow the leader market works in mainstream games), they will never be able to all have their time in the spotlight. The market is generally pretty good at only popularizing ones that are actually good, but it still can't do the same for all of them. It's inherent to the market.

 

 

On 5/6/2019 at 8:18 PM, Polkadi~♪ said:

Or maybe it'll just blow up completely out of nowhere (A Hat in Time).

Yooka Laylee may have been turned into a huge internet darling (until it actually came out, at least) that got the YouTube celebrity spotlight virtually from announcement, but AHiT had already had a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign and made the YouTube rounds well before that point.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

You must read and accept our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy to continue using this website. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.