Finding success as an indie game developer is increasingly possible in today’s global marketplace. Many indie games and apps are seeing continued growth with the increased revenue that comes along with it.
But being an indie game developer doesn’t come without challenges. For one, there is more competition now than ever before, because there are more and more indie games available.
Sergey Galyonkin, founder of Steam Spy, a data-tracking tool, found that the number of indie games on Steam nearly doubled from 2015 to 2016. And that’s just on Steam, there are other platforms featuring even more games.
How can you ensure your indie gaming app survives in such a competitive market? What you do before, during, and after you launch your gaming app that may make all the difference.
Here are five steps you can take to launch, grow, and profit like a top-ten best seller.
Step #1 Budget Like a Boss
Creating a budget that can facilitate success and be failure friendly is essential to any indie game developer’s project. Of course you want to develop a game that is an absolute success right out of the gate, but this is often not realistic.
There are a number of costs indie game developers need to consider. Programming, testing, and keeping the lights on all need to be considered, so having a healthy development budget without over extending yourself is a recipe for success.
A few guidelines for budgeting like a boss include:
- Planning out your costs. Having a good idea of your fixed costs make a big difference down the road. Know how much hardware, software licensees, office space, general supplies, tech support, and legal costs will be needed throughout the duration of development.
- Understanding shipping costs. This aspect is often overlooked by gaming app developers. You are creative, tech savvy, and have a powerful entrepreneurial vision, but when it comes to other essentials, like shipping costs, you may forget to budget them at the beginning.
- Making task management a priority. Understanding how much every detail will cost you is important. Break down each development task into small manageable increments in order to have a price tag for each.
You always want to have enough money available to make tweaks and overcome any problems that may arise during development. Not having a properly planned budget in place could leave you cutting corners, and your user experience could suffer.
“Failing to plan a project right causes headaches down the road,” Nathan Lovato of GameAnalytics said.
And always make sure to budget for failure. Your first, second, or even third gaming app may fall short of your expectations. Having a budget that’s failure-ready ensures you will have funding down the road for when the big hit comes later.
Step #2 Decide What System Requirements You’ll Need
There are a number of new innovative ways to develop your indie game. Tech savvy eye popping 3D engines are certainly tempting, but getting caught up in the hype of next generation games could be a mistake for indie game developers.
You may find a high-end niche market for a 3D gaming app, but is it really what you want? Most games with a large user base are of the 2D variety. This may be due to the familiarity and nostalgia behind these games, for both developers and users.
“Those were the games that fueled their creativity and imagination, and so we’re seeing a new generation of games that are running with those classic 2D based concepts,” Ahmad Naser, Development Manager at Telah Games said.
Developing 3D games also requires more programming skills, and may not be as cost effective. Always keep your budget in mind. Developing a 2D gaming app also gives you more compatibility, allowing you to release your game on many platforms.
Here’s what you’ll need to begin developing your 2D gaming app:
- Game developers
- Game concept artists skilled in 2D gaming apps
- Professional gaming app UI and UX designers
- A 2D artist that shares your vision
- Producers for theme music and special effects sounds
- A savvy marketing team that can increase awareness prior to launch, and make your indie gaming app trend after release
Step #3 Think Multiplayer
Opting out of 3D and the other latest and greatest development system requirements is better for your budget. However, there are some high-tech, user-friendly options that should be considered. One of which is multiplayer online gaming.
Developing an indie game with an online multiplayer option will drive up development costs, and make overall development slightly more complicated. But by implementing this option, you could build a larger user base and more app engagement in the long run.
“Multiplayer experiences have proved to help with monetization, so now it is time to finish the job by implementing more ways for players to communicate with other players, and gamers in general,” Barak Levanon of Gamasutra explained.
Here are a few multiplayer aspects to consider:
- Create a server and request HostData from the master server to join the server.
- Enable the ability to spawn players within the game.
- Choose State Synchronization or Remote Procedure Calls to provide network communication.
- Enable interpolation and the ability to predict values within and between data packages.
Gamers love gearing up and playing against friends, or strangers online. It is a level of competitiveness that could make or break any gaming app’s engagement metrics. Giving your users more ways to play within your game’s community is vital to the growth and success of your indie mobile game.
Step #4 Build a Community Before Launch
It’s important for indie gaming developers to build a community around their games before launch. This is a vital step in having top ten success for any gaming app.
Having a large group of loyal followers is essential for any new product or service. The same goes for gaming apps. You want future users to begin a conversation and create buzz around your game far before it is finished.
Creating a community prior to launch can also benefit the development of your game. For instance, your future users can add very important insight about what they want in the next gaming app, and integrating these insights will help you succeed.
“Before launching your mobile gaming app, make sure you have a solid marketing strategy in place in order to make your launch as effective as possible,” according to Apptentive.
Here are a few pre-launch marketing tactics to employ:
- Get social with your gaming app. If it isn’t happening on social media, it isn’t happening at all. This makes having a social community for your indie game absolutely essential. First, create all the major social accounts, like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube. Next, post production updates and videos to build interest.
- Employ the power of crowdsourcing. If you want a built in user base prior to launching your indie game, using a crowdsourcing platform is recommended. These platforms are great for netting some extra capital, but it is also a space for raising awareness and excitement about your project.
- Develop a website and blog forum. Any successful gaming app will eventually need a website, so why not get a head start? You can share updates via blogs, find helpful insight via blog comments, and showcase your upcoming game on your website’s home page.
Sometime game publishers and developers are too close to their projects. Allowing a few of your more faithful followers to participate in beta testing could have big time benefits. Having a built in fan base prior to launch may just uncover new features to add, as well as serious pitfalls in your app that your future users will point out.
Step #5 Always Be Willing to Adapt
During Beta testing, your built in fan base may find some deal breakers in your game. Even after launch, glitches and wonky gameplay issues may arise that need to be fixed. One thing many gaming app developers know for certain is that development never ends.
Between monitoring in-app interaction and updates, your indie gaming app will be an ongoing project after most of the initial development is finished. Being willing to adapt your game via player feedback, and choosing in-app third party services to monitor user behavior is essential.
Implementing third party in-app services like Google Analytics, Firebase, AdMob, and Unity allows app publishers and developers to monitor and monetize their mobile games. More often than not, they find test-driving a few different services to be best.
Indie game developers have found success with Enhance mobile SDK solutions to implement these services, simply because of the ease of integration and use. You can have any number of in-app services implemented and ready within minutes.
Enhance can update services in minutes as well. No more writing new code and new directories every time an update is ready. For indie gamers, rewarded video ads can provide a robust ROI, and allow them to recoup development costs faster.
Success for indie game developers can certainly be attained. Following the above steps for your next mobile gaming project could prove beneficial. Remember to always budget appropriately, and think long term by monetizing and monitoring your app for the best engagement and ROI. Next thing you know, you’ll be on your way to success!