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  • Was It Worth Quitting My Job To Make A Game?

    [06.25.19]
    - Armaan Sandhu

  • Things that worked for me

    Here's the things I did that made sure the game wasn't heading towards total obscurity:

    1. Demo - Released the demo of the game on itch.io and gamejolt.com a year before the game's release. This got massive amounts of traffic, downloads (12k as mentioned before) and helped me build a small following over the year. The demo was one hour long, left on a cliffhanger, and ended on a Google form that asked players their opinions about the game, and collected emails for a mailing list. This had about 500 responses by the time of release. I'm not sure if these followers converted directly to sales, but it helped me get my twitter etc off the ground, and there was talk about the game.More importantly, the game was covered by media outlets (PC Gamer, apart from a good few others) and also Youtubers. It wasn't huge, but there was some talk about the game, and that's huge. It helped me get out of obscurity.

    2. Maintaining a Twitter presence - Although I don't have a huge follower count (above 1000 now, a bit less during release) I feel maintaining a good twitter presence is super helpful in creating an image of your studio that only helps your game. It's not a big source of sales, but that's where I've caught the attention of many major journalists, devs and where I've made most of my connections. If not directly, then through these influential people, Twitter helps in spreading the word about your game, and in building a community around it. This Twitter presence will come in especially handy when I move on to future projects. It can also help build an image/ identity for the studio, which further helps in making your studio/ game stand out among the crowd.

    3. Posting on reddit, facebook pages and forums - this has only been helpful in spurts, but seems to be most effective in creating a snowball effect during major events (game release, trailer release etc to get the view count moving up)

    4. I also maintained weekly/ monthly updates through devlogs and newsletters. Basic stuff, but it stops your game from sliding away from people's attentions.

    5. I also feel that the theme/ concept of the game helped it catch people's eyes. It's a Twin Peaks inspired murder mystery detective game dealing with themes of love, relationships and unresolved trauma. It's a story that I'd always wanted to tell, but these themes were also the reasons a lot of reviewers approached me. People have also called the art style eye catching. This is basic, obvious stuff (a decent looking game that sounds interesting) but it's worth thinking about when planning a game. Is it just going to be an excellently made game, or is it going to be that and have thematic pull? There's a blog about this (I haven't read it myself, planning to read it soon for my next game) which I think talks about similar stuff.

    Things that didn't work

    Leaving the quality of the game itself out of this, I think the major things that hurt my launch week was the lack of coverage by streamers, youtubers and major press. The demo received much more attention from Youtubers than the full game release. I sent keys to about a thousand websites, many of which had been interested in the game/had covered it before (such as the release date announcement) but completely panned it for the release itself.

    PC Gamer wrote a couple of articles on the game (release date, demo etc) but skipped the actual release. Rock Paper Shotgun was the biggest site to cover the game (which was awesome) along with a bunch of other great outlets, but it didn't have the intended effect (possibly because many of the reviews came up a couple of weeks after release)

    I feel that if the game had received the expected amount of attention during release, the effects could've been exponential and sales could've been much more. I suspect that most outlets were caught up with reviewing other games (even in Feb!) and even though I sent the keys a couple of weeks in advance, maybe sending it even earlier would've been better (that, or being a recognized developer)

    Conclusion:

    So, considering everything, has it all been worth it? For me - hell yeah! Sure, sales wise/ financially speaking it's more of a middling success than a hit, and I need to work hard to keep making money from this to support myself. I'm also a bachelor, but once I have a family of my own, I'll need to earn a lot more to support them. But apart from that, and considering the present, I was able to leave a job and routine I completely despised, for something I love. I'm now able to immerse myself completely, everyday, in art and in my passion. I love being a part of the game industry and working and living on my own terms. There's risks and relative uncertainty but it works out as I'm comfortable with such situations.

    Releasing this game has allowed me to travel out of my country for the first time (For EGX Rezzed, London) where I met other devs, showed my game on a Rock Paper Shotgun stream (an absolute dream for me) met some great people, devs, streamers and even made a few friends!

    It's "changed my life" - not to a degree that it does to the big, famous indies, but I'm grateful for what I've had regardless. Now I'm preparing to move out of my parents house, out of my small coastal hometown to a big, fast-paced city and getting ready for a new phase in my life. I also plan to learn programming and start working on my new game soon (cannot wait for it!) while I hand this game over to be ported to consoles. I have zero regrets about switching my career, but yes, I did have favorable conditions in which to make this shift.

    Hope this data has been useful! I scoured the internet for numbers of this sort leading up to and even after release, so I'm happy to be able to share some of it myself - good thing Steam now allows you to share data!

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