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Being indie: why being creative is not enough...

A indie developer is focussed on his first game, his breakthrough. Being creative is great but there is also your company..... And there is where you need to think differently.

As I am a (indie) developer for almost two years now I have learned a lot. A lot in a creative way, a lot in decision making way and learned something I already knew but a lot of developers don't know....

Developing a game is not a piece of cake and that dreamjob you always thought it would be. I mean a lot of kids nowadays want to be a developer because they think they can make one game and then be filthy rich or famous. Developing a game is hard work, give a lot of worries and you need to be careful that your deadlines won't kill creativity. Aside all this it's important to be business-wise. Let me explain.

~~In the beginning you are with two people, eat your iconic bowl of noodles in your attic or home-made office and do everything at the same time. Why? Well you are just a two man army so key is to be good at different disciplines. The only focus is on your game, your one game only. And you start to be creative but forget to think about your studio as a business. What happens after this game? What happens if my game is not succesful? Will the other partner in crime continue working with you or not? And how to determine which costs are necesarry and which are not mandatory. That trip to San Francisco for GDC is very exciting, lot's of fun and maybe create exposure but.....is it worth the investment? Or is it better to use this money for the much needed Unity license or that devkit you really really need to continue with the next chapter of development.

~~To answer this question I can give you some advice how to evaluate this and make a good decision. Follow the MoSCoW model. This model sums up to this:

M            Must-have (it's really mandatory, without it the development stops)

o

S             Should have (It should be good to have this to boost the development or to work efficient)

C            Would have (Would be great to have, handy to start working efficient but unsure of result)

o

W           Wish (You have a great 24 inch monitor to work, but a 50 inch monitor would be epic!)

Ask yourself if this fits one of the above to be clear how this "need" stands in the development. It can help you save costs. For my company Excamedia I tried as much as I could to stick with the Must have's in this model. When we attend Tokyo Game Show 2015 we could've choose to stay in an expensive hotel but it's not necesarry as during an expo you are so busy working, you are happy to have a bed. So we loved our two star hotel a little outside of Tokyo centre. This saved us a lot of money. This is a simple yet recognizable example for a developer travelling abroad. Also for flyers, do you want to be original every time and create new ones or design an overall flyer so you can use it at every expo.

Furthermore I want to talk about how to be more open to the press and other developers. The most common things I see with (local) developers is that they are closed, in their own office not talking to anyone besides the people who are in their friends zone.  I feel that you miss the point of having a company and releasing your game. Ask yourself this: How can you be closed while you want others to notice your game? How can other people get to know your company if you are too afraid to talk? If you don't talk you can't create visibility and press won't notice you enough. Yeah you can put a screenshot on twitter or instagram but that's not enough.

~~We at Excamedia are open to gamers and press, for myself, I talk to everyone. When I see a chance I take it and try to leverage that long term and short term. In the Dutch Game Garden there is a networklunch once a month. We are the only one who have their door open and invite press, students, gamers etc. to talk to us, ask questions, play some games. When we could attend Tokyo Game Show we decided to work with the NFIA and Dutch Embassy and we promoted them big time! We were not afraid but went head on and kicked some ass. As result we may attend this year's Tokyo Game show with the Dutch Embassy. Why? we are not afraid to see and take chances to help people. If indies were to help eachother more than we as indies become stronger. Don't see another indie as a competitor but as a sort of co-worker.

At ECG expo in Assen for example we let Crazy Monkey Studio and Speelbaars use our 60 inch TV to showcase their game so their game were also in the spotlight. Why? Because we want to work together and like to see their cool games on a big screen and this draws attention for them. And yeah they make cool games and are great guys. In return they tweeted that Excamedia did this for them, which is a nice gesture. As you can see, help eachother, be more open and talk, do good marketing via social media (and not once in 6 months one screenshot), email podcasts to promote your game. In this way this openness creates more visibility for you and your game. Oh and if you use twitter, here is a good site to keep track of how well you do on twitter: https://analytics.twitter.com/about

Marketing is also something I just highlighted but want to mention again. Marketing is 50% of development. Again being closed and afraid someone will copy your game doesn't help you make your game be known to the masses. Use ALL social media channels you can, do Twitch livestream at least once a week or if it's busy than try regularly, attend as much expo's as you can in an effective way so keep the costs in check. Don't be afraid to talk to (international) press and the gamers.

So to be business wise you need to think about marketing, take your chances, look further in the future then only your one game. Talk to gamers and press and your team members. Of course see what is needed in your company and what is really only for fun. Oh and the student-like atmosphere in your office can look hipster but a lot of companies or customers won't take you seriously and consider you less professional.

To sum it up, it's good to be creative but it's even better to also think business-wise. If you have any questions or feedback, please let me know.

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