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Do you Really Need to Start a Studio to Make Games?

Do you really need to start a studio to make games? And what do you mean by starting a studio? Is it getting some office space and quitting your day job? Or is being a "bedroom/basement programmer" a feasible option?

So one day I saw this article on Polygon entitled What does it really cost to open an indie studio? All your money, most of your lifeI agree with the facts of it. It really isn't for everyone at first. Especially for those who wish to make the game they want to make and try to sell it somewhat commercially. But then what did those game developers who didn't "start a studio" to make their games?

Ask yourself if you really want to live that tense lifestyle or if you want to just make games.

Of course, they are the "bedroom/basement programmers" image we have when we think indie games. Yet how much do we really talk about that image? How many articles appear on game development websites that talk about bedroom/basement programmers?

We'll skip talking about setting up and go into more why you would or wouldn't start a studio. By this we mean the quit-day-job-and-rent-an-office studio. We'll do the same with going bedroom/basement indie.

Why You Should Start a Studio

Starting a studio is not a bad thing despite what my tone is making. It's a great sign that you reached a turning point or milestone. However a milestone usually implies you've already achieved something beforehand.

You should start a studio if:

  • You already released a game that you can live off of
  • You got funding from some kind of investment and they expect you to get an office
  • You understand how to start and run a business or can hire someone who can
  • You want to increase the production value of your games and have the money for it

The pressure of money will affect what game you ultimately choose to make. Being a bedroom indie means that you will get more freedom from such pressures to make the game you truly want. 

So in a basic sense, you should do it if you have money with experience (your own or hired).

However for the average bright-eyed game developer this isn't in the cards. Or maybe they already have a family to support and such. What can they do?

Why You Should go Bedroom/Basement Game Developer

How about doing game development as a hobby first to see? Work on it in your spare time and occasionally contract out help for stuff like art and music. Or look for free-to-use-commercially art/music resources. You don't need to risk everything to do it and keep your day job.

You should go bedroom/basement indie game dev if:

  • You have to support a family
  • You don't have that much money
  • You are unsure if you can handle the risk of starting a studio
  • You want experience
  • You really want the freedom to make what you want without financial pressure

You hear a lot of stories about how the indies risk everything to chase their dream. Keep in mind that it's always more interesting to hear about people who risk it all compared to those who didn't take that much risk. Ask yourself if you really want to live that tense lifestyle or if you want to just make games.

Also having your living based on your game development definitely creates that pressure to succeed. The pressure of money will affect what game you ultimately choose to make. Being a bedroom indie means that you will get more freedom from such pressures to make the game you truly want.

It Just a Matter of Timing and Progression, Which you Should Know Best by Now 

It's not a question if which is of these are better than the other. If you are a gamer then no one else should know it better than you. It's more of a matter of progression. Just like the progression in way too many of the video games you play, right? Take on a monster without enough experience and you're going to get crushed. No different here.

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