While we were releasing our first game The Hat Man: Shadow Ward, we had it pretty easy. The hard core gaming community loves survival horror. We were approved in 5 months on Steam without any company history or marketing. There were trolls, but there are always trolls. Let them rain, you be the parade.
But something strange happened once we ventured out past our safety zone. On Steam people loved us. When we applied to GOG, we were rejected. They said the game was too niche for their audience. I would disagree. I think their gate was too niche for our game. You see our game is halfway between an Amnesia and a Slenderman. Both those games are available on GOG. So they were not letting us sell our game on their platform because we were so far between two other games they were already selling that we had found a niche. That makes no sense.
If there were a quality issue, we applied months before our game was done, so they could have put off the decision waiting to see the release version of the game. They did not. So one has to take them at their word.
That was the first crack we saw. It was the only one we saw so we let it go.
A Better Idea On Paper
The current project is bringing an award winning game back to life - "Crystal Quest". This has to be something GOG (Good Old Games) will sell. It is a good old game that won awards. The game was hugely popular. We are porting it to multiple platforms and reviving the editor which was one of the first mod tools. Of course they had to approve it. It is their target game.
Nope. We were rejected. Too niche. Seriously. They need to update their form answers so they don't accidentally send the same one to the same person twice.
Not a big issue. They sell something like 1/5th the numbers that Steam sells so we still have Steam.
Yesterday I launched our page on Steam. In the first 24 hours, less than 20% 'Yes' votes. What? An award winning game? It is retro by definition. It is indie since it will be published by me under Game Mechanics. It is fun by... it is award winning. And yet 4 out of 5 people are saying 'No'. No we don't want old, indie, popular games on the platform. This makes no sense.
What this signals is that the gates to entry of some of the game stores are taking shape. There is a formula you need to follow to get by the gatekeepers. And it would definitely help if your game isn't too niche (You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means).
Luckily I know a little bit more about the Greenlight process since we had another idea for a game that got greenlit. It was a racing game called Racewërks. Since we posted that one, my partner and I went separate directions. We still talk but he is off doing his own thing. So that project is dead. But it taught me something - You can get greenlit even if you can't get the votes. We were not even halfway to the Top 50 and got greenlit. So someone at Valve is overriding the Greenlight process and approving games that don't get enough votes. Thank God!
We also released a Kickstarter for the Crystal Quest update and it is going well. We have a high conversion rate. Now we just need more gamers to find the page. The reason it is doing so well is that it was a huge hit back in the late 80s and continued to do well through 2006 when it was last updated. It is on a lot of platforms but most are dated now.
Since you can't count on the trolls not to troll you on Steam and you can't count on the kid just out of Full Sail to pass you along to someone who was born when your game was first popular, there has to be a better way. Steam seems to have realized that. Obviously we still have the Android and Apple stores that do not gate based on the game. We also have Amazon. The problem there is getting your title found. At least with Steam, the people in the store are there to buy games.
Otherwise the direction we are heading would mean every game would be a multiplayer FPS where you need to build your machine gun out of tree and rock parts while being chased by zombies/robots/pirates/ninjas/gangsters.
I know. I would play that game. Let's hope they leave room for some other games as well.