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77 questions that every indie developer should ask

Exploring the areas that every indie dev should cover if trying to make a commercially successful game - from pricing to marketing to launch dates

This article was first published on VG Insights - a free indie market research platform

What are the important business questions that every indie game dev should ask themselves?

Developers who jump into the next game without thinking it through are much more likely to fail, not generate significant revenue and, often not even finish their game.

This article covers a set of questions that every indie developer should think about before, during and after making their game.

Genre

  1. Which genres and sub-genres are really popular now? What about in a year? Which genres are already losing traction?
  2. Are there new games coming out that will revitalise a less popular genre?
  3. Which genres are oversupplied by developers? Is there any point in still entering these? Can I stand out there?
  4. Which genres have a lot of games, but they're mostly hobby projects and easy to 'beat'?
  5. Which genres make the most money? Is it driven by a few hits or are even the average games making a decent sum in that genre?
  6. Can I merge some sub-genres to provide a fresh approach?

Players

  1. Who is my target player?
  2. How old are they? Am I targeting nostalgic millenials or the sociable gen Z?
  3. Should I target males, females or both? What does that mean in practice?
  4. What type of gamer are they? Casual? Hard-core?
  5. Why are they playing games? Socialising? Stress-relief? Competitiveness? Escape?
  6. What other games do they like to play? Why?
  7. How many potential people fit the criteria above? Is it a niche or wide appeal game?
  8. What other games target the same audiences? How are they doing it?

Competitors

  1. How many other games like this are there? How similar are they?
  2. If there are none, how many games are in the same sub-genre?
  3. What are other similar games doing that I'm not?
  4. What are other similar games doing better than I am?
  5. What are other similar games doing wrong? How can I avoid this?

Pricing

  1. What should I price my game?
  2. What do other games in my genre cost?
  3. If I charged 50% more for my game, would I lose >50% of the potential buyers? If not, why wouldn't I charge more?
  4. Does the low price for my game indicate that it might not be of good quality?

In game purchases

  1. Is there scope to add in game purchases?
  2. What type of in game purchases would I consider?
  3. Would they provide negative user experience and drive away some players? How many?

Discounting

  1. Should I discount my game? By how much? How often?
  2. Do other games like that offer discounts? How big are their discounts? How many more games do they sell when they discount?

Revenue

  1. How much can my game earn?
  2. What are the optimistic and pessimistic cases? What's that dependent on?
  3. How much do other similar games earn?
  4. What makes the top earners stand out?
  5. What makes the bottom earners stand out?

Costs

  1. How long will it take me to develop this game?
  2. How much will it cost me to make this game?
  3. Do I need to hire help? How much will this cost?
  4. How many copies do I need to sell to break even?
  5. What is the pessimistic case for developing this game - how long will this take?
  6. How long can I afford to spend developing this game with existing funds?

Graphics

  1. How complex will my graphics be? Is this achievable? Does it need to be complex?
  2. Who's making the art for the game? How long will this take? Can I buy assets? How much will that cost?
  3. What art style am I going for? How does it fit with my genre and target audience?
  4. How do other games in that art style perform? Are there other art styles in this genre that typically do better?
  5. Are there art styles that have recently become more popular? What's driven that? Other games? Do I expect that to last?

Releasing the game

  1. When do other games tend to release? Why?
  2. What are the important events dates that I should consider when releasing my game?
  3. When do other games similar to mine release? Are there any upcoming releases?
  4. Are there any major AAA games being released at a similar time to my game?

Porting and Localisation

  1. Which platforms should I release my game on to maximise revenue?
  2. How many more potential buyers will an additional platform give me?
  3. Should I localise my games to other languages and cultures?
  4. Should I just translate the game or change some of the content to fit the culture? To what extent?
  5. How many languages should I translate the game to and what are they?
  6. How many new players will each localisation give me access to? How many expected sales?
  7. How much will it cost?

Marketing

  1. What is my general approach to marketing?
  2. How early should I start my marketing campaign?
  3. What are the key marketing channels that will drive my players?
  4. How much money should I put in my marketing budget?
  5. How much can I afford to pay per player acquired?
  6. What are the expected ratios of impressions to clicks to purchase for each channel?
  7. How big do I want the community to be pre launch? How many wishlists? What does that mean for expected revenue?
  8. What are the 'free' marketing channels for me? How can I best utilise them?

Publishers

  1. Can I do the marketing myself or should I look for a publisher?
  2. Which publishers would be interested in the type of game I'm making?
  3. How have the games they've published before done?
  4. What genre do they focus on? Do they typically release indie games at my scale?
  5. How do I pitch do publishers? What are the best practices?
  6. What does my pitch have to contain?
  7. What % of my revenue do they normally take? Is that worth it?

DLCs and sequels

  1. Should I release free and/or paid DLCs for my game?
  2. Will that help drive retention, new players to the IP and/or upsell the existing players?
  3. How extensive do the DLCs have to be to provide good value for money?
  4. Was my game popular enough to release more games in the same IP instead of making something new?
  5. How long should I wait before releasing the next game?
  6. What can I provide in the new game in the same IP that appeals to the old fans and what can I provide that innovates VS the original game?

Getting started

  1. What am I waiting for?

If you found this article insightful, check out the VG Insights platform for Steam stats and games market analysis

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