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Moving into the "Post Steam Greenlight" era where do solo indie developers go? Is this a dying breed destined to fade away into the ocean of games that Steam has become?

Hassan Dib, Blogger

July 22, 2018

6 Min Read

Two years ago I had a dream of creating an action adventure game for mobile phones. In my mind I envisioned the original Zelda but with a much faster pace of action similar to Devil May Cry. I went into development and spent a long time getting the game to where I thought it would be ready for release. After the games release on Google I noticed something. No one knew my game existed! It was very difficult to make any profit off the game, I had a decent playerbase ( the game was free ) and I had in-apps that weren't game breaking but still, It wasn't enough money to provide for my daughter. The mobile app market was too saturated with games for my game ( or any of my games, I made 13 ) to make much of a difference.

It was then I made the decision to leave mobile gaming. I would move on to greener pastures and move to Steam and PC gaming! I started development on a pixel platformer but I always felt this lingering...need... somewhere in my soul. I wanted Super Bit Adventure to be played, to succeed. So I dusted it off and completely reworked how the game was played and all the artwork. Made it even faster, more action packed and truly something I could be proud of. During development Steam made an announcement that they were removing Steam Greenlight in favor of Steam Direct. I had a slight sigh of relief that later turned into worry when I realized I might have missed the boat.

I am a really closed off person in real life. After exiting my relationship with my daughters mother and moving back home at the age of 34 with no money and weighing MUCH more than before. I was truly having a mid-life crisis. I focused on losing weight and working on this game in the hopes that once it was released it would change my life. I would be able to see my daughter again and provide for her and myself. Due to this...closed off nature I neglected building any sort of following ( I have a little over 100 Facebook friends..haha ). I think a lot of solo indie devs are the same way. We don't want to be in the spotlight, we just want people to play our games and enjoy themselves and figured "If you build it...they will come...".

I released Super Bit Adventure on February 27 in hopes of seeing all my hard work pay off. I figured If I priced the game at $4.99 players would take a chance with a developer they have never heard of and my dream of seeing my beautiful little girl again and taking her for ice cream and a movie would be within reach. Nothing. No fireworks, applauds, balloons or confetti falling from the sky, just, nothing. It was then I realized that my game had been buried. No eyes were on my game. By this time Steam was already being smothered to death by an onslaught of new games on a daily basis.

I was shocked. I wanted to just lay there. Not move for days. I had to do something, anything to get my game seen. I started giving away free copies to streamers, websites, I tried making Reddit posts ( most got instantly removed by mods ), Went to discords, message boards, Anything I could think of. I created a $200 Steam Gift Card contest for the first person to beat the game ( The player that won said he LOVED the game and couldn't wait for my next game ) I even tried asking people to look at my game in League of Legends lobbies and trade chat in World of Warcraft. I felt like a rapper on a street corner with a mix tape that was "fire". Still nothing. Of the very few people that DID play the game I took their feedback, made some changes and fixed the few bugs that were found and tried again to get ANYONE to see the game. Nothing again.

At this moment in time I had a new plan, make a new free content patch, a new talent system, new items and other new features that players would enjoy! I put my head back in the sand and got back to work thinking "If i release the content patch before Steam summer sale...People will see the game!".

Steam summer sale began and I finally released the new content patch, I even had my awesome friend Chiru draw some AMAZING new splash art for the game. I put my game on sale for 10% off and prayed for a miracle. At this point in my life I have already missed 2 of my daughters birthdays and hoped that this sale would finally make my dream of being reunited with her come true. I remembered years ago reading how Steam summer sales were HUGE for developers, drawing in a great amount of income that helped them continue making games and provide for their families. Every day that the sale went by, I went everywhere I could trying to get people to just LOOK at the game. It's cheaper than having coffee at Starbucks. The sale ended...and yet again...I sit here wondering what to do.

What is the Indie community? I saw it as...a land of new opportunity. Just as we entered an age where players could play games for a living, professional and for entertainment on Twitch. The Indie community was a chance for aspiring game developers to share their dreams and visions with the world and at the same time provide for their families. A world where hard working creators could share their soul with players and talk about their creations with them.

Has that ended?

There are some indie games that succeed now with the help of publishers. They have deals with these mega big gaming websites and have all this amazing advertising which is great! They have families and are trying to provide for them too. But what about the solo developer? I enjoy chatting with the few players that have played my game. Some think the game might be too difficult but truly enjoy it. I have gotten GREAT feedback from them and it brings me joy when they make a request or comment about the game and I get to actually put it IN the game within days. I just wish there was more.

I wish the indie community could support each other and help each other succeed. There are A LOT of new games on Steam, a lot of them are asset flips or games that don't have any passion behind them. Just made for a quick buck.

But where do the rest of us go? Where should solo indie developers go to find their players? With Steams new "recommended curation" There is even LESS of a chance for new indie games to be seen now. We are moving into a new era of quantity over quality and the solo indie developers might have missed the boat. Does anyone have a life vest?

Thank you for reading this, the worries of a single father, the worries of a solo indie developer. If you would like to look at my passion project here is a link. Have a wonderful day!


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