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I see only one advantage indie developers have on the big dev houses

09-14-2013, 10:05 AM
Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Philadelphia, Pa
Posts: 124
I see only one advantage indie developers have on the big dev houses

Ok so we can work in our underwear.
And we dont have suits telling us what to make.

But at the end of the day we develop games in hopes of making money, and to that end I see only one advantage the indie development world has over the big studios. We outnumber them.

I think the days are coming where Indie devs are going to need to band together into affiliations or cartels to leverage the publishing speed and advertising might of their combined games.

This would differ from publishing/developer relationship in that the devs in the cartel would own the cartel. The publishing dev would get a lions share of the game revenues, but some standard amount(maybe 15%) of each games revenue would be thrown back into the cartel common pool which was owned by all members. Thus all members would have a small share in every game(less than a 1%). This would give the cartel the power to shift all advertising to any game that was a hit and every member of the cartel would benefit from the revenues any game published by the cartel made. After a standard amount of time the game would be transferred back from the cartel account to the dev house account.

In essence, members of the cartel lease their game to the cartel in exchange for the support of the cartels combined advertising. In addition, each member of the cartel gets a small share of any cartel game thus greatly enhancing the chances that they all make money. Because the cartel is releasing multiple games in a week, they always have front page itunes exposure and download amounts going on thereby increasing exposure to all past and future games.

I think this is the one tactic that would allow indie devs to strike back at the large dev houses that can basically spend us to death at their leisure. Naturally some indie games break through and reap indie devs just rewards, but that is more a lottery than a business model. While I dont think the cartels would put big dev houses out of business, I think the model would be one that would allow them to gain some market share and thus some sustainable revenues that would support the cartel's members.
09-14-2013, 12:18 PM
"And we dont have suits telling us what to make."

Suits at Apple decide what they will feature anyway. Period.

09-14-2013, 04:01 PM
Joined: Mar 2011
Posts: 122
Great! I could join the cartel (lol) with a crappy game generously giving away 15% of the zero dollars my game would make, while having some non-zero income from other people's games. Right?
Not really. No sane dev would join up in something like this with people making bad games. Here's where the quality control starts. You could either tell those not-so-good devs to to get some XP and come back later, or you could use your knowledge to enhance their products. Wait... seems like this is exactly what publishers do.
Besides, having 50 devs trying to market 50 games isn't really that different from a single dev marketing their own product. There won't be more money available, per single product, and if one of these devs actually knows how to successfully market a game - why would they waste their time pushing products of other people who, most probably, won't be able to return a favor?
Seriously, I don't belive this is the way to go.
I also think there are more advantages of being an indie dev than the one you've mentioned. Production costs, for example. Not having to maintain an overgrown administration or expensive offices is a great thing : )
09-14-2013, 06:01 PM
Joined: Aug 2013
Posts: 1,065
It is probably less of a lottery than you think.

Also there are publishers who just pick up indie games and for a share of profits advertise and publish.

As mentioned it is hard to see this ever working in a fair way which doesn't skew against the most successful people (who will then want to leave for their next game so that don't have to give away revenue for nothing).
09-15-2013, 02:14 AM
Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Philadelphia, Pa
Posts: 124
Who said the cartel would be made up of bad publishers or random publishers?

My prediction is the better indie dev houses will join alliances to help cross market games and share marketing costs and efforts.

The cartel would have the leverage of the advertising of the other games in the cartel. It would have multiple games in new release stage that results in more downloads and exposure. Having multiple games getting thousands of downloads per day simply due to being new gives the cartel reach a single developer does not have.

Naturally any indie house that can support itself & has established marketing channels doesn't need a publisher or a cartel. Nothing stops devs in the cartel from publishing outside of it, they simply have to publish a certain amount of game in the cartel to take advantage of its advantages. Nothing would keep a dev from leaving a cartel although they may be contractually bound for a certain number of games.

Typical Dev/pub split is 70/30.
Publisher controls "quality". Publisher markets game but other devs under publisher do not.
Devs in publishing house have no interest or reason to support other devs from publishing house.

Cartel Dev/Cartel split 85/15.
Members control quality.
Members own the cartel and hence small shares in every game. Devs have an incentive to support a cartel member's games.

I dont think the weak spots of the cartel idea are in the economics or marketing, it would be in the structure and decision making. You cant even have a discussion on a forum without some idiot like Evil trolling it instead of discussing it, so getting 10 nitwits like him to work together is the Achilles heel in the plan.
09-15-2013, 03:31 AM
Joined: Mar 2011
Posts: 122
Originally Posted by Black Ops View Post
idiot like Evil
Is this really necessary? Calling people idiots just because they disagree with you? I'm merely pointing out the vulnerabilities of your plan. There are more since your latest post... Multiple games in release stage will cause a competition between all these games. Why do you think Chillingo is usually releasing only one title each week? So that each game has its "special" time of exposure, without unnecessary competition. There's a finite number of games a market can buy and releasing many games spreads that number between them.
Next - "an incentive to support a cartel member's games". I'm not sure what your actual background is - development or marketing - but devs tend to like making games, and when they make a game they like to make it better. Unfortunatelly your plan greatly reduces their productive power to further polish their product in favor of marketing other games. There's also a problem of emotional attachment to a game. You have it when it comes to your own game, but you don't have it with a title made by someone else. Having your own game actually makes it more difficult for you to work on other people's creations. That's why the publishers are fairly effective in what they do - they're not disrupted with personal feelings towards any particular product. All the games they work with are simply a potential money, not "their babies".
Lastly - that decision making you've mentioned. I suspect that really would be a huge problem. Democracy rarely works as we expect it to, so probably, sooner or later, some part would "rise to power" in the desicion making process, while other group would be dissatisfied with those decisions. But they would still have to make w few more games for the cartel. Imagine how good would those games be. Games someone makes because they have to.
That last part is a bit pessimistic, perhaps, but I think there's no place for over-enthusiastic optimis when it comes to splitting profits.

Now, Black Ops, it would be great if you'd address these arguments of mine. Then we'd have a conversation, which is what you wanted, right?
09-15-2013, 03:38 AM
Joined: Nov 2009
Location: Wellington
Posts: 938
Firstly, indie/independent dev houses are already getting together to cross promote titles, and have been for years.

Secondly, the large publishers are starting to do that too, so it isn't a sustainable advantage.

Beyond that, I'm not sure the concept of a cartel with shared (and presumably variable) ownership is practical given the legals and logistics required for it to operate effectively.

Last edited by PikPok; 09-15-2013 at 03:41 AM.
09-15-2013, 03:45 AM
Joined: Aug 2013
Posts: 1,065
Sure the economics are a weak point.

Your idea that having a small incentive in another game (less than 1%) would mean you have have to sell hundreds of times more copies of their game than your game to get the same profits. This means it would be in the best interests of everyone to push their own game and say the marketing should be focused on their game.

Cross promoting is something worth doing and doesn't need a cartel for it to be successful.

You also still have the same staff requirements of a publisher, so I assume you are saying that comes out of the 15% which may leave nothing/little for the other devs anyway.
09-22-2013, 10:21 AM
Joined: May 2010
Location: Tampa, FL
Posts: 308
The management of the cartel would be a nightmare, without a central authoritative independent figure it would never work, and this is exactly what a publisher is already. This is like communism or socialism for game developers, what is preventing a developer from giving their crappiest game to the cartel to get their share, but then saving the best games for themselves?

Indies have several advantages on big houses:
free to do whatever they want
free to spend money however they want
much more agile and responsive to feedback and customers
insanely huge gratification of releasing your own game
not a cog in a wheel
flexible environment and schedule
no overhead
no politics

no dedicated roles: marketing, testing, etc
less skilled roles
entire income is riding on each project usually
less diverse portfolio
no benefits
random income
single point of failures abound

Developer of RTS Machines at War 3 for iOS, Android, Mac, Windows.
RTS Land Air Sea Warfare for iOS, Android, Mac, Windows.
09-22-2013, 12:04 PM
One advantage is that we can, if we wish, make the game in our free time just for the love of it.

People can choose to make games as a hobby. Those people can take risks that someone who is worried about how they'll make money off the game could not afford to take.

I'm not sure if I put myself in that category or not! I would really like to make money off my games. But I don't think your "cartel" plan would be advantageous for me. I don't think it's a good idea to enter into what would have to be some kind of legally binding agreement with a large group of individuals that I don't really know. It just sounds like a recipe for bitterness and infighting and future lawsuits, doesn't it?

It could possibly work with a small group that know and trust each other.