When it comes to bigger projects in game development industry (mostly not mobile games), many beginner devs struggle with the choice of genre and the complexity of the game they want to make. It is certainly very important decision. Some genres take thousands hours to make, some are much easier. How a group of awesome folks that decided to create an Indie Studio should make a choice of their first game genre? How we approached Sapu? How to assess the complexity?
Big AAA companies route
It is important to stress out that choosing game genre highly correlates with the innovation factor that we have to take into account. First of all, we can choose big AAA companies route. It is a route controlled by marketing departments that do tons of research of a market. They analyze what sells today, and what will sell tomorrow. Here, take a look at these awesome charts from Entertainment Software Association on which genres sell best:
There are so many variables and statistics that we could benefit from in order to make the right choice. Based on the platform where we want to sell our games, we can make very reasonable selection of the key features and content. Isn’t it great? Yes it is… partly. Yes, we could also do the researches and analyze many things, but is it really important for us, Indie developers?
In my opinion the difference between us Indies, and big AAA companies is that they certainly look at such surveys but we should not take it so serious. Don’t get me wrong, it is very reasonable approach that gets them a lot of money, but we can’t compete with them on their rules on this competitive and challenging market.
Fortunately I feel like players, especially a little bit older ones, are not satisfied with such business approach presented by AAA companies. Their games are pretty much non-innovative and do not bring anything new to the table. Other than amazing graphics and fascinating stories, the gameplay doesn’t change much and repetitiveness from game to another is being felt.
And that’s why some Indie Devs have been so successful. They brought that new, unexpected content to the market. They brought something extraordinary that no one ever saw. They brought unexplored experiences that many gamers looked for. That’s Indie chance, do something different. It is our gateway to stand out on the market and potentially be successful.
But why don’t big companies create such innovative games? Because such approach brings risk. You can hit the spot and be successful, but you can also develop a game that will be too weird for customers causing them not buying it at all. Current trend is that AAA companies hire small studios to create “indie”, innovative games. That lowers their costs and therefore is not that risky as it could be, if the whole big studio would go for such game.
Other than being innovative or not, our folks main issue is the complexity of their first game. We can find many voices from other developers that suggest starting making games that are easy to develop i.e. platformers where you run to the right, jump and at best… shoot something. If you love this kind of games (or plan to just simply learn programming/game development processes) than I’d say go for it!
From the chart above we can tell that cheap game with exceptional graphic and drawing attention story has very high chance to be successful. Unfortunately not many Indies have a luxury of having amazing graphics and storytelling 6th sense. Also, some devs just don’t want to do such stuff.
But I would consider it twice if the only reason why you choose certain game genre is because it’s easier to develop. Such decision needs to be carefully thought-out, cause it might be non-rewarding journey.
Balance is the key
As almost everything in our lives, balance is the key. You don’t want to be too conservative with the game and go with the easy route. Why? Because you won’t sell it. Simply, it won’t distinguish itself on market and won’t be that attractive for potential customers. But also you don’t want to overdo it and with too optimistic and too ambitious plans that will take forever to finish the game you dreamed of. I have to say that our initial plans were too optimistic and that’s why we decided to cut out some of the features. Of course, we won’t create a game that even us wouldn’t buy, but we need to be aware of our limitations.
Even such balanced decision causes many hours of work. Therefore I would strongly recommend to go with the prototype/ MVP route as it not only will ease the whole process of development (cause you focus on much smaller project) but also accelerates it.
Do what you love
Ultimately, the main factor that should help you choose whether to create RTS, RPG, Shooter or any other game and determine the complexity of the game should be the question: Do you love what you’re doing? We do.