Are you considering starting your own game development studio? You might want to avoid the most common mistakes. There are many mistakes indie developers make when they first open the doors of their indie studio: being overstaffed/understaffed, underestimating how many different ‘hats’ you will have to wear at your studio, etc. Yet, there are mistakes you need to absolutely avoid right out of the gate. Below are a few that are not only worth avoiding, but you must avoid if you want to start your brand new venture on the right foot.
1. ONBOARDING ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS
Somewhere at the moment you are reading this, somebody is planning to develop a video game with his/her friends. The aspiring indie dev loves games, his/her friends love playing games, what could go wrong? Believe me: there’s a difference between being a fan of gaming and being passionate about developing them.
Furthermore, there’s a difference between knowing what makes a game great and actually ‘knowing.’ It may seem fun to hire one’s friends to make games with them for a living, and if they actually have a proven track record of tinkering around with game design, then great! But actually creating a startup around the idea that a group of friends can develop games every day and actually make a living doing it? It’s reckless.
In short, if you are serious about starting an indie studio, you may be tempted to hire your friends. Unless they’re actually the best candidates for the job, avoid the temptation and hire professionals who are actually qualified.
2. NEGLECTING WRITTEN AGREEMENTS
Whether you hire your friends or other professionals you will need written agreements. What happens if your indie game becomes profitable beyond your team’s wildest dreams? Does everyone get a fair cut? What if a few of you cannot agree on the direction of the indie game? What happens then?
Moreover, whose actually in control of a game’s IP? You’re not just creating a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, you’re creating a legitimate product that could be fruitful. Think about it: what would happen if Notch had created Minecraft with a group of friends without a legitimate agreement? It could have been disastrous!
Rocket Lawyer has a great write-up on business partnership agreements and the questions that must be answered in every agreement. Follow the advice in the post, and you will have an airtight agreement that will protect every facet of your new indie studio.
3. SKIMPING ON OUTREACH
Marketing vital to your success. We’ve talked with a lot of indie developers that either say to me that they will figure out the marketing details later as the game is being developed. Not a very good plan. They think that the game will be so good, word-of-mouth will spread the good news about the game. That is an even worse plan.
Drew Williams, co-author of the book Feeding the Startup Beast suggests spending 10 to 20 percent of your desired gross revenue on marketing when starting out.
“As you become a more established business,” says Williams, “that drops to 5 percent to 10 percent of gross revenue, and for the largest businesses it’s typically 5 percent or a bit less.”
The success of your indie game relies heavily on marketing. Awesome games won’t sell themselves. There’s too many great games that are being marketed properly to allow other indie games to be spread via word-of-mouth, so unless your indie game accomplishes something so revolutionary that it comes out of nowhere and amazes everyone (highly unlikely), you’re not going to get the downloads you need.
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