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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperBusinessDesura, Steam, OnLive, or...?
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« Reply #20 on: March 01, 2012, 05:42:29 AM »

Teegee, you make me realized why I don't like Portals. It feels I'm not connected to the developer, and is probably one of the reason why I don't buy from Steam anymore, unless it's a retail game or games from big companies.

To me, what separate Indie from those big guys is that I feel connected to the developers when I support them. I bought games from Big Fish as well, and it sadden me when I found the game I like, but I couldn't find anything about the developer on the internet - they don't even have theirown site! If I like the game, I want most, if not all, of the money I spend to reach the developer. Steam make me feel like I'm not really supporting them - especially all those indie bundle sales.

Having said that, I also understand the importance of portals. Also, there are some people who are already attached to the portal, so much that they won't buy your game if it isn't available on said portal.

The downside is simple - loosing your direct traffic and building someone else's business instead of yours. I'm not saying you shouldn't publish on portals, but it's something to keep in mind. If the game is very niche and may not sell well on the mainstream distribution channels, it may be better it to keep it to your website and build a dedicated fanbase.
It could be as simple as having extra content downloadable from your site with an option in your game to 'download more levels'. Now the portal is working to drive traffic towards your site instead of acting as a barrier to it.
Funny that I've seen the reverse version of this. Buying it directly get you nothing but the game, while buying it through Steam get you an exclusive content. I wonder if there's anything in Steam contract that prevent you from doing this, or is it entirely just that developer's choice.
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« Reply #21 on: March 01, 2012, 06:15:29 AM »

Then you need to drive the customers who bought from the portal to your website. It's not that hard to do from within your game. You just need something within the game that will drive them to visit the site. It could be as simple as having extra content downloadable from your site with an option in your game to 'download more levels'. Now the portal is working to drive traffic towards your site instead of acting as a barrier to it.
That's a good point. Forums, patches, DLC and extended versions are good ways to get at least some traffic boost from the portals. Still, you are just directing some of their audience to check your website, not building a dedicated direct customer base. You still need to release your further titles on the portal to sell them.

It's also getting increasingly tricky to do such things -- portals aren't stupid. When I used to work on casual games, we did something like that for one of our titles. Our direct sales plummeted when portals started lowering their prices, so we started to offer level packs for our most popular game. Available only on our website, but working even with the portal build. It wasn't possible to include a link in the game, but we hinted that they are out there if someone is willing to search.
It worked in a way -- people did come to our website and bought the expansions. Still, our overall direct sales continued to go down (even after cutting our prices in half to at least match the BFG a bit), and eventually even the most dedicated fans bought our titles only from BFG. BFG also never forgave us for doing this trick, and any mention of doing something similar in the future would result in them threatening to take the game down or reject it (another nice perk of leaving your business in someone else's hands). In the end, despite pretty much all our games being very successful, the company decided to move away from casual games. The market just became too shitty and boiled down to making cheap clones of what currently sells on BFG. Of course, it doesn't mean the same thing will happen with hardcore games anytime soon, but it's headed in that direction.

But again -- portals can be good, and for some games are the best way to find a massive audience. Just make sure you know what you are doing and that you aren't skipping building direct traffic simply out of laziness.

Besides, how many of these portal users would have found your site on their own anyway. It's not like they made a conscious decision to go to the portal instead of your site.
Yeah, this logic works for mass-market games. As I said, if you are making something in a genre that's popular within the mainstream audience, then selling it on the portals is a good idea. They'll put it in front of thousands of gamers who would otherwise never find about your title.

Niche gamers are more used to actively looking for their games -- reading reviews, finding them through specialized websites or communities, or simply through word of mouth.
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« Reply #22 on: March 01, 2012, 06:32:22 AM »

Yeah, this logic works for mass-market games. As I said, if you are making something in a genre that's popular within the mainstream audience, then selling it on the portals is a good idea. They'll put it in front of thousands of gamers who would otherwise never find about your title.

Niche gamers are more used to actively looking for their games -- reading reviews, finding them through specialized websites or communities, or simply through word of mouth.
Well that's my point. You are talking about to different demographics who find their games in separate ways. By being on portals and having an active direct sales site you put your game in front of two different demographics. That can surely only be a good thing. It seems you got burned by BFG and are now equating your experiences as how all portals work. I don't see it that way.
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« Reply #23 on: March 01, 2012, 07:01:08 AM »

Thanks TeeGee and others, this is great food for thought. I can see how in the long run you really want to build a customer base that associates your game with your website/brand and not a portal that is can change at any time.

Just to clarify (sorry if this is a dumb question), you as the developer have some form of control over the price of your game on these portals, is that not the case? I mean can the portal change the price or run a discount without confirming it with you? I understand that you probably want to stay competitive by pricing your game according to whatever else is being offered in that category...
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« Reply #24 on: March 01, 2012, 07:13:33 AM »

On Desura, I'd imagine that you have control over the pricing, as there are free games as well as alpha-funded games there - there are also sales. It seems a bit more community-driven than Steam - I can post a comment that the developer sees on the same page, so it's almost like a game is a forum. Also, news about games show up on Desura (I think), so you can inform your fans easily (or with a video on YouTube, if they've subscribed to you).

Although, I haven't seen anything about Desura's terms of sale - does anyone know where those are?

EDIT: OnLive also has games in PlayPacks (that you don't have to purchase outright). In addition, a game by Digipen is up now (Be Good), so it seems like it might be at least an option for indie titles.
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« Reply #25 on: March 01, 2012, 07:27:00 AM »

You(the developer) choose the price on Desura, GamersGate, Indivania, and the Mac App Store. You also choose what sales to have and when they happen on all those apart from GamersGate, I don't actually know if GG have sales. Non of the portals that I've dealt with put your game on sale without contacting you first. I'm pretty sure the Steam sales are 'opt in' for the developer too, but not having experienced it I could be wrong.
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« Reply #26 on: March 01, 2012, 07:58:39 AM »

Yeah, this logic works for mass-market games. As I said, if you are making something in a genre that's popular within the mainstream audience, then selling it on the portals is a good idea. They'll put it in front of thousands of gamers who would otherwise never find about your title.

Niche gamers are more used to actively looking for their games -- reading reviews, finding them through specialized websites or communities, or simply through word of mouth.
Well that's my point. You are talking about to different demographics who find their games in separate ways. By being on portals and having an active direct sales site you put your game in front of two different demographics. That can surely only be a good thing. It seems you got burned by BFG and are now equating your experiences as how all portals work. I don't see it that way.

No. I just worked on the games, never had to talk with BFG directly, the games were all successes, and I was on salary anyway. These were mainstream games too, so not putting them on portals would be a financial suicide. I'm just pointing out it's a double-edged sword, since I had the chance to make observations on how it works, and how it affects direct sales.

I disagree that portal and direct customers are two separate demographics, though. It's simply not true. Everyone has a Steam account these days, and people do look for cheaper deals on the stuff they want to buy. If I know about your game and have to choose between buying it directly or through a Steam sale, I'll pick the Steam version. This makes you have to compete with portals in price and visibility, and that's a battle you can't win. You are a small-scale producer, they are a volume seller. You are also contractually obliged to never undercut their prices in most cases.

But again -- since you are seeing my advice as something dictated by emotion and not experience -- yes, there's another side to it, too. Portals are a significant part of indie business and will become more significant as time goes. It would be stupid to ignore them because of some silly "stick it to the man" ideal. I'm listing their bad sides, because that's what Poya asked about, but I could probably write a similarly long list about the dangers of going direct-only. Stuff like: time required to get any visibility, the role of fame, how hard it is to have a smash hit without a mainstream portal's support, etc.

Business is business, and it's important to make decisions knowing all the pros and cons first. Taking us as an example: we're currently working on Cinders, which is a visual novel retelling of a fairytale, with strong feminist overtones. It's a niche game with no mass-market appeal and some mature content (as in: serious issues, not tits Wink). We're new to the visual novel genre, but the game made some nice splash in the VN community. Most gamers that could be interested in it, already are.

Going direct made it possible to build some traffic and overall recognition for our new studio. It also allows us to price the game reasonably at 20 bucks. If we went with Steam/BFG, we would have to lower the price to around $10, cutting our profits in half, and people would probably still wait for it to appear in a Steam sale, even our fans. And we wouldn't get many more players beyond what we already have -- a visual novel is hardly a top-10 material.

However, our next game is planned to be a sim/rpg mix, so something much more mainstream. We intend to put it on as many channels as possible and release an expansion on our website later, to counter-balance the loss of direct sales. So it's not a matter of following some "portals are evil" or "portals solve all problems" mentality, it's a matter of making informed choices that are best for you at the moment.

Also, I haven't posted this much on a forum since forever Cheesy.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2012, 08:17:03 AM by TeeGee » Logged

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« Reply #27 on: March 01, 2012, 09:13:53 AM »

yeah i sort of don't think those arguing in favor of always using portals realize how anti-developer some portals are. many of them refuse to let you even mention in your game that you have a site, let alone link to it. some require that you put the portal's logo in the game, not your logo. some don't let you mention any other games you worked on in your game. saying 'use portals to drive traffic to your site' is okay but when portals explicitly have rules to make sure you can't do that it's a problem

thankfully steam is more lenient here than most portals, but they could easily become less lenient in the future
« Last Edit: March 01, 2012, 09:37:34 AM by Paul Eres » Logged

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« Reply #28 on: March 01, 2012, 09:58:12 AM »

another thought: portals won't last as long as you will. presumably you want to be making games for decades. but portals seem to start up and die pretty frequently. reflexive is now gone, so is direct2drive (bought and merged with other services). steam one day may be gone, big fish games may be gone one day, and so on. so relying too much on portals is a short-term strategy, because eventually the portal might not be there anymore

portals also don't accept very controversial games. if you were making an erotic game for instance, with a lot of sex in it, chances are portals won't take it
« Last Edit: March 01, 2012, 10:56:23 AM by Paul Eres » Logged

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« Reply #29 on: March 01, 2012, 11:31:44 AM »

I've never dealt with a portal that required me to put their logo in the game, and they've all allowed me to link to my website on their store page as well as in the game. Maybe the casual portals try to lock you into their system, but the indie friendly modern portals are pretty open.

Either way my point isn't that portals are better than direct sales, my view is that combining portals and direct sales is better than having only one outlet.
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« Reply #30 on: March 01, 2012, 11:33:36 AM »

i think that depends on the game, as teegee said. some games would work best with portals and your site, other games would work best with your site exclusively, some games would even work best with being exclusive to portals and not heavily marketed on your site at all. saying that it's *always* best to use both portals and your site is what i'm disagreeing with, i agree that it's sometimes or even usually best to use both
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« Reply #31 on: March 01, 2012, 11:37:47 AM »

Well then we agree. My statement should have had a usually in it. I'm sure there are examples of games that are better served being on their own. Minecraft is one that comes to mind. I just don't think being on portals hurts as much a TeeGee's long posts made out. People should always way up the pros and cons, but I didn't want people to be put of portals by the nay sayers is all.
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« Reply #32 on: March 01, 2012, 11:46:53 AM »

i thought his post was pretty balanced, e.g.

Quote
That said, portals are a necessary evil, have their benefits and can make for a viable business or even be a better choice in some cases. It's just important to understand what exactly you are getting into and weighting it against the benefits. A simple rule of thumb: if you are making a mainstream game with mass-market appeal, like Super Meat Boy or Defense Grid, portals can make you a lot of money. They have a ton of customers, and you are likely to appear in the top-10s, get best promotions, and such. If your game is something really niche, like a visual novel, Dwarf Fortress or Spiderweb Software's RPGs, go direct, ask for a more reasonable price, and build a fanbase. Your game won't get into the top-10s, and you won't get enough sales to balance out the portal's lower price/percentage anyway.

also i feel that a lot of devs rely on portals too much, which is also a mistake. learning how to market games is one of the most important things for any indie game developer, and using portals sort of promotes the 'let them worry about the marketing, i'll just make the games and send it out to portals' mindset, which ruins a lot of new indie game businesses. making a great game and putting it on a portal isn't all that's required, and is a very short-term approach

my own personal rule is this: make the game first, sell it on your site for six months or a year or so. after enough time, *then* put it on portals, to see if it can get any extra sales as a bonus. that way the first "rush" of selling the game (most games sell the most copies in their first month) will be on your own site, where you get a much higher % of the sales, and portals can add to that later on. that's what i did with immortal defense and that's what i plan to do for saturated dreamers

(as an aside, immortal defense made about $18k on my own site, and all the portals it was on combined (reflexive, d2d, impulse, gamersgate, etc.) only added about another $2k to that)
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« Reply #33 on: March 01, 2012, 11:51:34 AM »

I think it's important to note that there are examples of Indies that used to be succesful and are no longer in the game. I think. Well, actually the only ones I THINK are an example for that are those who did Darwinia? (Although I think I saw them in a bundle recently).
Regardless of this specific example, it's important to note that just because you got into steam once and had good sales, it doesn't mean you are bound to successed afterwards as well. Someone with a good fan base has more chances of survival.
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« Reply #34 on: March 01, 2012, 12:01:54 PM »

introversion software is still very much alive, i don't think it's true that they are not successful. their inclusion in the humble indie game bundle of november of last year reportedly *doubled* their lifetime sales; they're now more successful than ever

the only reason you might think they aren't successful is that they aren't releasing games as frequently anymore, but i believe that's mainly because they're focusing on fewer 'big' games than they were previously

that's not to say that there aren't indies who have relied on portals and then went bankrupt; there are many examples of that. but introversion isn't one of them

the worst one can say of introversion is that a) they claimed to be the last of the bedroom programmers even though they are not, and b) they reportedly wasted most of their profits on fancy luxuries like boats and expensive cars instead of saving for a rainy day, so they're a bit extravagant in their lifestyle
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« Reply #35 on: March 01, 2012, 12:15:04 PM »

People should always way up the pros and cons, but I didn't want people to be put of portals by the nay sayers is all.

I think I said exactly the same thing in my last post. Also, I just downloaded the demo of Hack, Slash, Loot and it looks lovely Wink.
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« Reply #36 on: March 01, 2012, 12:21:18 PM »

I agree with Paul Eres on keeping your game on your own site for a few months and then start to put your game on the portals. But I think it's obvious that you can't use the same plan for every game.

You should know the plan at the start when you start with the game. If your target audience are people that play casual games then it's the best to post it on as much portals as possible since those people are most likely not following indie scene on review sites and forums.
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« Reply #37 on: March 01, 2012, 05:03:09 PM »

also i feel that a lot of devs rely on portals too much, which is also a mistake. learning how to market games is one of the most important things for any indie game developer, and using portals sort of promotes the 'let them worry about the marketing, i'll just make the games and send it out to portals' mindset, which ruins a lot of new indie game businesses. making a great game and putting it on a portal isn't all that's required, and is a very short-term approach

This is a very important point, some people I've talked to definitely have a kind of unconscious assumption that portals are the panacea of marketing.
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« Reply #38 on: April 13, 2012, 01:03:58 PM »

Summary of portals available, please post if you know more and if something is incorrect.

Steam - probably the biggest one, rumoured to be the hardest to get into (get accepted)
Desura - a lot of free games, can run alphafunding campaigns, seems like a developer friendly portal
OnLive - ??
IndieVania - ??
direct2drive - ??
Impulse - ??
Gamersgate - ??
BigFishGames - targetted totally on casual players, all games have demo version which are always full games with 1 hour limit, all games have splashscreen with "BigFishGames" logo which seems like a requirement.

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« Reply #39 on: April 13, 2012, 01:09:05 PM »

There's IndieCity which offers a nice distribution platform for indie games and offers a way to sell work in progress game.

Unfortunately the audiance is pretty small. Steam is obviously the most profitable choice, kinda wish they had an even indier game section.
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