I’ll start this post with a quote from Jeff Vogel’s blog (he is the man behind Spiderweb software):
“One of the worst things about what I do for a living is that hardly anyone else does it. You might think that not having competitors is a good thing. It is not. In the game industry, competitors help as well as hurt you. When EA spends millions of dollars advertising Dragon Age and Mass Effect, they aren’t just pushing their games. They are also advertising the whole idea of playing RPGs. Dragon Age makes as many potential customers for me as it takes.”
I really can’t agree more with this – but under the “niche games” perspective. We all know what happened to the casual market. First, Bejeweled and Zuma. Then in a few years, 150.000 clones of those games: then the rise of Hidden Object games, and lastly, the pricewars. That had several DANGEROUS side effect (for us game developers):
- market flood. What if there were 3 RPG games out every day? Pretty cool (for us RPG fans), but a bit less cool for people like Spiderweb. It’s easy to say “other games also advertise the same kind of games I make, so is good because buyers might eventually find out about me”. Sure, but what if there were 3 new RPG games out every day? Seems impossible right now and probably will never happen (that’s why I overall agree with him) but this changes everything. It surely changed the casual market for the worse, because such a market flood caused…
- pricewars. Pricewars is when two big companies compete lowering the prices of their products (in this case the games) to gain market share. It’s a very common tecnique, used in many fields. It’s surely good for the end user, you would think. Well – yes and no. Yes, in the beginning for sure: imagine getting those great games you were paying $20 for $5 instead. Sounds great! The problem is, that doing simple maths, unless the sales also multiply by x4, devs are going to make MUCH LESS money. If they make less money, they have also less money to invest. Less money spent in game assets usually mean lower quality of games, or shorter games. So, in the end, you’ll have also worse games as consumer
- clones / lack of cretivity. The last consequence I can think of, related to “minimizing business risks” is to have games that look and play identical (or almost). No need to say that this is quite evident in the casual market. You will rarely see an original game in the casual market. It’s inevitable: they know which model works, and they make game using that “template”. Why risk losing money, when you know what works? But once in a while, some more brave developer comes out with something original and in almost all cases is a hit (which I find quite ironic): Azada, Plant vs Zombies, Virtual Villagers, Build a Lot. Those are all games that innovated in the casual market and all of them were TOP HITs.
What is my take about competition? It’s good, I like it, as long as I can sell as affiliate
Jokes apart, as long as are product made with heart, passion, and not simple clones made quickly to make some fast money, they’re all welcome. For example, I recently played a great game by Sakevisual called Jisei. Is really very well done, and beside the fact that I know the author and the artist well, I honestly think is a good product. It was fun when was released because I was still working on my game Vera Blanc since December 2009: so seeing such a quality game that was started just a few months (I think May) already out BEFORE mine, obviously made me thinking “What, how is possible!?”
But like Jeff says, it’s good, and also I think that we indie devs should help each other (that’s why I often promote games as affiliate to my huge mailing list and other devs to the same with my games). Maybe people playing Jisei will find out about my other detective/supernatural game Vera Blanc (when it will be out, hopefully soon!!), and vice versa, maybe people playing Vera Blanc will also find out about Jisei and love it.