Competition, good or bad?

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):

  1. 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…
  2. 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 :(
  3. 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 :D

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!?” :D

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.

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7 Responses to Competition, good or bad?

  1. Pingback: Indie Biz: Collaborative Competition

  2. sake-bento says:

    I think the VN market has a long way to go before any of us will be directly competing. It’s still evolving and growing, and any new entry actually helps raise awareness. I think Hanako’s latest Date Warp will increase the number of otome game players looking at the English market, and I don’t think any otome fan is going to look at an otome game I put out and think “I already got Date Warp, I don’t think this one.” Also, because we do story-based games, people will always want more once the story is over. Casual games with no plot all start looking the same after a while, so there’s more competition.

    • admin says:

      Yes, definitely I agree. When I released Summer Session with Hanako, was VERY popular. It helped everyone by making the dating sims more known in the mainstream public. Probably you and Lemmasoft people already knew about dating sims, but for example even *I* didn’t exactly know how a dating sim was working, what was with all the different endings to unlock, and so on :)
      And since we make story-based games, it’s very hard to compete. They’re like books or tv-series, is almost impossible to have same identical story.

  3. Nhu says:

    You forget that VNs can also have clones. The Asian market is flooded with very shallow games with very similar stories. But that comes with all popular entertainment.

    The way I see it, You need not worry about competition and price wars, etc. until the number of developers increase by ten.

    As it currently stands, I probably play a new VN, if I’m lucky, 3-4 months apart. The prices are roughly $20 and they last a few days. By the time the a new VN comes out, the player interest will have been revived, unlike casual games, which comes out once every day. No gamer can possibly keep up. And because I never actually have to make the decision of buying *this VN* or *that VN* prices aren’t an issue.

    Clones aren’t an issue yet either. Your market is either the curious or the ardent VN lovers, all of whom will give your game a try, no matter the “type”, simply because there is not a large selection. And because there’s so few developers, your ideas again do not overlap very much.

    Developing for niches certainly does have its advantages.

    • admin says:

      I don’t know well the asian market, but from your description, those clones are cheap, crappy stuff that pose no real threat to the developer. The problem comes in casual market, when there are surely cheap clones but also top quality products that come out at least 3-4 times a week :(
      I agree with you on the rest of the post. A disadvantage of niches is that rarely you make lot of money, like in casual games (I know many devs who work in that market and most make six figures per game). However, I’d rather make less with less competition than try to hit the jackpot in a very competitive market like that :)

  4. Charles says:

    Vogel says hardly anybody does it… But there’s quite a bit of talk about there being quite many, even in the RPG field. Leave it to me to figure that out AFTER spending years making one. Sheesh.

    (I got here via rampant games btw, getting to know the indies I never had a clue existed until recently :))

    • admin says:

      Well if you compare the amount of releases of good indie RPG vs the amount of any casual match3,HO,time management, you can see that the word “hardly anybody” is right :D Is something like 4-5 RPG a year vs 4-5 A DAY!!! lol

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