As a member of several indie game developer groups, I have seen a lot of concern coming from up and coming indie game developers about the health of the industry. I have seen a range of very educated responses and hope to summarize some of my opinions and ideas on this matter.
In Terms of Money, The Gaming Industry is Rising
According to forecasts from NewZoo, the global games market is expected to rise from $99 Billion in 2016 to $118 Billion in 2019, about 50% of that being the mobile games market!
In terms of indie game developers, I would say that the mobile games market is one of the biggest and brightest avenues. Financially speaking, the gaming industry is set for the foreseeable future! This is not where your concerns should be.
Of course, this is the least controversial conclusion, the amount of money an industry has made is not up to debate, nor is it an opinion, it’s a fact! The gaming industry is financially alive and well!
I’m Seeing Less and Less “Amazing” Games These Days!
Now if by “decline” you are talking about something such as your lack of interest in modern game releases, then I might have a few words of insight to keep in mind.
- Amazing games (Or Amazing anything) is really hard to come by! Talent is something special.
- In a market saturated with a lot of games, it is natural to expect most of them to be of sub-par quality, this is just normal.
- If Amazing Games are hard to come by, and the market is saturated with developers, then it follows logically that you will see “less and less ‘Amazing’ games” as more and more developers enter the market.
Now is this something you should be concerned about as a consumer or a developer? I think not. There are still some good titles being released, and while it is sad to see some really great franchises hit the gutters (Halo, COD, Battlefield, etc.) that does not betray the fact that there have been some truly amazing releases! (Last of Us, Civilization, Bioshock, to name a few.)
Joke Simulator Games are Making More and More Money!
When a game like Goat Simulator has made over $12 million in revenue, there might room for legitimate concern with the decline in creativity in the gaming industry!
This is where we strike a tone into the hearts of those who have been involved in the gaming industry for a long time. What is going on with all these joke games, mini-games, and gimmicky games taking in heaps of money?
Don’t get me wrong, I have mad respect for the guy who built flappy bird and was making tens of thousands of dollars per day off that game, that’s just awesome and brilliant! But what are the consequences of an industry when creators realize they can make a lot more money with a simple punch line or gimmick instead of a fully fleshed out product? When jokes are rewarded and some really artful games are ignored we have an industry that is creatively in decline!
Who is To Blame?
Does it really make sense to blame developers for making games like these? I mean Goat Simulator was originally a joke project made by some students for fun, it turned into a phenomenon and they got a lot of money from it. Why blame the developers when the consumers are the ones dishing out all that cash?
It seems as if the attention spans of people is becoming shorter and shorter these days. Social media is dominated with 4 – 8 word memes, 30 second info videos, etc. The average consumer is interested in quick kicks than escaping reality to experience an enthralling story, right? Is there any data to back up this claim besides sales of joke games?
Well I can’t make any conclusive claims about this particular subject, the nature of it (whether games are getting less and less “awesome”) is highly subjective anyways. I am merely trying to make a fair assessment of a legitimate question I’ve seen across various gaming groups.
“Serious” Games vs. Joke Games
What I can conclude however is that from an indie game developer standpoint, it’s going to be very difficult to break into the industry with a “serious” game. The world is trained more and more to see people developing “serious” games as “trying too hard” or “cringe worthy.”
To be fair, a lot of the way people try to pedal their “serious” game is cringe worthy. (But I would never dare to say that all serious indie games should be seen that way! Again, just a natural consequence of an industry where the barrier to entry is pretty low!)
Real life is similar to being the “cool kid” in school. If you are seen as “trying too hard” people might be turned off from you, but if you make everything into a joke and don’t take things too seriously, you have a stronger chance of being liked by people.
The world is trained more and more to see people developing “serious” games as “trying too hard” or “cringe worthy.”
Big studios and AAA developers might have less of an issue pushing their “serious” games because people are trained to take those big studios more seriously. From a money standpoint, it just makes a lot more sense for indie devs to jump into the industry with their joke games, hoping that some famous youtuber might play it and make their game instantly famous.
*This point is highly opinionated, some people may feel the same sadness and skepticism while others might think, “This is a load of crap! Simulator games are amazing, what are you talking about?”
Marketing is King
Regardless of whether you are developing a serious game or a joke game, the way you market your project will really have a huge impact on your sales. It’s a heck of a lot easier to make jokes than it is to be serious and “deep” about things.
You will have to deal with the fact that most people will still fall for gimmicks and quick payoffs than anything else, learn to utilize that to your advantage regardless of what type of project you are working on. Never forget: Marketing is king!