IGC 04 final day (and afterwards) thoughts

I never took the chance to write about the end of the IndieGamesCon. I am going to do so right now.

The final day of the conference was filled with a panel discussion about the "State of the Industry", more small sessions, more gaming, a keynote by GarageGames leader Jeff Tunnell about game design, and then a group postmortem of IGC 2004 to finish it off.

The panel discussion was certainly an interesting thing to watch. Many of the panel members were business-type people (aka suits). Some of them were putting forth the vibe that big moneyed publishers/web portals are going to come into the downloadable games market and take control. This would mean that the actual developers of the games would get the short end of the (money) stick.

The retail games industry works like this now. Big publishers like EA put out games under their name and get the majority of the money. Sometimes the games will actually be developed by the publisher in-house, but many times the game is developed by a third-party company. The developers toil from game to game, never as they say "making it rich".

There is a detectable fear from indie games developers (especially ones who have worked in the retail industry) that the retail model is going to take over the online space. It has already started happening somewhat. There are a few online games portals that have been getting bigger the last few years while at the same time lowering the royalties that they pay to game developers. This has been followed by a series of business announcing they are becoming online publishers and that they have financing of XYZ million dollars.

There has been a big discussion about this topic since the conference ended. Dan MacDonald, an indie developer, posted his thoughts, followed by a lengthy thread in the indiegamer forums.

My personal thoughts on the matter are that game portals will continue to aggregate traffic, but they will never control the market like publishers do in retail. Independent developers will still be able to prosper if they can do 2 things: make fun games and market them. If independent developers don't feel like learning how to market then their money will be strangled out of them.

The marketing method that I think is the indie's best hope is to use the search engines. This is really the common sense answer. Tons of people find out about stuff on the web by searching for it. If you can offer something for sale that people are searching for then you are set (as long as your product is good). One of the reasons I can say this is that the biggest source of new Lux customers come from search engines (mostly google). Happily, it is also the path to success that Thomas Warfield of Goodsol and A Shareware Life recommends. I don't have the numbers, but word on the street is that he has epic sales of his Pretty Good Solitaire product.

Anyway, this is already really long and I have only talked about the panel discussion. I also went to 2 sessions about interacting with the press. I gained some good insights into the state of the online gaming press, and made some good contacts with some press people that were there. The marketing session by Kelly "Ophelea" Heckman of gamersinfo.net was one of the best of the con.

The game design session by Jeff was also really good. He talked about coming up with game ideas and deciding which of them would actually turn into good games. I took some pictures of his slides, which I shall be posting soon.

The group postmortem was made up of attendees giving feedback and advice about the conference. This was accompanied by the GarageGames guys talking about the future of IGC (they are the organizers), and sending out a plea to the indie community to help out where they can. I have great respect for GarageGames. They are forming one of the backbones of the whole independent developer-friendly downloadable games sphere. I was still in Eugene the day after the con ended, and I had lunch with Benjamin Bradley, a GarageGames worker/PR guy. We talked about the possibility of GarageGames adding Lux to their stable of games that they sell on their website. I haven't done any affiliate/partnership stuff for Lux yet, so I am still dipping my feet into it, but I think it could be a good win-win scenario.

Sweet mama jones, this entry is long!

Posted by dustin on October 18, 2004 with category tags of

2 comments
The developer always gets the short end of the stick. Money begets money. Yay Capitalism.

James
   comment by James on October 18, 2004

It doesn't have to be like that though. It doesn't require a lot of money to sell something over the internet. The situation here is different then in the physical environments.
   comment by dustin (#1) on October 19, 2004

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