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2 Apr 2015

Expanding Your Indie Studio: Jumping To Other Genres

I know there are a lot of you guys out there that stick to developing to one genre. That’s fine – you know what you are good at and you feel comfortable with working in that niche. But what if you are not having a lot of success developing in said genre? Moreover, what if you have been thinking about expanding your indie studio and you want to grow faster than ever?

Then you need to consider expanding into another genre.

How do you know which genre is worth expanding into? Most importantly, how do you know if you have a great idea for a new game in a particular genre? That’s what we’re going to look at today. Without further ado, let’s take a look.

Identify popular genres

First, figure out the platforms that you want to develop for. As you already know, the most popular genres differ from platform-to-platform, so consider which platform you want to develop for first before you commit to a particular genre. If you are wanting to develop for mobile devices, browsing your mobile device’s respective app marketplace and looking at the top games in the free, paid, and top grossing sections are a great way to discover which genres are the most popular on that particular platform.

On a platform like Steam, it’s just as easy. Simply head over to the ‘Indie’ section of Steam, take a look at the top sellers, and identify which genres are the most popular. The great thing about Steam is that each game lists sub-genres as well, so you can gain even more insight into what is popular at the moment.

Currently on the front page, it looks like games that implement survival, sandbox, physics, puzzle, and platforming action are all quite popular. If you can include one or even a few of these elements into your next indie game, you are on the right track. Try to find genres that are appealing to most all platforms as well to maximize your profits. For example, although games that incorporate physics, platforming, and puzzle elements are popular on Steam, they are also popular on iOS and Android; so consider also releasing your indie game for these platforms.

What can you do differently?

After learning which genres are popular on certain platforms, you need to think about what you can do differently to stand out from the rest. Think about the type of gameplay that you have wanted to see in these particular genres, and figure out a way to be original. One of the easiest ways to do this is to combine genres together – and if you can combine two popular genres into one, all the better.

For example, if the thought of designing a physics-based game and a puzzle game is appealing, consider figuring out a way to combine both elements into a unique game. While physics-based puzzle games is indeed its own genre (e.g. World of Goo), it’s a good start to creating something truly memorable.

Experiment with your ideas, see what sticks

Finally, experiment with your ideas and see which ideas seem to stick the best. I suggest actually playing video games during this time to gain some inspiration for your indie game. Going back to the physics-based puzzle idea for a moment, if you want to develop that type of game but want it to feel a little more like Tetris, then play Tetris, the other games by Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov (especially Hexic – that game is awesome), and games inspired by Tetris (such as the excellent Penku).

From there, you are bound to find some inspiration that you can implement into your brave attempt of developing for an entirely new genre.

Developing for a new genre can be frightening, but have fun! After all, that’s what developing games is all about – having a blast as you create a product that is going to provide hours of joy to potentially millions. Experiment, see what sticks, and have a blast doing it.

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