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6 Oct 2014

Indie Developers: Mistakes Worth Avoiding When Starting Your Indie Studio

Are you considering starting your own indie studio, yet you want to avoid the most common mistakes? Then continue reading, aspiring indie developer! There are many mistakes indie developers make when they first open the doors of their indie studio: being overstaffed/understaffed, underestimating how many different ‘hats’ you will have to wear at your studio, etc. Yet, there are mistakes you need to absolutely avoid right out of the gate. Below are a few that are not only worth avoiding, but you must avoid if you want to start your studio on the right foot.

An Unproven Team

Somewhere at the moment you are reading this, somebody is planning to develop a video game with his/her friends. The aspiring indie dev loves games, his/her friends love playing games, what could go wrong? Believe me: there’s a difference between being a fan of gaming and being passionate about developing them.

Furthermore, there’s a difference between knowing what makes a game great and actually ‘knowing.’ It may seem fun to hire one’s friends to make games with them for a living, and if they actually have a proven track record of tinkering around with game design, then great! But actually creating a startup around the idea that a group of friends can develop games every day and actually make a living doing it? It’s reckless.

In an article at Entreprenuer.com, Bill Aulet (author of Disciplined Entrepreneurship) has a great quote about ‘starting up:’

“Choosing [whom] to hire and work with in a startup is like playing basketball in the schoolyard. You can pick your friends and play for them, but if you want to be good and continue to be on the court, you have to carefully pick your team.”

That’s wise advice. In short, if you are serious about starting an indie studio, you may be tempted to choose hire your friends. Unless they’re actually the best candidates for the job, avoid the temptation and hire professionals that are actually qualified. To help, read our post on how to outsourced the game development process.

No agreements

If you do opt to open an indie studio with your friends, be sure to include some sort of written partnership between all of you. It may sound like a breach of trust between your friends (“you don’t trust us enough to do the right thing?”), but it’s just business. Besides, what happens if your indie game becomes profitable beyond your team’s wildest dreams? Does everyone get a fair cut? What if a few of you cannot agree on the direction of the indie game? What happens then?

Moreover, whose actually in control of a game’s IP? You’re not just creating a Dungeons and Dragons campaign: you’re creating a legitimate product that could be fruitful. Think about it: what would happen if Notch had created Minecraft with a group of friends without a legitimate agreement? It could have been disastrous!

Rocket Lawyer has a great write-up on business partnership agreements and the questions that must be answered in every agreement. Follow the advice in the post, and you will have an airtight agreement that will protect every facet of your new indie studio.

Skimping on marketing

There’s a reason we write so many marketing posts here at Game Academy: because it’s so vital to your success! Personally, I’ve talked with a lot of indie developers that either say to me that they will figure out the marketing details later as the game is being developed (not a good plan) or they think that the game will be so good, word-of-mouth will spread the good news about the game (an even worse plan).

The success of your indie game relies heavily on marketing. Awesome games won’t sell themselves. There’s too many great games that are being marketed properly to allow other indie games to be spread via word-of-mouth, so unless your indie game accomplishes something so revolutionary that it comes out of nowhere and amazes everyone (highly unlikely), you’re not going to get the downloads you need.

Drew Williams, co-author of the book Feeding the Startup Beast suggests spending 10 to 20 percent of your desired gross revenue on marketing when starting out.

“As you become a more established business,” says Williams, “that drops to 5 percent to 10 percent of gross revenue, and for the largest businesses it’s typically 5 percent or a bit less.”

Contact a PR company that caters to indie developers to get the marketing ball rolling, such as Evolve PR. I can vouch for them, as I’ve worked with them on the media side of things and they’re awesome at marketing for their clients, sending reviews keys within a matter of minutes, and working with indie developer’s budgets no matter how small or large they may be. Seriously, start there.

Have any questions or comments about mistakes to avoid when starting your indie studio? Let us know in the comments below!

Source: Game Career Guide

              Entreprenuer.com

              Rocket Lawyer

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