For a long time, indie game development got completely sidetracked by an unhealthy obsession with making casual games. These games were all made for 40+ ‘soccer moms’ whatever the hell that means. It got so bad that people on the popular indie developer forums even started equating indie with casual, claiming that indie games had to be 2D, use one mouse button and have zero graphical options, so as to minimise ‘confusion’.
These days, from a developers point of view, casual gaming has imploded. A single company (BigFishGames) pretty much killed off all the competition, and forced developer cuts so low that they all sodded off to make iphone or facebook games. (“The current goldrush didn’t work, quick! follow the next goldrush!”).
Personally I think indie developers are best off making games for hardcore gamers and here is why.
- Hardcore gamers have hardware that will run something more demanding than tetris, meaning you can flex your graphical coding muscles.
- Hardcore gamers spend money on games. Yes, some are sadly pirates, but the ones who aren’t are happy to pay for a decent game. They consider it a serious pastime, and thus worthy of expenditure. Not a coffee-break amusement. Hence, higher prices and deeper games. Yay!
- Hardcore gamers understand simple tech support steps and bugs and patches. “What video card do you have” actually gets an answer, rather than questions, making tech support much easier.
- Hardcore gamers are enthusiastic and chatty. They have accounts on web forums where they discuss games they like. They can evangelise your game, if it’s good, to dozens, hundreds or thousands of potential buyers.
- Hardcore gamers remember the developers name. They know who made World Of Warcraft, and they know you made your game. They are likely to join your newsletter, and may even read it.
- Hardcore gamers are the forgotten minority. Bad console ports have mistreated PC gamers for years. Give a PC gamer the option to mod a game, run in windowed or fullscreen, and choose graphical options and screen resolutions, and they think its christmas.
- Hardcore gamers are tough critics with a lot of ideas. This can be a nightmare, but it means you get feedback on your game, what to improve, and what should be added. If you are open-minded about reading feedback from customers, hardcore gamers are a designers best friend.
- Hardcore gamers are happy to buy a game online that isn’t from amazon or some mega-corp they have heard of. If you have a secure site, then you will get sales. Hardcore gamers are also more likely to support a developer direct, rather than a portal.
You may disagree, but this is my humble experience :D I have no intention whatsoever of switching to making casual games, or simple games for non gamers. Even if I wanted to, I don’t think I could make a business case for it to myself, or my cats.