Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Competing allies

Here is a question for indie game developers.

Who are you competing against, and who is on your side?

It’s not as simple a question as you might think. Don’t rush to judgement. I find that the supposedly simple questions are in fact the most interesting. I can list a lot of people on my side, and a lot of people who compete with me, and some people who are in both lists. The people in both lists are what I’m pretentiously calling competing allies.

Imagine a fellow PC indie strategy game developer. Lets call them ‘Cunning Fox Games’. CF Games earn about the same as I do, and sell direct online. We probably have some crossover of customers, with people owning games from both of us. Are CF Games on my side? or my competition.

They are both.

A customer of CF Games has been identified (maybe at some marketing cost) by that company. The identity of that customer has worth. They already own CFG’s games, but possibly not mine. I would benefit a lot from CFG telling their customers about me. And the reverse is true. In other words, if me and CFG mention each other, we can BOTH make more sales, and be better off.  So far, so obvious.

But let’s say I mention CF Games, and they don’t mention me back. Maybe their CEO met me once and thinks I’m a bastard, and doesn’t want to give me any publicity. Maybe I know this. Should I still keep recommending them?


And for purely rational self-interest, too. I *want* people who enjoy my games to buy games from CF Games too. I can’t make 3 games a year, but my customers can buy 3. Why not become known as someone who recommends good, relevant games? Why not encourage those players to keep playing strategy games? Why not encourage them to keep buying indie games? and to buy them direct from the developers. In the long run, this grows the market for me too. The more people who are used to using BMTMicro, the better.

Some small businesspeople can be very small minded. They keep an eye on fellow small businesses and treat them as the enemy, but that’s just wrong. If you sell indie games, I’m not your competition, I’m your ally. Activision sell 1,000 times more games than you and me combined, and frankly, I’d rather have a beer with you and swap ideas, strategies and business tips with a fellow indie, whose experience is directly relevant than some CEO who never plays games anyway.

So my tip of the day, is remember, sometimes helping rival companies helps you too. It’s not a zero-sum game.

11 thoughts on Competing allies

  1. This kinda came up in our forums a bit ago, actually. I spoke favorably of another strategy-heavy space game and one player thought it was strange (not bad, just strange).

    Honestly, it just hadn’t occurred to me that the makers of that game were my competitors. They are, of course, but our total benefit from their selling more units than any total loss (which is non-zero) from that.

  2. Good tip, I feel the same way.

    I believe that it might be related to the fact that many small business owner are at some extent in need of control and “others” aren’t something that they can control. That creates uneasiness and unknown. The reaction is mistrust and counter productivity for the market as a whole at the profit (or perception of) of the individual.

    I think that Nash, (the mathematician from beautiful mind) worked a great deal on that topic.

  3. Listen,

    Let’s not start an “AI War” here. None of us have to go “Defcon” on the subject and I do believe that sharing and competing will benefit many indie developers in the long run. It’s a progressive way of thinking leading to our own market or “Darwinia” here on the interwebs. The important thing is that however “Weird Worlds” things get, we stick together appoint our own “Space War Commander” or create a “Starship Kingdom” where everyone can share, grow, learn, and survive all while leading a good life and healthy business practice. And if that doesn’t work, then we can act as “Smugglers”. It’s smart and forward thinking unlike living with a “Frozen Synapse”. Sure there are some people who enjoy “Conflict” and only focus on their own agenda, but there are plenty of others who do see beyond “The Oil Blue” and would certainly participate in a group effort and be of like minded indie development thinking, much like a “Flotilla”, they would work together. It’s “Strange Adventures” like these that benefit all of us, including the customers and fans of these games. So “Kudos” to all indie devs that can and will co-operate with one-another. The harder we work to help each other the less of a “Creeper World” it is. Hopefully someday we’ll have our own “Eufloria” but until that day let’s work hard at getting there because being helpful and discussing interests, ideas and strategies doesn’t have to be like “Gratuitous Space Battles” or seem like “Solium Infernum”.

    We are the world, We are the children, We are the ones who make a brighter day, So lets start giving.

    O_o (wtf?)

  4. Games are very complicated it’s in indies best interests to

    1) work together
    2) Share code/resources/artists/contacts

    You guys know how long it takes to make a game, I feel the OPPOSITE is true games are so complicated to make already and gamers really only care about if a game is good or not.

    For indies “competition” should not be a bad word you should be competing – ON PRODUCT QUALITY.

    We all know the big AAA studio’s churn out safe rehashes of major franchises indies because they are small can find ways to build better games for lower costs and the same or lower time-frames.

  5. You may laugh, but post #3 actually made me aware of existence of an awesome game I never heard about. Bought it.

    So yeah, it works.

  6. I love affiliating stuff. I push other people’s games hard, as I am very slow about making new things myself. I’ll also promote things that I can’t affiliate via my blog and forums, if I just happen to think they’re cool.

    However, in recent years I draw the line at advertising games that can only be bought through large membership distribution services. If you HAVE to go through Steam or BigFishGames or Impulse or whatnot to get to the game, I will tend to ignore its existence. Even though in the case of Impulse it is possible to affiliate, I don’t want to go that route again. I certainly won’t stop my forum members from talking about those games themselves though.

  7. @Igor Savin,

    Hey, glad you got something out of the post. To be honest, a lot of those games are very good but it depends very much on your tastes. In my rambling comment of nonsensical nonsense I did happen to include titles of games that involve or revolve around some form of strategy gaming. In all honesty I should write a mock complaint or mock thank-you letter in the same style mentioning as many indie games (regardless of genre) as I can possibly think of (which I personally own). To be clear though, each of the games I mentioned in my comment (comment #3 for those who haven’t read it), I own and have purchased all of them – so I can also vouch for how much enjoyment I’ve taken from them.

    You didn’t mention which game it was that you bought because of the comment but I think all PC gamers would be surprised at how many great titles are out there that are either hard to come by or just haven’t received enough exposure. Word of mouth does help though.

    I’m glad you found a new game that you enjoy, even if it was because of a crazy comment that I had made while trying to be silly enough to mention a number of indie games that involve strategy of some sort while writing in a not-so-serious tone.


  8. To be honest, I’ve never thought of my fellow indies as enemies. I’m working on a strategy game, so I suppose that we’re competitors.

    Maybe it’s cause I run a local indie meetup? I think indies have more to gain from sticking together.

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