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

The portal option

There is a big difference of opinion in the indie game developer community regarding whether or not to sell direct or work with portals. For new developers with no web presence doing casual games, its an easy choice (use portals). For devs doing hardcore games that are not portal friendly (big RPGs, FPS games, hardcore shooters) the choice is easy too (sell direct). For the people like me who have both options available, and do games that are part hardcor, part casual, it’s more of a dilemma.

On the one hand, it’s mad not to use them. Some portals (like bigfishgames) have a HUGE audience, and can put your game in front of tons of eyeballs. They can generate serious income for you, and they do marketing, promotion and some limited customer support. Probably more people bought Kudos from a portal than from me.

On the other hand, the portals customers remain theirs. I don’t get their email address, or any custom from them. A portal sale boosts the profile of the portal, more than me, and that’s effectively helping my competitors to grow. Also they take a BIG chunk of the money. It *might* still be a good deal though. There are two further things that need to be calculated though:

1) Are people buying the game from the portal rather than me, who would have bought direct from me otherwise? If so, I stupidly gave up a chunk of my sales to someone for no good reason.

2) Will the portal undercut me? If a portal has no cap on the sale price of the game, then they can churn it out for $5.99, making my prices seem artificially high. I’m effectively forced to play ‘match the lowest price’ with all the portals I do deals with. I can’t make a living selling games for $5.99. These aren’t throwawy bejewelled re-skins, my games take massive effort to make.

So what will I do with Kudos 2? No idea. I am genuinely in a dilemma. It all comes down to hard negotiation over contract terms and minimum prices. I can see portals refusing to agree to anything that prevents them bundling my games for a pittance alongside some diner dash clones. If they really stick with that, then I’ll just sell the game direct. I guess I’m lucky, I don’t *need* the portals anywhere near as much as most indie devs, all thanks to people like you, who found my website, and buy my games from me.

Thanks guys and girls!

Bad few days…

Sadly everything seems to be going wrong lately. Sales have not been at all good, last night I got a parking tiket from the bastard scumbags at Hammersmith & Fulham council for not understanding their cryptic parking explanations, and this morning I realise some sad little thug has kicked the wingmirror off of my car…

Plus my shares I bought are in freefall…

So it’s all a bit pear-shaped right now. There are a few potential pieces of positive news around the corner, such as finishing Kudos 2, getting a Mac release for Democracy 2, and a possible portal release for Democracy 2, and also for a slimmed down version of the game for the casual portals. (more on that when I know it’s happening).

Hopefully next week will go better.