Time for the Quarterly Blog Post (ugh)

by indievoyagerob

Yeah, it’s Been Awhile

For those of you who are just stepping into our little electronic office, you may notice that our blog entries are few and far between. Yes, my moments of brilliance with regards to the tap tapping of my fingers on these supposed “keys” are quite limited.

But I’m just going to wing it and blog away. For the sake of just showcasing a day in the life of a publisher, we are just wrestling with the issue of getting some spotlights on both Zavix Tower and Venture Forth. It’s a lot of difficult (and often unrewarding) work, but it must be done. We must press on in the face of adversity etc, etc.

I liken it to submitting a novel or short story or, even moreso, poem for publishing in a journal or magazine (online or physical, it doesn’t matter). You are likely to face a lot of rejection, and a lot of that rejection will be of the silent variety. The silent variety is by far the most frustrating kind. Sending out Steam Keys and press releases to youtubers, bloggers and streamers grants what amounts to a 100% return rate of nothingness, even in the case of a successful posting.

The key is to press on and dedicate some time periodically to seeking out those notices to see if anything came of it. Often times, nothing will come of it. Occasionally something will. In the case of something, thank the individual or team for their time. Maybe make a comment or two in the comments section, which is where comments go.

Good to Know

Just to be clear, I bear 0 animus towards folks who don’t respond. As a former magazine publisher, I am quite aware of the deluge of messages that can be received by such a person, and my magazine sold approximately 20 copies in the entire run (in other words, even the least successful media outlet can receive a ridiculous amount of attention)! An aside: don’t try publishing your own magazine from scratch while running it 100% by yourself. You’ll drive yourself batshit insane.

What Can you Do?

It’s very easy to shrug your shoulders and turn your attention to newer things. I get to look at project proposals every now and again, and I love doing that. I love talking with developers who are so excited to have their projects ahead of them. Especially solo devs and indies. The passion level is super high, and that can be infectious. However, with great highs come epic lows. When sales aren’t booming as was desired (nay, expected), it is crushing.

But our character is defined by how we react to defeat, not how well we can envision success. When life gives you lemons, perhaps instead of just jumping into the lemonade business, one might reflect on the how and why of receiving said lemons when you were expecting something else entirely.

In the games business, low sales come with the territory and can affect ANY game, regardless of budget or publisher. However, where Indie devs are concerned, low sales often means low food or no rent. It’s fucking impossible to maintain one’s perspective in those cases, and that’s why I’m a publisher. I AM that perspective. I AM that lighthouse when all else is dark.

That’s not to say I AM immediate and ensured game sales, but I am certainly one who has been there, done that, bought the t-shirt, and then lost that shirt off my back only to eventually find new and better t-shirts that actually fit (not to completely dismantle an already bad analogy). And with that experience comes perspective. I’m not magic, but I am really damn knowledgable and I will always work hard to try and dig me and my clients out of holes we find ourselves in. And we do find ourselves in holes. Frequently.

What Now?

So, having had early (and very relative) success in the publishing biz, it’s led us to a great many assumptions, none of which are universally true. I’m a producer. I’ve always been a producer. What makes me a good producer is an exceptional knowledge of how games are made and what is expected from all personnel involved.

I am not a marketing genius. I’m not even a marketing individual of average ability. Knowing that forces me to build a team around me that can support that aspect of the business. And even that was a lesson that had to be learned.

Isn’t Publishing 99% Marketing?

Heavens no. I’m actually not fond of marketing at all. What I love is the business of making games and ensuring they’re enjoyable for the folks who play them. Without a good game, you’re essentially damning yourself. I’ve tried the 100% marketing approach and it simply doesn’t work. The caveat there is that if you have a franchise and the equivalent of millions of marketing dollars, you might be able to fool people into buying the game until you make a profit (the cornerstone of Hollywood blockbusters for decades), but that generally doesn’t apply to an indie game unless it just, for whatever inexplicable reason, catches fire.

And so, I take on the role of Production consultant while getting my marketing team to really drive sales. Anybody who makes a game has blinders on. And that’s a necessary thing, for unless you really think your game is great, you can’t be expected to even finish making it let alone sell it to people. And that’s why 3rd party developers exist. They are paid to do exactly that. But that’s another blog and will be posted another time.

Somebody with blinders on cannot always see the negatives glaringly inherent in what they’re doing. “My graphics are fine,” “Sound isn’t that important,” “I have spelling errors, but that’s ok, I’ll get to them eventually,” “I’m going to base my fixes off my gut and the 1% of fans screaming the loudest.” Yeah, that’s the stuff I try to keep devs from believing. I don’t always succeed. It’s tough to get somebody to realize that their digital baby isn’t perfect. However, it’s necessary if you want that little bundle of supposed fun to be successful.

And What if My Game is Perfect

First of all, it’s not. Nor is your production schedule or preliminary budget. There’s no such thing. If you had a team of dedicated Project Managers working hand in hand with your actual full-time developers, artists and designers, and you pledged to never alter the design in any way shape or form, you’d have a chance of flawlessly predicting the time and money costs, and also meeting all your expectations as to how your game will look.

But ideas come up, concepts change. Inspiration strikes. In a creative business, planning is an endeavor forever damned. Estimates are your friend. Assuming that your game design documentation is a living breathing thing is the best thing you can do.

And in this day and age, no game is ever perfect upon launch. The modern expectation for a game delivered on non-physical media is that it will forever be supported. That’s not possible, but there is a reasonable amount of time developers should be improving their game and enhancing the player experience to continually drive sales and maintain consistent play.

Let’s Stop This Madness

I’ve been writing for a while now, and there’s a lot of good stuff there (I think, but who the fuck am I… indievoyagerob, that’s who). I’m going to go ahead and stop, and maybe I’ll pick up again in the next couple of days or maybe it’ll be another 4 months before I even visit this site again. The world may never know.


Fun facts!

  • Working in games since 2002
  • I’ve worked on nearly a dozen AAA console sports titles (QA capacity)
  • I’ve worked on pre-smartphone mobile games (probably more than a dozen of those)
  • I’ve worked on games for Leapfrog, V-Tech, and Fisher Price specialty consoles
    • This includes working on IP like SpongeBob Squarepants, Disney Princess, Disney Fairies, Disney*Pixar Cars, Winnie the Pooh, and more!
  • I’ve worked for not one, not two, but three different companies integrating gambling into casual games (yeah, somebody who worked in games integrating either gambling or the education of children… hooray America)
  • I’ve worked on several failed mobile and social game concepts using IP like Ninja Warrior (the gameshow), Rock of Ages (the Broadway show), and Burn Notice (though the latter did actually launch).
    • These failed for a wide variety of reasons from “flat-out cancelled” to “never-got-the-dough”
  • I took time out from my busy game career to deliver pizza and, for three months, live at home
    • All due to necessity. This isn’t the glamorous career it seems.
  • I’ve worked for extended stays on games in the following locations:
    • England (2 weeks: bingo parlors around the country, no really)
    • Vegas (6 weeks: poker-themed live gameshow)
    • Cruise ship (6 weeks around the Baltic Sea, Black Sea, and Mediterranean, installing a live, uber fancy bingo and trivia gameshow, complete with professional host)
    • India (5 weeks on a web-based MMO, which never really took off)
  • And now I’m attempting to publish indie games while holding down a regular gig (hello, 80-hour weeks :) ).

Leave a comment