This Online World

“If the byline on your article doesn’t enlarge its readership then you don’t have much of a value. All you’re doing is using the distribution network of a company. That makes you expendable. They can find someone else just like you. “

– Clay Davis

Quite an interesting read regarding the business of writing for a living. I don’t 100% agree with all the conclusions he argues for, but when put through the lens of indie games I think a lot can be applicable as well. The above quote struck a chord with me as it described the value of any given article on a major news site. In the 2009-2011 era of iOS indie games market, I think it’s fair to say most indies didn’t bring their own following to the app store. They used Apple’s distribution network, namely, App Store headlining features to move units.It was pretty clear that the ones that got early successes outside of “viral hits” were bringing to bear their already existing fanbase to the platform (licenses, tie-ins, pre-existing userbase). As more indies showed up to the party, it quickly became evident that any one game or studio was pretty much expendable, both to the platform holder and to players because there’d be 10 more with just as high quality (if not higher) games ready to sell or give away.

I think mobile is becoming a place where you have a better chance at trying to expand your following or re-enforce it, not start it. I’m pretty convinced you need more business savvy than game design savvy to be able to get any decent return on iOS indie games. That’s something most indies are horribly underprepared for. I’m starting to  think no amount of impeccable game design/execution will move a game from “financial flop” to “middling success” without a large dose of monetization strategies built into the game. This wasn’t the case from the outset, but times have changed the nature of the game.

Another choice quote from that article that made me think:

Every other site is based on ad revenue. That’s because sports fans have been conditioned not to pay for any content they receive. (This is why consumers complaining about content is so contradictory. Does any other free to consumers business hear this all the time: “Why isn’t the content that we don’t pay for more to my liking?!)

– Clay Davis

Music, literature, and games, seem to be running on similar paths when it comes to how people value them and what people expect out of them.

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