I made a pretty bad mistake when I released my first game, and second, and third… and fourth 🙁
When I decided to release my first game Tourestrial, I was in search of a good portal to distribute the game on. After doing a bit of research, I chose kongregate.com. I found that if I posted the game exclusively to Kongregate, then I could get an extra 15% ad revenue cut. Score! So, that’s what I did. After release, I got a decent amount of plays and a little bit of feedback, but not much. I learned a fair amount through the development process itself, but I didn’t really learn what other people thought of it. So what did I do next? Well, the exact same thing for my second, third, and even fourth game. The outcome ended up being about 3 decent comments, and a couple bucks. I thought I would learn a lot and be rich, but I was completely wrong.
I do not want any other budding game developers to make the same mistake I did. I limited the distribution of my games, and it cost me. My main point for this article is “Get your game out there, anywhere possible”. People need to play your game for you to get good feedback and improve. Don’t worry about money either. It won’t matter for 99% of you. There are times when it may be better to look for exclusivity deals, but that’s later down the road. Here is why you need to get your game out there.
Game development has 2 main components to creation, the making of the game itself (Programming, Art, Sound Creation) and the design (Levels, Story). You learn most if not all about making a game for yourself, by going through the entire development process. You learn how to use game engines, modeling software, programming languages, etc. The only people who can help you out with this are other game developers. The average gamer doesn’t know C# or how to animate and rig a model. However, gamers can help you tremendously with the game’s design. Game developers can help you too, but in the end, the gamers are the people who will be playing and buying your game.
For example, when I was play-testing my first game, I thought it had a decent amount of content and balance. It was a clicker game, and it took me around 15-30 minutes to get the rocket, which was the end goal. My players thought differently and wanted more end game content. They thought the game was too short. Since this was my first time making a game, I didn’t really know how long people wanted the game to be, and what kind of goals they wanted it to have. It’s kind of like, “It about the journey, not the destination.” Gamers don’t really care about the ending. They care about how they got there, about all the cool stuff they did, the challenges they faced, and the interactions they had. I learned from this that games can’t be too short, that there needs to be time for the players to get immersed into the game.
Players have also given me suggestions for game updates and have found bugs. Bugs are any developers worst nightmare, and we spend hours trying to find and fix as many bugs as we can. No matter how long you spend bug fixing, you can expect a few player found bugs on the first day, and that has happened to me a few times. If players really love the concept of a game, they won’t mind helping developers out by finding and reporting the bugs. They want a better game experience because they already love the game anyway.
To create a successful game, you not only need to know how to make it, but what makes it fun for the players. If I post my game to one website and I get 5 comments, I’m not learning too much. Yet, if I were to just post my game to even 1 more site, I could have 10 comments of feedback, possibly even more. Especially for a developer’s first release, you need to get your game out to as many eyes as possible, so you can get as much feedback as possible. You are a noob, so you don’t know a whole lot about game design yet. Players are more than willing to help you with that.
Now some of you may think “But if I have an exclusivity deal on Kongregate, I can get more money”. Well yes, you may get more money, but it’s a few pennies. In total from the 4 games I have released, I have made less than $7, including the extra revenue from the site exclusivity deal. That’s nothing. For 99% of you, your first game will do pretty poorly and not be a big money-making hit, but that’s okay. What you should really want from your first game is player feedback, so your next game can be better. You may get lucky and make some good money, but feedback is really crucial here.
In order to learn as a game developer and game designer, we need player feedback. The best way to get this is to distribute your game to as many places as possible, getting your game in front of a bunch of eyes. Now for seasoned developers with a following already, it may be more advantageous to take an exclusivity deal like Kongregate. But for new devs, it’s not. Don’t pull a me. Get your game out there. Learn how to make your next game better, so one day you can make a living off your games.