May 9, 2019

Thoughts on gaming?

Courtland Allen @csallen

I just came across this article in Reuters: U.S. adults are spending big on video games, playing mostly on smartphones. Some snippets:

  • $43.4 billion spent on gaming in the US in 2018
  • 65% of US adults play games
  • avg age is 33 years old, and 46% of gamers are female
  • avg 2019 gamer spends 20% more than in 2018, 85% more than in 2015

These are surprisingly numbers to me, although they say very little about how small indie games are faring compared to big studio games.

Any thoughts as to how the "typical" indie hacking principles apply to building a business in the gaming space? Are any of you making games or considering doing so? Thoughts on whether or not we should interview more indie game developers?

  1. 4

    I think it'd be great. Friend of mine is in that field and doing quite well

  2. 3

    @Mubs and I were in the game industry for about 4 years at a place called MadGlory (which was acquired by PUBG). We didn't work directly on the game, but we did design & build scaling community software.

    Building a business in the game industry is pretty similar to building a business in SaaS industry. They both rely on users/customers, but the product itself takes a really long time to build. Most games also have a "shelf-life". A studio will spend 2+ years building a game, market, public launch, and then build a sequel. If the market shifts to a new genre, the studio has no issue with shutting down a game that's being worked on to save money. i.e. If consumers are really into battle royal (BR) games and a studio knows that the First Person Shooter (FPS) they are working on will not produce the proper margins, the studio will cancel the game.

    However, we are seeing games being made that have "seasons" where the studio will slightly change the game in order to keep users enticed to play. Fortnite (BR), Grand Theft Auto (RP), League of Legends (MOBA) are some games that have evolved over time to continue to be revenue generating. Fortnite and League of Legends are both free to play, but they generate massive amounts of revenue from in-game purchases. Much like free to use SaaS products that sell upgrades to their products.

    Because of platforms like Twitch and YouTube Live, this is what I would do if I were building a game today:

    ✅ Stream the process everyday on Twitch
    ✅ Start building your list from day 1
    ✅ Start building your community from day 1
    ✅ Do not worry about someone stealing your idea
    ✅ Have your community give you real-time feedback
    ✅ Use SaaS related tools that can automate your marketing while you build

    Transparency and community is what will be the future of everything.

  3. 3

    I'm an indie game developer. I don't use this site very much because it seems more geared toward SaaS and such. For me "selling" and "clients" have a different meaning. I suppose you could argue that a game is like a SaaS.

  4. 3

    Yes, please! I have been waiting for this. If there are any Indie hackers working in the game development field I would love to chat, be friends. Exchange experiences. Thanks.

  5. 2

    I've done flash games in the past when first getting into software and have known several who have done well either in that era or since. As is probably clear from the past, I would say YES. Gaming is bigger than Hollywood and there's a long tail.

    I've previously commented with links to relevant books/videos/etc in the past. Careless dismissal of B2C in general is a HUGE blind spot on IH.

    1. 2

      Careless dismissal of B2C ...on IH

      I noticed it too. There is a kind of worshipping towards B2B domain on IH and a kind of look down on other sectors.

    2. 1

      Blind spot yes, but I don't notice so much the dismissal.

      I am working on B2C, physical product, but not very vocal about it and there is certainly some assumptions about that everyone is doing B2B SaaS.

  6. 2

    I have been working on indie game development for 3 years. After learning technical stuff and a little bit of marketing, I am now searching for ways to create my own game studio. It is really stuck on the money issue. There are different kinds of game developers, some are making game tutorials to make money with developing games at the same time. Some are working while blogging or selling courses, but when it comes to the selling games it is kind of hard to combine developing and marketing as an individual. Big companies with budgets mostly running with ads. It is hard to work as an indie but what isn't. :)

    I am trying to talk about my experience with the game development through I can use some feedback and grow my experience and share more in there too. Sometimes I think "I am still too inexperienced for this" but you know you can't really say that without trying and failing a lot of times. :) (I hope that is true)

    If you can make a podcast, interview with an expert that would be awesome! I couldn't find a lot of indie hackers working/interested in game development. Looking forward to meeting some. :) Thank you!

    1. 1

      Hey there Emrnl!

      I'm not working on games specifically but I've been working on building a community around them with my app/website GG| (like Letterboxd for video games).

      I'd love to get connected with indie game devs to see what kinds of things I can do to help that side of things!

      Feel free to contact me via Twitter

      1. 1

        Thank you! Of course man. Nice to meet you.

    2. 1

      Hey Emrnl,
      I working on gaming community and Cryptocurrency platform. Can chat with you for mutual sharing of info. Nice to find you here

      1. 2

        Nice to meet you! Following you on twitter right now.

  7. 2

    As background, I did my university degree in game programming/design and then, after graduating, got into startups instead after learning how toxic the game industry's dynamics and incentives are.

    As an industry, games works more like films or pop music than like startups. Big upfront investments and limited ability to validate means that the big studios are stuck in sequel-ville, while small indies are basically blindly investing 2-5 years on a dice roll. There are certainly inspiring exceptions and case studies, but you can make the same argument about Russian Roulette and I don't think many of the lessons from the game world are transferable. (Except possibly those about burnout and the productivity cost of working long hours for extended periods of time.)

    Also, because small devs usually only get through one game in 5-10 years, they typically have either one big success or one big failure, and will then generalize massively from their own one-off experiences. I love playing and supporting games and would love to be proven wrong, but I think it's likely to be more misleading than informative for most folks who read it. (Unless they want to be in that industry, of course, but then there's already tons of stuff on e.g. gamasutra.)

  8. 1

    Yes on Indie Game Developers. Highly recommend this documentary

  9. 1

    I believe gaming will play a huge role in our life in future. Lot of innovation happened because of gaming technologies and user adoption. This is why i am working on this area but it takes some time to move up.

  10. 1

    Not exactly gaming but I’ve always found psychology of game design really fascinating. Having personally plaid a ton of MMOs I’ve always been intrigued with how some games do such an awesome job at manufacturing addiction. Recently I’ve been thinking about how gamification can be utilized in more trivial or boring applications. I think language learning platforms were the most successful at somewhat recent implementation of gamification strategies and I’ve been wondering if the same can be done for other educational apps. For example, learning to code seems like an obvious contender for gamification yet I don’t see any successful platforms that really push the concept to its max potential. If gamification can build addiction to things that are mostly useless in life, why not put it to work in areas that allow people to grow or make tremendous impact? Just some thoughts...

  11. 1

    should interview more indie game developers?

    definitely worth the experiment!
    this guy is great:

    He does videos explaining how he's progressing making/improving his game.

  12. 1

    Wonderful to see these stats.
    I am building for mobile game players.
    It's a free to play contest site with real cash rewards(primarily in Cryptocurrency).
    Current tournament is live on Pubg, Ludo, 8 ball pool etc.
    Pls see it once and let me know. I would be grateful.

    1. 2

      Why did you choose that name? What is Jomofi?

      I see that you built a social gaming aspect which is pretty cool - how many active users are playing?

      1. 1

        Hey man, sorry I got busy due to high rush of new users. There are 130 active users right now. I'll close new sign up after 250 registrations for now.
        JOMO= Joy of Missing Out
        JOMO will be the new trend of future opposite to FOMO.

        1. 1

          Why would anyone have joy about missing out on something?

          Best of luck!

          1. 1

            In this age of social media, people see their other friends partying, travelling places, chilling on cool places, etc and they feel fear of missing out-FOMO at home. So JOMO is the way to kill FOMO.
            just search JOMO on google once..

            PS- We crossed 250 users. Playing games daily.

  13. 1

    For non-mobile video games I feel the best indie hacker principle is to make a really nice prototype and gain an audience over social media to validate if there's demand. I've seen loads of indie games get cult followings on Twitter just because they posted something a little outside the box. Otherwise I feel like it's very hard to be successful without a publisher. Do-able, just not easy in an oversaturated market with low entry barriers for developers.

    I'm working on some causal mobile apps in the Trivia space. I've spent over a year building up a skeleton app that has everything I need and now I fork that into different apps. At a point where I'm deciding whether I focus on a single app and trying to nail that market, or fork again to test new ideas/markets (fyi, I'm terrible at marketing).

  14. 1

    I was a big video game player and I would love to build my own. However, I have a ton of other priorities before it happens.

    Concerning IH, I think it should stay focused around more "typical" businesses. It involves already a lot of different skills, enlarging into the world of games would be a lot (too much?) information.

  15. 1

    I published a casual game for Android and iOS back in 2013. It was a lot of fun to build, but failed miserably at marketing. User acquisition is really hard with so much competition. I suspect most popular mobile games spent an awful lot on advertising to reach the top of the charts. My game had over 10,000 installs on Android eventually, with good ratings, but that translated into just a few dollars a month in ad revenues. Not something I would try again if the goal is to make money. But definitely interested to hear from somebody who made it.

    1. 1

      How big was your email list when you launched the game? Also, how much did the game grow your list?

      1. 1

        I didn't even collect emails. I don't think many free-to-play mobile games do. Not sure how valuable such a list would be given the vast majority of players are not willing to pay anything.

        1. 1

          What was your distribution strategy, then?

          (Publishing to an app store and hoping doesn't count!)

          1. 2

            In the early days of Android (2009) I actually published a free utility app that got 200k+ downloads without any promotion, so yeah initially I did naively hope it would be the same for my new game.
            When it was clear that wasn't going to happen I did some paid advertising (on a smaller ad network that seemed quite effective), introduced social features like inviting your Facebook friends and sharing your achievements, tried to get reviewed on popular blogs (with limited success).

  16. 1

    we should interview more indie game developers?
    Yes. Great idea. :)
    Have always been eager about making a hyper-casual game for android. is a great tool for it.

  17. 1

    I'm not an indie game dev, but I make tools for indie VR devs to grow their audience organically and make money without ads.

    Indie VR devs either follow indie hacker principles or raise capital.

    I looked into it, and 0% of VR devs who raised >$1M in capital have generated more than that in revenue. Many of them shut down when they run out of runway. Some have been acquired through firesale to live another day.

    Indie hacker VR devs usually don't break even, but it is worth noting that a few top VR games/apps are made by solo operators with zero capital raised. Virtual Desktop and Onward as examples. Working freelance on other projects pays the bills.

    1. 1

      There isn't so much variety when it comes to business models or major marketing channels. Status quo is digital download sales w/ influencer marketing and ads if you can afford it, YouTube/Twitter/Reddit if you can't.

  18. 0

    Well.. you could and should for sure, I think many lessons could be shared between indiehackers and indiegame-hackers:

    • resources constraints (time, budget, people)
    • distribution platforms (steam, itchio) vs self made (website, aws)
    • marketing (for sure)

    But maybe target audiences are different, so mix them together could be hard?

    Is something you have already started with Cogmind creator interview years ago right ?

  19. 1

    This comment was deleted a year ago.