Thursday, March 4, 2010

Playing Well With Others

Okay, so you've seen the post I made about the Indie Strategy Bundle, which was just a re-post of Cliff's, Vic's, and my press release. Cliff and Vic, naturally, made much more interesting posts on their own blogs, talking about the context of the bundle, their own feelings about it, etc. I thought I'd add a few words of my own along those lines.

For my own part, I'm not sure exactly where this is headed. Cliff and I created a perma-bundle of just AI War and GSB through Impulse starting in early December, and it was a successful thing despite how low the discount there turned out to be (well, c'mon, it is a perma-bundle rather than a time limited thing). When that bundle came out, Rock, Paper, Shotgun remarked that it was the indie equivalent of Guitar Hero and Rock Band offering a bundle together. Cliff and I both thought it would be a good idea to take it even further, so here we are.

Indies banding together in various ways looks like it may be a new trend. I certainly hope so. This Valentines day you had the Indie Love Bundle. More recently there was the announcement of the Indie Fund (which I think is a super terrific idea, and something I've blogged about in the past -- I'm glad that someone else with the money to actually make it happen also thought of it). And I think there are probably other examples that I'm either just not thinking of at the moment, or wasn't aware of for whatever reason.

I'm not including the distributor-led bundles because those are often featuring individual game prices so low that it seems like the largest benefit is to the distributor itself, rather than any one indie in there. Maybe those games are at the stage where they are no longer selling well, and the publicity of the deal (and whatever resultant cash) is a huge boon. There's certainly something to be said for publicity, obviously, and in large part that's the main reason for indies to band together -- that, and funding.

The bottom line is that indies are coming together in various capacities to shore up their traditional weaknesses. You know, all that stuff that a AAA publisher manages for their developers. This is stuff we're still figuring out, obviously. If you take three companies with zero or near-zero marketing budget and add them together, you still get a zero or near-zero marketing budget. So it's not like even if we got a hundred indies together you'd see advertising on par with even one minor game from EA.

But on the flip side, indies that are successful all are good at drumming up a fanbase somehow. And we all have different methods, different contacts, and different existing pools of customers. There ought to be a way that we can turn this into something that is greater than the sum of its parts -- and so that's what we're trying, in our grand experiment. I'll be as interested as anyone to see where this goes.

If you haven't yet tried GSB or Solium Infernum, I highly recommend them both. None of the games in this package are really substitutes for the other, and that's what's so awesome about indie games. In a time where a lot of the AAA strategy offerings are getting increasingly blurred together to my eyes, you still wind up with indie strategy offerings that are of a high quality, but which have various nontraditional foci that would probably turn off the mass audience in various ways. To me, that's pretty special, and I'm really happy that I'm able to be a part of it -- especially alongside such great talents as Cliff and Vic.

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