A common tip for most aspiring entrepreneurs is to know your competition and stay one step ahead of them. It’s a rough market out there. However, in the world of independent game development, this kind of cutthroat mentality will lead you to lose out on many opportunities for success. In the gaming scene, people will gladly buy games from different developers, so you needn’t worry much about “losing customers” to other games. Here are a few reasons why you should encourage other developers’ work and embrace competition from other developers.
Cross promotion. The game development world runs on the principle of getting your game noticed. And what better way to get noticed than to piggyback on someone else coming into the spotlight? Don’t hesitate to contact other developers doing similar things and offer cross promotion opportunities. A simple message is all you need. “Hey, I see your game X is similar to my game Y! I’d love to share X with my fan base in exchange for you sharing Y across yours! I think our fans would love being able to enjoy other games like the ones they’ve been playing.” These kind of messages can work wonders, especially when it comes to Kickstarter or Greenlight. Plus, you get to meet some cool developers!
Feedback from peers. Nobody knows more about making games than someone who’s making games. It’s always a good idea to reach out to developers and ask for feedback on your project, no matter how big or small the project or the developer is! Most developers wouldn’t mind taking a little while out of their day to give you a hand. The good part about giving feedback and checking out new projects is that it could inspire you to create or improve something for your own work! Game development should always be a collaborative process. If I hadn’t asked other developers for feedback along the way, I would never have been able to publish games on Steam and maintain fantastic friendships and professional connections with many talented developers.
Competition breeds creativity. While you may have the best of intentions, if you keep trying to get “better” than other games in the market, eventually one of four things will happen. One, they notice and get mad, possibly leading to a lawsuit regarding copyright infringement. Two, the press notice and give you flak for being a “copycat.” Three, the public notices, and your fans view you as a sellout trying to steal ideas. Or four, your game starts to look so different from what you had in mind initially that you’re no longer making your own game, but rather a clone of someone else’s. Stay creative and have a calm mind, and don’t see game development as a race to create the “best game.” Make the game you want to make.
Networking opportunities. The word “networking” is thrown around as a buzzword in the professional world, so I’ll keep this brief. Developers work closely with people that you might need to get in touch with — composers, marketers, trailer guys, web designers, and more. If you need contacts, asking another developer where they got X, Y, or Z done is an easy way to find reputable people with experience. Sharing contacts also generates goodwill amongst developers, and keeps talented contractors in business! All it takes is 5 minutes on reddit’s /r/gamedev forum to discern that developers are friendly people willing to help others. If you start painting this picture of your “competition” in your mind, you lose the ability to make wonderful, thriving connections with skilled masterminds in your field. It’s not even about making games — it’s about making friends! Relationships mean a lot in a world as dynamic as game development, so make and cherish them.
Important Takeways: Cross promotion is huge when it comes to selling games. Leverage existing fanbases to grow your own. Don’t be afraid to ask fellow game developers for help — they’re usually super friendly and willing to assist. Creativity is king. Competition breeds creativity. Make a game that stands out from among the crowd in order to maximize your chances of success.