The potential to make millions of dollars for fancy cars, lavish designer suits, and huge beachfront houses. Flying first class anywhere you want, anytime you want. Premium ramen. The life of a successful game developer can look pretty sweet. People are oftentimes fascinated with the material rewards and complete freedom that can come with having a successful venture in the games industry. It looks like a pretty easy route to a better lifestyle than whatever career path they might be on right now, and who’s to blame them? It’s absolutely true as well, anyone can start developing a game and open up a business.
The internet and revolutions in development software have broken down so many barriers to game development, making it very simple and inexpensive to start working and set up shop. However, it’s a long way from writing Hello World to a six figure paycheck and lavish lifestyle. Anyone can make a game, but it takes a certain type of someone to turn it into a massive success. If you’ve been thinking about attempting to get into the indie games industry, you might find it useful to ask yourself these questions:
How do you feel about uncertainty? If you can’t stomach feeling uncomfortable about the future, game development is probably not for you. The most successful developers practice feeling uncomfortable on a daily basis. Growth always happens well outside of our comfort zones, and when diving into this volatile industry, you’ll be pushed to do something new very often. A lot of people prefer a level of certainty in their day-to-day, but you can’t push through the discomfort, you won’t be able to get much traction.
Are you willing to work insane hours? There’s no denying the freedom that comes with having a work schedule that doesn’t revolve around sitting for 8 hours in a cubicle every day, but a lot of people forget about the amount of work required to turn something from a simple vision into a tangible product. If you’re a big fan of holidays or long vacations, you might need to rethink your plans. Small development teams that are one or two person studios make it very difficult to take time off or to have a proper vacation without work piling up. It’s definitely not impossible by any means, but it’ll be very challenging to say the least.
Are you confident that you are or can become one of the best? Being amazing at what you do is always important if you want to succeed, but confidence is a large factor as well. Successful game developers are both confident in their ability to deliver a great game, as well as confident that their long term goals will be met as well. Also, how do you feel about marketing yourself? Game developers need to understand how to make connections, both for themselves and to help others. The success of your indie game studio relies heavily on obtaining an audience. Awesome games won’t sell themselves. There’s too many great games that are being marketed well to allow other indie games to be spread via word-of-mouth. Unless your indie game accomplishes something so revolutionary that it comes out of nowhere and amazes everyone, you’re not going to get the downloads you need to sustain yourself.
Is having a steady paycheck essential? When starting your new development venture, a paycheck is absolutely not a given. Individuals who start successful game development studios tend to be willing to work for free because they’re absolutely passionate about their project. If you’re not in a stable enough position to do that, going all in to start making games probably isn’t for you. Focus on making sure you’re able to survive first. It’s absolutely true that you could see insane rewards from your game venture, but it’s probably not going to happen in the first few years. You definitely need to be willing and able to make sacrifices up front to reach your goals, and it’s absolutely possible to work on your game development business after you clock out for the day. If you find that some or all of these traits apply to you, combine it with an unforgettable game and you might just be the next big thing after a few years of hard work.
Important Takeaways: In order to tread the path of indie game development, you must be comfortable with uncertainty, be able to sacrifice getting a steady paycheck, be willing to work insane hours, be fully confident in your abilities, and be willing and able to successful market yourself and your game. Sounds like a tall order? That’s because it is. Most businesses fail, and indie game development is no different. If you plan on being an indie game developer, you’re going to be tested to your limits. If this doesn’t bother you in the slightest, keep going!