Big game or small game?

Monkey Archive Forums/Digital Discussion/Big game or small game?

zoqfotpik(Posted 2014) [#1]
Which is more profitable in general, single larger games (of the complexity we are capable of) or larger numbers of small ones?

Karja(Posted 2014) [#2]
I would hazard a guess that multiple smaller ones is more profitable for most people, and allows for more experimentation and different versions of game ideas. However, a larger game likely has a higher chance to strike gold - something that a smaller game is very unlikely to do.

Supertino(Posted 2014) [#3]
Just look at Flappy bird, any of us could knock that up in a day (no offence to the creator ofc.) It always does seem to be the simple things that do well but then again I think luck plays a part too in terms of getting your app noticed.

time-killer-games(Posted 2014) [#4]
Big game. Definitely. If you intentionally make one or several "small" games that just shows you aren't working hard enough or working to your full potential. While if you make a big game, i.e. the next skyrim, let's just say you'll get more satisfaction in your work than the minimal effort put into making crappy (being bored and taking out of your pocket your phone & play for 30 seconds but no real interest or full attention put into it) kind of game like angry birds.

Paul - Taiphoz(Posted 2014) [#5]
I think it all depends on what your core objective is, if its simply to make as much money as possible and your not worried about how you go about it then making a number of small games and then re-skinning each of them 2 or three times and releasing it all would be the best way, there are so many developers doing this now that it's actually quite shocking, there are even books on amazon about taking other peoples games, re-skinning them and releasing them as your own its really quite frighting.

SLotman(Posted 2014) [#6]
That "flappy bird" thing is making 50k/day?!?!

My God - that thing is atrocious at best... I really have no idea what goes through people's minds...

Paul - Taiphoz(Posted 2014) [#7]
I think what google and other app stores need to do is come up with some sort of pattern recognition software that scans and stores data on any new app that gets uploaded, then if a dodgy clonner comes along and tries to upload your source code with their art it would get flagged, original author notified and given the right to deny the app.

At least that way we would know that any clones we see are ones where a developer has still sat and written all their own code, drew all their own art and created all their own music, all their really doing is clonning the concept, which I think its fine.

muddy_shoes(Posted 2014) [#8]
App skinners aren't generally stealing code though. There are plenty of people out there willing to sell "generic endless runner/jumper" source. Reskinners mostly just try to ride a wave of early interest, take the ad revenue and whatever IAP they manage to get, hopefully cover their art and marketing costs and then move on. I'm not convinced by some of the high income claims for this sort of thing and I suspect it's going to increasingly become an exercise in barrel scraping.

Flappy Bird is a complete red herring as far as looking for "how to make profitable games". It's an unreproducible fluke. All it does is mark a low bar for what can go viral. It's "Agadoo" or "Crazy Frog" in game form.

Back to the original question, any game size can work. What's big and small anyway? Is Super Meat Boy a big or small game? Gunpoint? VVVVVVV? What works in terms of scale is market dependent. If you're selling web games to sponsors then the market seems to mostly want games priced at around a month of effort. If you're selling to Big Fish then there's a much higher expectation level for content quality and longevity. Mobile will still accept free five-minute wonders but the Steam audience generally wants something with more substance.

From a marketing perspective you'd try to identify an underserved area (Squirrel-themed third person JRPGs on iPad or whatever), calculate the balance between what size of game they like and what level of up-front risk you're willing to take and then design your game. I doubt that's how most successful Indies work though. I imagine they get the idea and then go to find a market. Alternatively you can slap together a video and Kickstarter it and shovel most of the risk back on the consumer.

rIKmAN(Posted 2014) [#9]
Food for thought...

Flappy Bird’s Smoke & Mirrors – Is Something Fishy Going On?
Flappy Bird: 'too good to be true?'

Goodlookinguy(Posted 2014) [#10]
As pointed out by a comment, the game's raise in popularity may be a result of some person on YouTube who has millions of followers. I can believe this. I really don't think it's astonishing or surprising that a game like this has immense popularity.

Nobuyuki(Posted 2014) [#11]
Small ones. Big games are high risk / high reward. Remember that you need to finish a game in order for it to make any money. Don't tackle big games until you can prove you can tackle multiple small ones in a reasonable timeframe. While you're working on that big game, it's not "paying you back", so to speak, so even if you want to go for the big catch, you should probably make a few small games first to beef up your income level and give yourself more breathing room to invest in the big project.

Edit: And also, I totally believe in the power of networking when it comes to "viral" marketing. Nothing ever happens for no reason; if something springs into huge popularity "overnight" you can usually bet there was a strong push hiding somewhere behind whatever that thing is. Youtube personalities, probably a great example. If you want your game to get eyeballs, you should probably appeal directly to these guys, and skip the big gamers' news outlets -- they won't usually cover your game unless you've got the right people giving your game the eyeball already. You can use reviews from these guys to help schmooze your way into a big gaming news site later, if one of their guys doesn't just write an article for you, anyway. This is super important especially if you do end up going for the big project.

zoqfotpik(Posted 2014) [#12]
My first Monkey game Crazy Clowns (you can see it in the Apps section here) has a rather surprising number of downloads as a free app in various android stores. It is pretty rudimentary but from what I understand people like it. I was astounded how well it did. I'm going to jazz it up and release a Deluxe version.

Who knows what people will like or why.

With a lot of questions like this, the "middle way" is often the best way. Maybe it's best to make four one-week games to one one-month game or some similar ratio.

Paul - Taiphoz(Posted 2014) [#13]
I think one of the most important things for any game of any size is that it get noticed , no game is going viral, or making any kind of monkey if it does not get noticed, even if you make a lot of smaller games which will help with your discovery you still run the risk of flying under the radar.

to gain discovery you need to think about a lot of things, something I noticed with Bit-Invaders that little 5 minute space invaders game that I did for monkey-touch and then put up on google play, I had virtually no plays until I changed its name from Bit-Invaders to Bit Invaders, simply removing the hyphen made it instantly easier to find, so picking the right name for a game can be rather important.

I think that's why you will see a lot of games trying to use the same sort of naming conventions like King and their recent attempt to pull in the word Saga, simply calling your name Paul Saga would result in Paul Saga showing up in a list when some one searched for Saga looking for King games, the flip side is that the more obscure you make your game name the harder it potentially will be for people to just stumble across and you don't want that.

I think other than your name, the most important thing when it comes to Discovery is to get your game out to as many key players as you possibly can, hit up all the "Lets Play" people on YouTube and Twitch sending them a free copy of your game, do the same with any and all Indie game related websites, and blogs, the more people you get the word out to the better, and as some of these Key Players pick up and try your game and then talk about it, they are then spreading the word for you which in the end can reach thousands more.

I know that's a bit of common sense but I think a lot of people tend to not really put in enough ground work sending out a few copies and leaving the rest in the hands of the gaming gods, but this is probably one of the most important steps and its the one you should go full out with, I would recommend spending a month or longer simply compiling as big a list as possible of e-mail address's websites and contacts for your game and then when you feel its large enough send a free copy of your game out to them all, you can then release your game at the same time as this mass mail or a little later to give them all time to look and have a play.

In the end the more work you put in to getting the word out initially the bigger your return will be.

dragon(Posted 2014) [#14]
flappy bird is a stupid "one-button" game...

i think it is better to create a big one - otherwise it is something like lottery...
around 99% have no such luck...
all markets are overflooded with "shit-games"...

SLotman(Posted 2014) [#15]

time-killer-games(Posted 2014) [#16]
@dragon: that's exactly what I'm saying in an extended version, I completely agree with you. +1/star

To me it's not about making money it's about making something that is stable, presentable, and delivering great quality for the sake of being mindful of the players, to give them something that was actually fun and worth paying for, every penny, no regrets. If indie game developers in general (including myself and my crappy games), didn't ever settle for "small" games and call them done then there would be a lot less crap clogging up the app stores right now. This whole idea of "small" to me is just the same as saying "minimal, incomplete effort" or "no talent exerted".To me it's much more fulfilling to make a game that is worth $20 a pop and sells well and get satisfied customers/reviews and make minimum wage rather than to get retired off of making something primitive and stupid (like angry birds) that sells for $1 a million times through in a week. IMHO financial profits are < making a game that people thoroughly enjoy. Much less important, by far.

I don't want to make me happy, I want to make my customers happy. I have so many fun memories of playing Mario and Sonic with my family and friends. If I ever see the day someone plays my game not because I told them to but out of their own interest and they later down the road have many fond memories of playing that game that I made and that my hard work made them happy there's nothing I care more about as an indie game developer than to make games that are fun and can build family memories, etc. It's stupid and really figures because I fail miserably at it, my games are retarded.

Paul - Taiphoz(Posted 2014) [#17]
I would love to make something as Stupid and Primitive as Angry Birds and its millions and millions of users (o.O)

time-killer-games(Posted 2014) [#18]
Would you rather be the maker of these...
•Nazi Zombies
•Call of Duty

...or would you rather be the maker of these?
•Temple Run
•Fruit Ninja
•Candy Crush
•Angry Birds

Just sayin'.

computercoder(Posted 2014) [#19]
Here's the bigger issue:

MOST think they can start out by making one of these....
•Nazi Zombies
•Call of Duty

When they SHOULD start with making one of these...
•Temple Run
•Fruit Ninja
•Candy Crush
•Angry Birds

LOL. Sad? Yes, but really you gotta start somewhere :)

I'm just messing with you, but its pretty true. You gotta start on a smaller project to get your feet wet before you go big. I agree that the larger games would give more pull, but its simply amazing when those straight simple games pull in the big time money. PLUS: It really depends on the person. If you have what it takes to maintain focus on the larger games or not. If not, then perhaps you really should stick to the simple concept games.

SLotman(Posted 2014) [#20]
The thing is: if someone thinks that its possible to make "Call of Duty" alone, its even worse - it takes hundreds of people and a lot of knowledge. Candy Crush (in theory) in the other hand can be created by a single person, or a small team.

Paul - Taiphoz(Posted 2014) [#21]
Sorry TKG but you made me laugh, no that's an under statement you made me piss myself, I actually have a wet patch :D.

Here is some simple math for you, Skyrim took 4 years to make and had around 100 people working on it, that's ONE HUNDRED ' and it took them 4 years, FOUR YEARS... if one man had the skills to do all the same jobs, that's 400 YEARS!!.. worth of work time.

So yeah, you go start making your AAA game, I will get cryogenically frozen and woken up in 400 years time, and then , only if you managed to stay on project and finish it ;) I will have a little shot.

Paul - Taiphoz(Posted 2014) [#22]
Sorry that came off more rude than funny, I was aiming for funny.

degac(Posted 2014) [#23]
I think I must to write a FlappyBird clone: FloppyCrush... with this little changes bird flies to the LEFT of the screen (!) and you need to enter the right hole/door.
I want to became millionar.

No, really, that game SUCKS and it's very HARD. I cant' believe. Probably this guy earned more than the main chief programmer of Skyrim (or other big game).

time-killer-games(Posted 2014) [#24]
@Paul no problem. I was using exaggeration to make a point. If I read a post like what I did and took it all out literal I would've been laughing too. I'm aware those games were made by teams and companies and even then they took forever to complete.

I mean simply if we push ourselves we can make something great and I.E. instead of being a time killer game, something that is interesting and players could get sucked into an immersive story, like reading a book, but it's visual and interactive, so even better, a game that could be taken seriously, almost like the sensation you get when watching a really good movie, just an example.

My point is that to make something that is great, stands out, etc. you don't need to be a part of a big company to produce it, you just need to be creative and focus on the end-users' satisfaction, not your income, that's what I'm saying at least IMO.

Paul - Taiphoz(Posted 2014) [#25]
Right, well let me respond to that post in a more grown up way, I can agree that some developers as solo or small teams COULD put a lot more effort into a single project in the attempt to produce something better, bigger and with more depth.

But I think what your not realizing or considering is that even that takes a lot of time, months, possibly years, and as an Indie developer working on a single project for over a year or longer is a colossal risk, if you spend over a year on a single project and it fails to even get noticed I dare say that could drive some one away from games development, they make small tight focused games because they want a project that they can complete in a reasonable time frame, at least I would say that's true for a lot of us.

The larger a project is, the bugger its scope the deeper its depth the longer it takes to develop, there are no shortcuts to making really complex and deep games in a really short period of time, they all take ages and there are millions of examples of this.

Paul - Taiphoz(Posted 2014) [#26]
Out of curiosity and I may be wrong but because it was done with monkey, didn't new star soccer take about 10 years worth of development and tweaking and work before it actually became the success that it is today ? I am sure I read that he very nearly gave up a few times.

time-killer-games(Posted 2014) [#27]
Think it takes years+? Think again. Simon Mesnard made a Myst-like game with spectacular graphics, story, puzzles, music, gameplay, everything, all in less than a year if I remember right. His game is outstanding, can be taken seriously, and sucks the player right in to a good amount of unique environments, planets, the Ark, etc. Very immersive story. Hours and hours of fun if you are really in to this genre. He did all of it completely by himself except for the music and audio which were done by people he hired. This is common to hire people to do music even for indie devs, someone actually liked my games so much he offered to do music for me for free. And he didn't let anyone use the music but me so it would be original to my game. Back on my subject, Simon's game has an official OST. Music you won't be able to find anywhere else.

Please see the official YouTube advertisement video for his game ASA: A Space Adventure. This guy, Simon, is my inspiration for my current project I'm making a Myst-style game too right now and it's coming along beautifly. Though it's not a rip, his is about outer space while mine has a setting in an underground castle - everything's quite different other than the mutual Myst genre.

muddy_shoes(Posted 2014) [#28]
Again, the concept of what is a big or small game isn't clear. Myst is a slideshow game that was originally driven by Hypercard. The technical issues came down to 3D rendering and storage, neither of which are problems now. You're left with a mechanical genre where dev effort is pretty much entirely on pre-rendered graphics and the puzzle design. To call that a "big" game that gets lumped in with CoD/Halo etc. is hard to follow.

Further, I really don't understand the tone of value judgement being brought into the thread. The question was about financial viability and now we're getting some weird moralising against creating simple, fun, narratively thin games.

time-killer-games(Posted 2014) [#29]
There's nothing morally wrong with it, I was just expressing my view on which was better and why. Which is the topic, not sure why that would be a problem. The topic didn't say it had to be completely about money. So why it became that I don't know.

Which is more profitable in general, single larger games (of the complexity we are capable of) or larger numbers of small ones?

All in all I think making a game for the sake of making customers happy will often (not always) get a better result (a better game) than having most the focus all on income. If you do you best and push you limits it will work out better than rushing everything and exerting minimal effort. That's all I meant. No harm intended.

Edit: wow I feel stupid. When I initially read that I thought of profitable as what is to be gained, satisfaction, etc not necessarily money. Looks like I might have misread the point of the topic. =/ my bad.

muddy_shoes(Posted 2014) [#30]
I direct you to read the first post again. It's quite short and to the point:

"Which is more profitable in general, single larger games (of the complexity we are capable of) or larger numbers of small ones?"

time-killer-games(Posted 2014) [#31]
Epic failure please refer to my edit for further details.

Nobuyuki(Posted 2014) [#32]

It's no problem. I'm sure most of us here got into it wanting to make the next big game and lavish in all the positive attention that sorta thing would bring. Like making some masterpiece of fine art, or something. But the truth is that making that masterpiece can cost you a lot of your blood, sweat, and tears. And also, probably your time and money too. That's why I recommended making smaller scope games at first, because you have to start somewhere if you want to make money with these games.

It's definitely not as personally satisfying, though. I'm actually rather amazed wondering where these indie devs I've never heard of get the time/money to even start working on these "fun" nostalgia throwback games these days, let alone get them to a state where they can make a slick KS campaign out of 'em. Then again, you probably need a lot of shameless and bombastic self-marketing attitude to make enough of an impression to get the resources / get noticed, and I lost a lot of that since "retiring" from the business a while back. It seems that sorta shameless marketing is even more important now than it ever was the more people try to get into the game; but I digress...

In conclusion: Bigger projects take a long time and may not pay off, smaller projects take a shorter amount of time so you waste less of it if they don't pay off. Take on bigger ones when you have built up enough capital from the smaller ones. Promote your stuff and don't be afraid of feeling "fake" or insincere about the quality of your work. For small projects, it doesn't even matter if your "indie peers" see you as a sell-out, particularly if you want/need to make money doing this stuff. The masterpieces can wait. The bills can't!

Paul - Taiphoz(Posted 2014) [#33]
Promote your stuff and don't be afraid of feeling "fake" or insincere about the quality of your work. For small projects, it doesn't even matter if your "indie peers" see you as a sell-out

At the end of the day other indie developers opinions of your work is irrelevant, they are not your audience, the gamer is, those are the opinions that you should consider, Case in point, the Flappy Bird creator has pulled his game from Googleplay and it will be taken down from the other stores shortly and all because of the amount of HATE that other developers who were jealous of its success sent him .

Personally if it was my game it would still be online and I would tweet a picture of me flipping all the haters the proverbial bird with a big F**KY**! to go with it.

Goodlookinguy(Posted 2014) [#34]
I'm indifferent about the the Flappy Birds event. However, due to this event, I must say that he flew the coop. Lame joke that I had to get out of me.

Paul - Taiphoz(Posted 2014) [#35]
It made me laugh :)

Gerry Quinn(Posted 2014) [#36]
Heh. It does make one wonder whether there was indeed something questionable about it, but maybe it was just some graphics from Mario or something - in which case he should just get an artist to draw new graphics and cross his fingers...

Gerry Quinn(Posted 2014) [#37]
Small games are good practice. I would say make the small games, and think of it as building a sort of framework for your big game, when you're ready to start it.

zoqfotpik(Posted 2014) [#38]
I am really leaning toward smaller games. I have a multi-level platformer (think Meganoid) nearly complete but it's taken me embarrassingly long to finish. I think from a financial standpoint even that was too large of a project. The Eiswuxe guy ( released Super Glow Puzzle in 2 weeks and it's done rather well, considering it took him 2 weeks. As I remember he made 500 on it in the first month; even with no residual income you'd be doing $12,000 per year if you were able to maintain that pace. Obviously that's not enough to live on but if that's baseline and you're doing better than that for most games, and you have residuals, and you have the chance of a runaway hit no matter how slight, I think you might be much better off with lots of small games.

The New Star Soccer guy had his bacon saved by Glow Racer or whatever the name was, a smaller title that did fairly well and made him some money.

Another point: with small games you build up your framework with each iteration, and you are able to run through the entire process, including marketing, a number of times as opposed to once with a larger game. Arguably the other pieces of the puzzle, like business networking, building an audience and the experience of finishing a project from beginning to end are more beneficial than finishing one larger game and hoping it does well.

Probably you've heard of the story of the pottery classroom: