Debbie Bestwick explains the process of taking a $10,000 Kickstarter to a $10m global indie hit
Ever since its huge success earlier this year, I am constantly being asked by my peers: “How did you spot the potential in The Escapists?” and “What did you do to break it into the mainstream?”
I’m not going to give away all our secrets, but here’s a few invaluable tips on achieving commercial success with a brand new IP.
The very first thing to consider: Is the game different? Is it new? Does it make your mind race with ideas? Our strength is to help devs turn gems into commercial product that sells, so for us, it’s always about the potential more than the polish. Sheltered, This Is The Police and The Escapists are all examples of games where we were more excited about what they could become rather than what was presented to us at the original pitch.
There is too much choice and too many options for people to play. YouTubers, streamers and influencers don’t look for “me too” titles and so it’s vital the game has something unique.
Another key factor is having a team with the right personality. Anyone can have an idea right? But do the team have the right spirit and passion and do they have a strong vision of where they want to take the game?
Both the game and the studio need to be able to engage the community. One of the key things that helped to grow the popularity of The Escapists was the fact that we were able to engage with the community right from the outset. We shared in their experiences and stories from the game, and their feedback was invaluable in helping to shape the game. You could argue that this is only the reserve of games that are released in Early Access, but that’s not the case.
Finally, make sure there is a strong and solid development roadmap to support the game. Releasing it might seem like the finish line for guys who have put everything into the game for months or years, but more often than not it’s only the beginning.
Even by taking these tips on board, there is still no guarantee of success. Whilst a great game will not always sell – and we have all seen some incredible games fail to live up to their potential – a bad game will never sell, no matter what you throw at it.
Obviously the creation of a great game isn’t a one-way street so it’s important for developers to always put their best foot forward in getting their projects out there. Here’s a few bonus tips just for you guys.
Firstly, how do you have a great game idea? How do you make sure your game fulfils that awesome potential? Simple: don’t compromise. If there is something in your design plans you are even slightly worried about, bin it. Don’t be afraid to ask fellow game makers their opinions too – we’re a very friendly bunch in the games Industry who want nothing more than to see everyone succeed.
Do not fear competitor products – in fact, embrace competition. After all, what is competition? If you’re worried about one or two similar games, what chance have you got when there are literally thousands of indie games being released? Indie titles need visibility and whilst it’s true that the cream rises to the top, there is no harm getting a helping hand from your peers.
When we see cool things in the marketplace, we retweet, we share, we tell the world what’s going on, and hopefully if developers see cool things you/we are doing, they return the favour. It’s about turning a negative into a positive and getting the game above the parapet using all the resources at your disposal.
As your game idea starts to take shape and reach its potential, you need to make both you and your game visible to the outside world, show the world who you are and, almost as importantly, why you are making the game. Your personal story is an important factor in making people want to know more about your game and follow its progression through development.
The indie landscape continues to evolve at a staggering pace as production values continue to rise and more than ever new and innovative games are being made by talented teams. The more that we can do as a label to help bring these games to market, the more we’ll see success stories about sustainable self-owned teams owning their IP – which, let’s face it, is long overdue.