Independents must be interdependents

Independents must be interdependents
Will Luton

By Will Luton

September 24th 2012 at 10:00AM

Will Luton discusses how developers must work together to succeed

There’s a misconception in our industry that everyone is in competition. That we must be clandestine corporations, moving in the dark, masked by NDAs. That we should protect ourselves from each other, in the model of the publisher megacorp.

This is total bullshit. Independent developers aren’t in competition, for a simple reason: Someone playing my games doesn’t preclude them from playing yours. Count all the games you’ve played. Is it more than one? I reckon it probably is.

So, how about we tell people that play our game that they might like yours also? If you do the same back, we grow our audience collectively. It’s a double win. Let’s high-five through the windows of our new Ferraris, high on the smell of our caviar farts.

I’ve long believed that the community of independent developers (I don’t use the term indie) need to do more than jerk off each other’s egos on Twitter, but instead self-organise into something coherent that gives power to their collective strength.

COME TOGETHER

The most obvious example of this in action is the bundle. You take a good game you made, offer it up with a load of other good games, chuck in a cleverly orchestrated flexible pricing structure, the worthiness of charity, and, hey-presto, you have an incredible value proposition.

It’s so good, it’s gotten the EA seal of approval. Well, minus the charity bit.

Phenomenally, the bundlers have become interdependent (read that again – it doesn’t say independent) to overcome the biggest challenge they face – the perennial visibility problem.

The Humble Bundle has become a great brand - it has awareness around it and taste maker backing from the likes of Mojang’s Notch, creating superstars of its participants.

So about nine months ago, I sat thinking about some old IP, the bundle model and the conspicuous lack of it on iOS. Testing the water, I put out a tweet for interested studios. The response was phenomenal and thus Best of British was born.

THE BEST SHOT

BoB was set up to be purely focused on putting out the said bundle, but as we started to drill down to the technical and legal details it became clear that, though possible, it would be a nightmare to put together.

Despite the frustration the group grew, even beyond the bundle being put out of its misery. It became more and more apparent that there were other needs that the member companies had that could be addressed by being together.

People started asking questions about tax to the mailing list. We arranged a conference panel together. Then others started hiring each other and sharing code.

We began talking about cross-promotion, pooling contacts and group-buy discounts. Even company mergers have been tabled. We started to work together for the benefit of everyone with BoB as the central focus.

Today the future of BoB looks very peachy. By the time this article is in print, its first game, created as a compendium of WarioWare-esque mini-games, built in Unity in 48 hours and themed around summer sports (no connection with the Olympic Games), will be in Android and iOS app stores.

If we don’t get sued by LOCOG, the app will promote its member companies with links directly to their games, as well as the group itself.

It is something I recommend to all developers. Find your community and do something with it. As trade bodies struggle to be of help to small, young developers, the real benefit can come from each other, even in things as small as moral support or as big as making tonnes of cash. It’s all there if we do it together.

BoB is a non-hierarchical, free-to-join volunteer-driven group which meets at 2pm on the fourth Tuesday of every month exclusively for mobile developers. For more information, get in contact via will@mobilepie.com.