I was recently talking to an ex-Execution Lab colleague (from Dijiko) about marketing and other business-y subjects. Specifically, we were talking about building and keeping a fan base for our studios.
He talked about a friend of his who had gone indie and made a pinball game. This game had a very specific style: steel gray colors, men in tuxedos, women in cocktail dresses and fast cars. Very sleek, very James Bond. The release of the game was pretty successful and he managed to create a certain fan base for his game.
He then teamed up with a friend and decided to make another pinball game. This pinball game had a completely different style, one that was cute and cartoony.
When this game was released, the developer realized that the customer base of the first pinball game did not buy his second pinball game. After thinking this through, he realized that the reasons why this happened may have been the change in style.
Fans of your style
As artists and creators, we usually have a distinct style, expressed through our game and art design choices. Through our game and art design choices, we are actually catering to a certain type of audience. This audience, that we could call fans, may come to expect similar games from us.
A fan can be a fan of a lot of things: your studio, your game, your style and even you as a creator. Chances are they are fan of a combination of all those things. So when we change any of those aspects, we risk disappointing our fan base.
And here lies the conundrum. One of the reasons you probably became indie is to have control over the game that you make. To break the cycle of sequels of the AAA industry and to do something different. So when you do build a fan base, do you stick with them, possibly dooming yourself to creating similar projects, or do you take a chance at doing something different once in a while, maybe in an attempt to grow said fan base?
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer to this question, it’s a question you have to answer yourself. For most developers, this won’t be a problem, as they tend to stick with a certain type of game and art style. But if you ever want to try something new, or have the opportunity to work with another indie on a different-style project, this is something to keep in mind.