So, as I mentioned in my last post, I’m currently developing my next indie game project, along with its marketing. I’m currently working with a writer, but have yet to find an artist. As I was thinking about the different channels that can be used for inbound marketing, I came to a realization: I have nothing (beautiful) to show.
While I do think that my next game is going to be fun, will have a good story and will cater to a specific niche of people that I believe will be willing to spend on the game that I am making, the truth is that I have no images to show potential fan or buyers of my game. And I believe that this is crucial to get people to notice my game.
Images, videos and animations, such as gifs or vines, are currently the best way to get people to see and share the development of you next project. If you’re on Twitter, the best way to get engagement is with visual media. Same for Facebook and other social media. On top of that, some crucial social media are almost exclusively based on visual media, such as Pinterest and Instagram. So, unless your procedural/simple/wonky programmer art (Minecraft) is so interesting that people will share images of your game, if you don’t have a an artist working with you, I think you are facing an uphill marketing battle.
A programmer in the market
As a programmer by trade that has worked in the AAA/mobile industry for quite some time now, I think I’ve always had the bigger end of the stick in terms of market value. Programmers typically start (and end) at a higher base salary that other jobs (except project management) and are in high demand on the game development market. And if things get tough in the games industry, it’s possible for us to work in fields that are close to games, or even far from games. I have no statistics to back this up, but to me it feels like there are a lot more employment opportunities for programmers. Not a month goes by without receiving at least one direct solicitation for a programmer job (though it’s usually for a job outside the games industry or in some strange land like the UK. Stop trying to get me to work in your country, UK recruiters!)
As for the artist side, I can’t really speak for them (so if you have any insight, let me know), but I’ve always had the feeling that it’s at least a little tougher for them (not to mention designers, but that’s a whole other subject).
Indie: Artist vs Programmer
Things are quite different in the indie realm. There are currently tons of programmers that are attempting fame and fortune in the indie market. Getting noticed is really hard today and marketing is of the utmost importance. As game developers, artists have an edge over programmers for this. They can embody their vision through their art and therefore communicate their idea in a more efficient manner that programmers.
I we were to push this line of thinking further. We might say that with the proliferation of simplified game development tools, it might be easier a lone artist to complete a game and stand out of the crowd, as opposed to a lone programmer. If a programmer writes great code, but has crappy looking art, most people will probably dismiss the game. But if an artist has a great and inspiring art style, but writes crappy code, no one playing the game will actually realize it (unless the game is full of bugs).
Of course, this is all very theoretical and oversimplifying the problem. Not many indie projects are truly ever completed by one person without the aid of someone in another field at some point. However, we can question the “market” value of an artist in the indie universe.
Should artists ask for better salaries when working with indies? Should they ask for more revenue share, especially if what is making the game more visible is the art style? Again, I don’t think there is a simple answer; it’s just food for thought.