5 Mistakes I made in the last years as Indie

Hello everyone,

today I want to write a bit about my mistakes in the last two years. Some things I know better today other things were known, but I ignored them somehow. At least I got a lot of experience in two years and I will try to improve in the future. So let’s start with my 5 biggest mistakes “by now”.

1. Timbertales was a way too big project to start with as Indie game developer

This one is very special. In general you will often read don’t start too big etc. I also read those lists before I started to become an Indie developer. Nevertheless my first project was too big. The reason for this is simple. I already had written the backend for Timbertales years ago. With those pieces of code and a whole working server my thoughts were “More than half of the project is already done” – It wasn’t. I didn’t even do proper project planing on my first title or estimations, because I wanted to start programming as soon as possible. Lots of the features were implemented while programming and without any planing. So today I would advice to everyone -> Do proper planing, have a game design document with all your features and stay focused!

2. I wanted to reach out for a too big audience

My reason to develop games with libGDX was to distribute my releases cross platform. Thats not a problem at all, but you should have in mind, that mobile players are different from pc gamers and the chances are very low, that you will create a game, which perfectly fits on both platforms. Also you shouldn’t underestimate the maintenance time for different versions, even if you are using cross platform frameworks. Especially things like Facebook Login or In App purchases working different on different platforms and you will have to implement them native or with a 3rd party lib. Then you have to build various release versions and maintain different store entries etc. I think you get the point as a single indie developer time is always a matter and waiting for reviews or upload 25 different screenshots with different resolutions (iPhone, iPad, android tablet 7″, 10″etc) will just cost you time without anything in return. For example on Timbertales I uploaded it to itch, Steam, Android, iOS and Amazon. I should have focused on 1 or 2 platforms, since the download numbers weren’t any good at Amazon for example.

3. Creating games with revenue in mind

After I realised Timbertales will not cover my development costs. I had the problem, that I will run out of money within the next months. So I came up with FlatFatCat. The problem with the concept of FlatFatCat was, that it was created with revenue in mind. I wanted to create a game, which would cover my development costs and so I lost the biggest motivation for us Indies – Passion. An Indie game without passion can’t be successful at all, thats what indie game stands for!

4. Shifting to a platform without the knowledge to market your game

Somehow with FlatFatCat and Space Unicorns I targeted the mobile market, but I am not at home at the mobile market. I dislike to play on my smartphone in my spare time. I am a core pc and console gamer. Unfortunately FlatFatCat and Space Unicorns directed into a wrong direction and to a market, where I don’t have much knowledge and experience. I liked the development for mobile, but thats not enough to market a game successful. As a pc core gamer I should have sticked to the pc / console market, since you are your best customer! If you wouldn’t buy your game, why should anyone else do it?

5. A way to generell marketing without reaching the right audience

My approach here was to reach out for the biggest audience possible without making any thoughts about, who would play my games. I just went for the masses, but what I missed was: There are a lot of other games, which will do better than mine and you can’t compete with them. So try to place yourself in a niche and do the best marketing there. Marketing is always a hassle for me, but I think it is a lot better to hype your product in the right audiences instead of trying to reach to big presses or reviewers, which will just ignore you.

Thank you for reading! I am looking forward to your comments, questions and feedback. I hope you can avoid some of the mistakes, but I also think that mistakes are needed for improvement.