For a small game developer who’s trying to make a living off his or her work, getting the game completed is only part of the long quest for a profit. The hardest part, some devs would argue, is getting noticed in an increasingly-crowded market. The trick, according to one indie dev, is to cater to a niche–and to avoid pressure from publishers that try and make you do otherwise.
“We are a small studio; we are making a very specific kind of game for a very specific kind of gamers,’ Camille Guermonprez, the co-founder of Paris-based studio Arkedo, told Gamasutra. ‘Let’s call it the ‘bright yellow’ crowd. The problem we have when we have to meet a publisher when the game is not done, is they give their opinion. Some of them are good. But my issue is that, as many people as you put around the table giving their color, in the end you’ve got brown. I can’t be small and brown; it’s not possible.’
Guermonprez and Arkedo are currently at work on Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit, a platforming game that’s all about a cartoony cyborg rabbit laying waste to the forces of Hell. Well, it’s certainly a change from flinging animals at rickety wooden structures.
Hell Yeah! is actually being developed for Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and Steam, but Guermonprez’s outlook on the independent/small games market certainly applies to the mobile market too, which is even more crowded than consoles’ digital marketplaces. While Hell Yeah! is in fact being published by a big company (Sega), Guermonprez emphasizes that tight creative control is vital for helping indies get their games and ideas noticed.
‘There’s one boss of [Hell Yeah!]. In this case, it’s Aurelien Regard. He’s my partner. He had the general idea of the game, he wrote the whole game design, and he drew every single pixel you see in the game. [Sega] accepted not to call us for eight months so that we could completely be doing our game, and afterwards we could try to make it compatible with the market and listen to them — but first let us do our thing.”
Publishers and developers can still work well together, and they still have a lot to learn from one another. However, video games have also entered an age of creativity unlike anything that’s existed since the pastime’s conception, and hopefully publishers will remember to respect developers’ creative freedoms.
It’s for the publishers’ own good, too: while it’s easier for a developer to get noticed on the market if he or she has a publisher, it’s certainly not impossible successfully self-publish. If publishers don’t step back and give developers their space, they might wind up alienating the creator of the Next Big Thing on iOS.