Published on October 14th, 2014 | by Craig Forshey3
An Indie Android Game Reviewer’s Developer Retrospective
It’s hard to believe sometimes, but Super Game Droid is almost 2 years old. From a lowly fan blog that James and I started as a way to talk about new games we’d found, SGD has grown to become a legitimate news source for indie gamers in the Android community and we couldn’t be prouder. It’s been quite an adventure with many twists and turns as we’ve charted our way through completely new challenges we’d never anticipated, but the opportunity to view video games from this unique perspective has been incredibly rewarding. Being able to chat with the amazing and hard working people who make the games we play and see things from their point of view has given us a great amount of insight into what exactly makes a great game and what it takes for a developer to succeed in the free for all that is Android gaming.
Although it feels pretentious for me to do so, I wanted to take some time and communicate directly to all the indie Android game developers out there in the hopes that I can help them avoid some of the most common pitfalls I’ve seen when making an indie game on Android. I will preface this by saying that I am not a developer. I have never published a game and what follows is purely my opinion however I hope it will offer some small measure of support to the many awesome indie developers out there.
Free To Play Is A Necessary Evil
As much as I hate to admit it unless you’re a well established developer, releasing a traditionally priced single purchase game without any type of demo is the single surest way to doom a game from the moment it’s released. The attention of your average Android gamer is too short and the selection of games to choose from too great for the majority of indie Android games to ever succeed in today’s overcrowded Android gaming scene. It’s unfortunate but it’s also reality, a reality that any unknown indie developer will have to come to terms with before they can ever hope to create a successful game. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen incredible indie games that developers poured their heart into come and go without ever selling more than a handful of copies.
Indie developers who want to be successful in the Android gaming scene must embrace including some way for gamers to try their game for free whether it’s through a demo or a free to play structure. The few seconds between a potential player glancing at your game as they flip through the Play Store and moving onto the next game are absolutely critical with any kind of upfront purchase acting as a major deterrent. Developers should strive to make their games easily accessible to players even if it’s only a demo.
Video Gaming Nomenclature
What’s in a name? Well in an indie Android game’s case the answer is everything. A common tactic nowadays for some developers is to give their game as generic sounding a name as possible in order to drive up their search results. The problem with this approach is it’s also an easy way for your game to be buried beneath dozens of other similarly titled games. The more unique a name that your game has the better.
Monkey See, Monkey Do
A closely related cousin of the previous point, generic game mechanics are also of huge importance when it comes to whether a game gets downloaded or not. From a development standpoint it makes sense to go with an established gameplay style that has already proven popular with gamers, but this also means your game is easily forgettable and will ultimately cause it to be dismissed in favor of one of its peers for no other reason than it doesn’t offer the player anything new. Developers need not create an entirely new genre but they should strive to be able to communicate what makes their game different in as direct a manner as possible.
So Close, Yet So Far
With the advent of early access gaming has come the tendency for more and more developers to release games that are either outright unplayable or little more than an alpha. There’s nothing wrong with fans supporting a game while it’s still in development, but taking this approach means developers need to take extra care to provide a worthwhile experience right out of the gate as an incentive for fans to stay engaged otherwise their project may never get off the ground.
Taking Too Many Liberties
Permissions, permissions, permissions. The fewer the better. Gamers are increasingly becoming more conscious of any given games permissions before downloading it. You could have the single most revolutionary gaming concept in history, yet if you’re asking for someones contact list be ready to lose more than a few downloads. Some permissions are entirely reasonable such as specific hardware features and internet access for ad retrieval, but the more permissions gamers see on a games Google Play store page the less comfortable they’ll feel about downloading it.
Getting The Word Out
It’s incredibly hard for indie developers to get their games noticed on any platform, but when it comes to Android getting the word out about your game is a herculean task. Merely making Facebook and Twitter accounts is not enough these days, it’s important that developers think outside the box when marketing their game and not leave it up to PR companies to build the bridges that they could construct much better themselves. There’s no easy answer here but ultimately I believe the key lies in concentrating on directly engaging the community as a whole whenever and wherever possible. If you’ve got a great game and your heart is in the right place there’s a good chance that people will get behind your game.
So there you have it, the steps I think every aspiring indie Android game developer should take based on years of experience reviewing hundreds of different indie games. By no means should these be taken as unequivocally true, they are merely my personal views when it comes to game development. If you have anything helpful to add or even just happen to disagree with what I’ve said please feel free to comment below.