8 Apr 2011

Naïve Conclusions from Shovelware

I was going to write this as a blog post, but then I decided I could fit it in a tweet. As you may have noticed, I've changed my mind again. You can probably file this under stating the obvious, but I there's something here about consumer psychology.

Making banal games without either a hook or a fuckton of marketing budget will not make money. It never has done, and it never will do.

There's a lot of retail shovelware out there on physical store shelves.It was fashionable a few years ago to blame this on the Wii, but really it's been the case on any dominant platform over the years.

As the name implies shovelware is often crap churned out as fast as possible, that 'sane' gamers can spot a mile off and would never buy.

It's my opinion that a lot of aspiring indie developers without experience of dealing with publishers see these games and think "if this crap can sell, and I can easily make better games, then I'll easily be able to make living creating games!" I know I certainly thought that and lost the money to prove it.

The problem is that these games don't sell. A publisher probably believed they might sell. Games don't always get signed with the intention of being commercial successes, they can instead be loss-making forays into a new market, or area denial exercises to prevent a competitor getting more share of a certain demographic. Sometimes publishers mistakenly think games stand a chance of being a hit, knowing that only a tiny fraction of such punts will pay off.

Don't look at these games and think that's the quality bar you have to achieve, because it's not. Look at the relationship those developers have and think those are the connections you need if you want games to be published and probably not make a profit.

So, consumer psychology. We see stuff on shelves and think that it must be good, or have achieved some degree of quality otherwise it wouldn't be there. It's the low-level and pervasive effect of contant marketing from all angles. It's not the case.