DiGRA '17 - Proceedings of the 2017 DiGRA International Conference
Melbourne, Australia: Digital Games Research Association, July, 2017
ISBN / ISNN: ISSN 2342-9666
This paper explores the practices that indie developers deploy to manage the risks they encounter while making, marketing, and selling games. Building on concepts such as indie labour (Browne 2015) and theory-crafting (Paul 2011), this paper explicates the concept of value crafting as a better way to understand indie game developer practices. Indie developers engage in value crafting as a way to construct the value of their game and to sell it to a wide audience. This is reflected in debates about the pricing of indie games - there is no agreed upon standard for contemporary indie games, with price points now ranging from free (with or without in-app purchases) through $30 for individual games. Alongside the uncertainty of how to price a game, developers formulate elaborate marketing plans for various stages of their work, which can include running a Kickstarter campaign, promoting their game via social media, creating, moderating and participating in fan forums, gaining Steam Greenlight access, whether or not to release their game on Early Access, releasing demos, pitching their game to game journalists and local media, finding YouTube and Twitch personalities to play and promote their game, and many other activities. Indies who do all of these things also engage in lengthy discussions with one another to share information, usually incorporating detailed charts, graphs and statistical analyses. These post-mortems of their activities attempt to explain a game’s success or failure, as well as to rhetorically construct a particular activity as successful in some way even if sales figures are low- so it might lay the groundwork for future games, it builds a fan base, it teaches valuable lessons learned, and so on.