Designing a game can take months and even years of effort. So it can be disheartening to finally publish it, only to realize that it’s not very successful. It can be even more frustrating when you see seemingly simple games that suddenly go viral overnight, even though they’re nowhere near as polished or complex as your own. So–why do good games fail?
#1 Not enough publicity
Most game developers wear quite a few hats, but “stellar marketer” isn’t always one of them. Unfortunately, one of the most essential parts of turning a great game into a monetarily successful game is making sure that people actually know about it. Indie developers have it rough–they spend so much time and effort improving and perfecting the mechanics, so much so that by the time it’s ready for release, they don’t have any energy left for writing a press release, sharing it with a large audience, promoting it, etc.
As horrible as it might sound, publicity plays a prominent role in helping your game get into the hands of players. Everyone needs to play a hand in getting the word out to friends and family–granted, not so overwhelmingly constant that you start sounding like an MLM salesman, but not radio silent either.
Small games released by indie game developers that are released at the wrong time are sometimes buried by the releases of more massive triple-A games–those with the budget and the power to pull in massive amounts of attention. No matter how brilliant a game is, it can quickly be overshadowed (unfortunately) by its bigger cousins, turning it into a diamond buried in the rough–really, really buried.
#3 You listened too much
Listening to the fans and haters who give you suggestions for what to include for your game is fantastic, but it can get to be too much–like that Aesop’s Fable about the boy, his uncle, and their donkey. We can’t please everyone in the world.
Trying to please everyone can turn your game into a messy amalgamation of unnecessary features and bloated gameplay. Ultimately, it’s better to have a precise vision and chase it instead of pouring money into features that a single person suggested. Of course, that doesn’t mean don’t accept any tips or requests at all–just sift them out more and focus on the ones that really work with your vision for the game.
#4 It wasn’t ready
Games are so fun to play, but they also take so… much… time… to… develop. A person can have the most awesome idea for a game, but it needs to transition from an idea to a real game. That takes money, art, development, code–a great idea with terrible execution often fails miserably because it presents unrealistic expectations and just disappoints its players. (Cough, cough–we all know one game guilty of this).
The graphics aren’t polished. They don’t have to be overwhelmingly clean or amazing, but good graphics does go a long way. And if your graphics aren’t the best, don’t sweat it–just make sure they’re decent. A lot of people focus on the visual aspect of the game, and it can be harder to promote a game with poor graphics.
#6 Poor project management
A game that doesn’t follow steps in its planning quickly grows heavy and bloated. You don’t have to do everything in a few months. It’s better to break tasks into smaller steps and set small goals that, when combined, translate into clear goals. Having a clear vision and destination can also improve your team’s morale. Take breaks and take time to build your team, too. Games start to slow down when everything becomes a chore, so recognize the grind days and help push each other forwards. You won’t have the same amount of progress each day, but at least you’ll keep moving forward.
#7 It hasn’t connected with the audience
Pitches that are done by developers sometimes just aren’t appealing, and as a result of all the work they’ve done, they can’t realize that people don’t actually want it. It’s easy to feel so connected to the ideas you’ve thought up, but unfortunately, there is usually a difference between how much cool stuff you want and how much cool stuff your players want. Your work should build conversation, but in a good way–it should make people talk. Players want to enjoy the music, characters, and gameplay–games can flop because they haven’t made the player feel anything at all.