With So Many Games Being Released, How Do You Get Anyone to Pay Attention?

Peglin, as a pachinko roguelike starring a cute goblin, is one of the 5,576 games released on Steam this year. And crucially, it’s a game that’s broken through the noise and become a surprise hit. It’s also a game that won the “best design” award at the Taipei Game Show, a Taiwanese game show that attracts hundreds of thousands of people every year. Peglin, however, is made just north of Seattle in Victoria, British Columbia by a very small group of people who never would’ve had the budget or inclination to fly to Taipei. 


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/m7gqda/with-so-many-games-being-released-how-do-you-get-anyone-to-pay-attention
2 Likes

This feels like two problems. There’s the traditional issue of indie games just not getting the clicks that blockbusters do, and also MS making it so much worse since now people don’t feel like they need to pay anything for indie games. I don’t know what the bottom line is but feels like it’s a big loss for the scene if too many games are available for “free” and hurts the overall demand. I sure hope Tunic sold well… I at least gave them my money.

Is Loot River good now, btw?

“I surveyed game developers [about] how they get how they get wishlists,” said marketing consultant Chris Zukowski. “And the number one are these online festivals—the virtual, not the in-person ones. That’s how streamers find games. Right now, the meta for how to get going is you get into these festivals, which gets you 3,000 wishlists, then you go to a streamer, they get you about 3,000 wishlists, and you just keep doing the cycle.”

I 100% believe virtual is more important then being physically present at something like a Dreamhack or PAX. Not many people are pulling out a phone at a convention to wishlist a game on Steam and I’m going to go ahead and say that is honestly partly Valves fault. The Steam mobile app is just not a very good app for browsing and finding games to buy/wishlist. It’s functional but it’s not streamlined. For the most part it’s just the Steam website in an app. It would be a lot better if I could pull my phone out and point my camera at a QR code on a table and it opens it up in Steam where I could then wishlist it. Instead you get handed maybe a flyer and asked to go on Steam and wishlist it later. If there’s a QR code it takes you to the Steam page in your web browser, where you are probably not even logged in. This isn’t to even mention the cost of a physical event vs a virtual event is also night and day. If you’re not a multiplayer party game I would almost ask why are you bothering to show up physically at an event unless it’s the off chance someone from games media is there and writes an article about your game.

“In the age of content creators, player reviews matter possibly as much (if not more so!) than media reviews"

Completely agree for these smaller titles. I do not think many people are going to major sites like IGN or GameSpot for a review of a game like Loot River. They’re looking at the Steam reviews and making their entire decision about whether to buy the game or not based on everything that’s on that initial page. Most important being is it Positive, Mostly Positive or Very Positive and the top 3 or so reviews.

Because news outlets need to pay the bills and AAA games, even those that are remakes for the 2nd time, drive traffic. How is it at all surprising that a website that is trying to cater to the largest demographic is going to cover the games that cater to the largest demographic? How many times has someone on the Waypoint podcast said something along the lines of “I worked really hard on this amazing article about this small game and it got a 10th of the traffic of the AAA game article I spit out in an afternoon”? How many times are we going to have to have this same discussion over and over again?

3 Likes

As I got older, I found myself less and less interested in the major releases (Josh Sawyer dragging my ass back in November for Pentiment notwithstanding), so the question of ‘how do you find indie games?’ is one I’ve had to ask a lot while looking for something new.

Indie Games+ does a weekly indie trailer roundup (which is where I first heard of Peglin!), in addition to reviews. They are supported by Patreon and affiliate links to Humble, I believe. I shuffle my Patreon money around a lot to support more people, and I try to give them like $3 any month I buy a game on their recommendation. itch.io’s blog (infrequently updated, but there’s always a banger in their recs when they do) and YouTube channel have been great for finding more very obscure games. Following my favorite indie devs on Twitter is good, too, because they’ll often boost each other’s works.

(I especially recommend Xalavier Nelson Jr., Natalie Lawhead, Colestia, and Max Krieger. Oh, and Maddy Thorson if you aren’t already following her.)

Some not-exclusively-indie sites I read regularly are Wireframe (also a physical magazine, for more of their content) and - this one is more abstract - Critical Distance, which collects good writing on games from across other sites and often highlights indie reviews I’d miss from games sites I don’t otherwise read.

And shout out to Weird Fucking Games, because damn, the name is accurate and some of the games I’ve found through them are super cool.

4 Likes

I would recommend getting Twitter like I would recommend getting a voluntary root canal but it can be a great place to find out about indie games you may otherwise have missed if you’re following the right people. Somebody (I’ll be darned if I can remember who) hipped me to the whole Grey Alien Games library (makers of such fine games as Regency Solitaire)

I would always bring home the business cards and buttons and whatnot and then use that to look up the stuff I wanted to wishlist. It would be way better to just wishlist on the spot using the mobile app, though, but you’re right Steam’s app sucks (and most of the other stores don’t have one at all).

I’ve been thinking more about this article and some stuff I’ve been working through personally. I’m trying to better internalize the fact that I alone can’t save the world, and while that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on being a person that affects positive change, the burden on my shoulders feels a bit lighter.

This has also got me thinking about my role as someone who likes to purchase and play video games, especially games made by small teams and bedroom developers. Basically, it is impossible for me to ensure that every single game coming out of the firehose is successful, and that is even true if I restrict that criteria to the games we as a community deem valuable to the form. We often see in leftist gaming spaces the discussion of supporting small devs (especially marginalized ones) in moral terms. But like, games fail everyday. And while it sucks that we live in a society where that failure means a possibility that the creator can no longer afford food and shelter, that cannot be a burden put exclusively on folks that just want unwind with a game after a long day.

This is absolutely not to say that we shouldn’t look for new and interesting experiences from folks who traditionally have not been part of the industry. A lot of these games are incredible and deserve a fighting chance. But I’m giving permission to myself to approach this space in search of joy, or education, or empathy, and not absolution. If that means not stepping away from the firehose and waiting for recommendations from trusted curators (like the Waypoint crew), that’s ok.

2 Likes