Saturday, 1 September 2012

Steam Greenlight, Indie Game Changer

by Simon Dean, Project Lead, Folk Tale

As an indie developer promoting games is tough. We're up against the multi-million dollar budgets of the big publishers, noise from the large expos such as E3 and PAX, an ocean of other indie titles, and even perhaps the stigma attached to indie games due to extremes in quality. So when Valve announced it was going to launch an indie showcase where the community votes for the games it would like to see on Steam, I got excited.

Fifteen months ago just before development started on Folk Tale, I did some research and came up with a plan based on the industry at that time. That plan emphasized developing a game demo that was good enough to get noticed by the games review websites in the hope that we could build a community of fans before approaching investors and publishers with some credibility that gamers actually liked what we were making. I uploaded some early videos and screenshots, and soon we had a team of fresh skills and perspectives to drive development.

Skipping forward to a month before Greenlight's launch, and Folk Tale is starting to get picked up on a few indie review sites. I'm reticent to launch the demo and promote too early, because we only get one shot. Our hearts are committed, because we are getting worried as to whether people will like the game or not. That's only natural after spending more than a year on a labor of love. Promotion has mostly been via YouTube, with each video attracting around 6500 views and a handful of comments. It's not a lot, but it's positive and growing with each update.

Three days ago, I'm sipping my morning coffee, blurry eyed catching up with the team on Skype when I notice Greenlight has gone live. 13 pages of results already, oh no! A mad dash follows to pull together the required assets. Thankfully I'd published a work-in-progress video earlier in the week and had a set of fresh screenshots made for the blog. Balls! We don't have any box art. Five minutes later, we have box art - crappy box art I concede – but our Greenlight page is ready to go live.

What follows I can only describe as a beautiful day for the team. We sit the whole day glued to our screens as the visitor count rises, comments pour in, and our approval rating soars to 89%. The community seem to be responding warmly to Folk Tale and team morale hits an all time high. I quietly curse myself for having been too focused on development, and not preparing a video and box art aimed squarely at promotion highlighting the game's unique features. But all that can be fixed. By day three we're a happy regular on the first page of results having received 28,000 visitors and over 360 invaluable comments. The pressure is truly on to deliver to the community's expectations.

Now the euphoria is starting to calm my thoughts turn to what this means to our business plan. Greenlight is a game changer. It's thrusting Folk Tale from obscurity into gamer consciousness, building a community of fans who might consider funding development via Kickstarter, and opening a potential door to the largest digital distribution platform. Steam has 54 million active users according to Wikipedia. This is day three. I'd like to thank Value and the Steam Community with all our indie hearts for giving developers such a huge opportunity. We shall not disappoint!

Folk Tale Website:
www.gamesfoundry.com

Steam Greenlight:
http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=92993746

BETA Sign Up:
We are now receiving applications to participate in the demo closed-beta.