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Questioning the Manifesto

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the justify-yourself dept.

The Internet 25

Next Generation has a Q&A with Greg Costikyan, discussing the reveal of the ambitious Manifesto Games portal business. From the article: "If you look at almost any other medium there is a way for people to succeed with product aimed at more of a niche audience, with more manageable development costs. But that largely doesn't exist in the games industry because of the narrow nature of the retail channel, which is 'hit big or don't try at all'. My belief is that it possible to be successful with niche product. The technology is there; there are plenty of good games out there; the issue is probably about marketing. The question is, figuring out how to reach consumers and make them aware of it." We discussed the announcement yesterday. Relatedly, Next Gen also has a look at digital downloads from the developer's point of view, and from that of the digital distributors themselves. We took a look at the first part in that series on Tuesday.

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Word of Mouth (2, Insightful)

mikeumass (581062) | more than 8 years ago | (#13678578)

I would say that word of mouth is the most important issue when it comes to how successful a game will be. Sure some games like Doom III and Halo don't really need work of mouth, but take Snood for example. As any recenet college grad knows, that game is adicting, and you don't find out about if from websites or commercials. It is your peers that expose you too it.

Re:Word of Mouth (3, Informative)

Irish_Samurai (224931) | more than 8 years ago | (#13678878)

Kinda, but your peers didn't just "happen" across it. I work real close with a couple of PR guys doing clandestine marketing for them. You can generate buzz for much less than it costs to inundate someone with branding. Not only that, but it's not evil in the sense that we don't make up your mind for you as branding attempts to do. Buzz marketing is all about placing the product in front of a key group of people. People who are the authority on your product type in their social group AND posess the curiosity and intelligence to do thier own research on a product. That way they feel like they "found" something new (which they did with a little help) and will speak about it in a very avangelical manner if they like it. Their friends WILL follow.

Re:Word of Mouth (1)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 8 years ago | (#13679282)

Kinda, but your peers didn't just "happen" across it. I work real close with a couple of PR guys doing clandestine marketing for them. You can generate buzz for much less than it costs to inundate someone with branding.

Yeah, just mention it on /.

I wonder how many people will check out the game mentioned? I probably will.

Re:Word of Mouth (1)

Irish_Samurai (224931) | more than 8 years ago | (#13679334)

Bingo. But getting a story posted on /. is an entirely different beast. It's not as easy as it sounds. It's not impossible, just so simple.

Re:Word of Mouth (2, Insightful)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 8 years ago | (#13679828)

I was referring to the GP post. Someone plugged a game. Now it could be just an honest plug from a satisfied customer. I do that all the time. But it also could be the "stealth marketing" you were talking about, and that's what I was trying to imply. Believe me, I have worked with someone in the game industry and have often resisted the urge to do the same thing for his product. I don't want to call the motives of the GPP into question, but the text did seem a little "marketingy" to me.

Re:Word of Mouth (1)

Irish_Samurai (224931) | more than 8 years ago | (#13680380)

No need to resist it if you honestly feel the game is good. I push my friends shit all the time, if it's good.

I quite often tell companies, and the PR guys I work with, to toss off if the stuff they want me to push sucks. They have to use an established marketing vehicle. The people I seed stuff to would laugh in my face if I tried to pass them some of the crap I get from these guys.

The stealth marketing really only works if the product is good, otherwise it backfires. Then you have a whole army of people packing "street cred" who are talking shit about your product.

Re:Word of Mouth (1)

Pxtl (151020) | more than 8 years ago | (#13684243)

Well, true word-of-mouth does happen. Does Armagetron have PR people? I see tons of people playing that around the school. Liero was huge when I was in highschool - and that's just a lone-dev freeware game.

Re:Word of Mouth (1)

Irish_Samurai (224931) | more than 8 years ago | (#13686645)

Does Armagetron have PR people?

Nah, all they have is a website hosted on sourceforge. No placement there.

Liero was huge when I was in highschool - and that's just a lone-dev freeware game.

Yeah, with an outlet on Gaming Universe.

The point is, these two games didn't just get built, put up on their website and just left there for word of mouth to do it's thing. They were placed where they would get noticed. True word of mouth is VERY rare.

Re:Word of Mouth (2, Interesting)

Psychor (603391) | more than 8 years ago | (#13679595)

FYI, Snood is packaged with known adware/spyware. I'll let the Slashdot audience draw their own conclusions.

Re:Word of Mouth (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 8 years ago | (#13680575)

When did this start? I've downloaded snood, and had no spyware caught by spybot or adaware.

Re:Word of Mouth (1)

Psychor (603391) | more than 8 years ago | (#13680642)

Snood either comes or used to come with Bonzai Buddy. A google search for the terms will reveal multiple sources for this. It may not be in the latest version, I haven't checked.

Re:Word of Mouth (1)

dommer2029 (862153) | more than 8 years ago | (#13680343)

So would this thread be the on-topic place to promote indie games we're fans of?

Star Chamber [starchamber.net] has a small, die-hard fan base, but now the developer has merged with a slightly larger company, and they've gotten together with an indie publisher (Matrix Games). I'm hopeful that SC will grow large with their upcoming release.

Anyway, I agree with the article: the key value provided by an internet publisher will be advertising. If that brings in the bucks, indie games have a shot. Otherwise, they'll always be small fry.

Re:Word of Mouth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13690633)

Yeah, thats uhhh, real stealthy there.

The "Retail" channel is also the Internet... (2, Informative)

popo (107611) | more than 8 years ago | (#13678827)


Let's not forget that there are plenty of "niche" games that survive via downloads, the shareware model, or downloadable client. EVE Online is a perfect example of a niche game that is distributed primarily (I admit I have no numbers to back this up, so I could easily be wrong) to the best of my knowlege through a freely downloadable client.

IMHO Shareware is still the most successful strategy. I downloaded (and later bought) demos of DOOM, Duke Nuke'm, Warcraft, Diablo, Starcraft, etc. Of course most of those were available through traditional retail channels, but they also predated broadband. The reality is that if I could have commercially-downloaded the full games I would have.

Re:The "Retail" channel is also the Internet... (1)

OMGtehRed (823210) | more than 8 years ago | (#13680607)

I thought EVE Online still had a subscription fee though in order to play it any? A better example would be Anarchy Online, which you can download the game (without any expansions) and not have to pay any subscription fees until 2007. Talk about a long trial period (and you don't need a credit card).

Re:The "Retail" channel is also the Internet... (1)

abandonment (739466) | more than 8 years ago | (#13682074)

the 'not needing a credit card' is the part that will keep online distribution from becoming the true success that retail is. if i can't pay for it with cash, i won't likely buy it...

then again most kids these days have their own credit cards, however ridiculous this is, so they can buy whatever they want online...but the reality is that most people don't have credit cards, and/or don't trust the internet for purchases...

Tough to break through (3, Interesting)

faloi (738831) | more than 8 years ago | (#13679104)

It's true, it's getting that little bit of exposure that's tough. I'd like to believe that on-line game reviewers that are part of larger networks would be the perfect way. You write a game, send it to them for review, they devote a little bit of space and if your product is good you're on your way. What's probably closer to happening is you write a game, send it to a reviewer for them to work in. If you catch the reviewer in an off month, you're set. However, if it's the month he just got Doom III, Halo 2 and some other spifftastic game (or some game that takes a long time to get through) your product gets back-burnered for the bigger things.

Maybe some sort of third party site would be good. Basically, indie developers pitch in for time on a site where the reviews are done strictly by non-professional reviewers (i.e. us). You go in, see what's new and the genres you like, download it and give it a shot. If it's good, give it a high mark and inspire other people to give it a shot. I dunno, maybe there is such a site and I don't know about it.

Re:Tough to break through (3, Interesting)

Seor Jojoba (519752) | more than 8 years ago | (#13679902)

"Maybe some sort of third party site would be good."

This isn't a bad idea, but it's already come up a lot amongst indie developers. The main problem is it takes a lot of work to make the site, maintain the site, and promote it. An indie review site like GameTunnel [gametunnel.com] for example has had thousands of dollars poured into it in order to make it a moderately successful destination for game players. The head guy there, Russell Carroll, will set up a table at shows to promote the site, put out press releases like crazy, and basically work his butt off. To make a review/portal site get traffic, (not just exist and look pretty) you need to put a huge amount of sweat into it. The people sweating want something for their work, so money has got to flow or certain games need to get promoted over others as payoff.

That said, I'm all for more indie game sites and fan reviews are cool too. The closest existing thing I see to that is Home of the Underdogs [the-underdogs.org] , which you might want to check out. I just don't think anyone should undertake such a site with the wrong expectations. Like if the person or group's main aim was to make a cool site about games, then they might get someplace. But if they had a business-minded goal to make a place where indie games get a lot of exposure, then that is a long, hard road people have been toiling at in obscurity for years.

10 years too late, bud. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13680633)

Jesus, talk about preaching to the choir 10 years too late. It's been possible to do well as an indie for a loonggg time. Iron Realms, Simutronics, 3 Rings, CCP, Sulake, etc etc etc etc etc.

You want something different (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 8 years ago | (#13680863)

Here's a marketing approach that'd work. At first you don't need all the subscribers in the world, but in the long run you're going to try for them. Release a game thats playable and sort of fun, and with the revenue you get, use it to improve the game. As you improve the game, more people will come on board, allowing you to improve the game further. You don't need everyone to play your game at launch, but if you have a game that'd last the test of time, years even decades, then you could make big money.

Re:You want something different (1)

Shakesphere (906660) | more than 8 years ago | (#13686966)

Hey, that's not bad. I read about this awesome game idea, uh...Gobots Online I think. It could possibly make billions of dollars, but the designer for it is so lazy and unemployed that it'll probably never get made. But if he could release just a GUI for it, then 1 person might think, "Hey, I'll pay $30,000 to play with that GUI, and then maybe the developer might add a cool game later. I have the attention span to keep checking back on a crappy game to see if it'll ever be good. Oh, and True A.I. and all that shit!"

I don't get it... (1)

Tankko (911999) | more than 8 years ago | (#13682035)

He's not funding projects, so what's he doing? Just creating a web site that hosts and allows you to buy all these games? Does some marketing for you?

You mean like games.yahoo.com, games.real.com, etc?

He's not helping you get your game made. What so special about this?

If I make an Indie game, how is he helping me?

I hope he comes up with a clearer message...

I also worry about the ranting of his manifesto and the links. Investors like rebels, not radicals. His writing comes across as rants.

Let's hope he does a better job then God Games did. When they started up, a lot of the same things were being said and they just pissed everyone off and look at them now?

This could be the dawn of a new age :) (1)

Mr.Wiggin (732549) | more than 8 years ago | (#13683490)

Imagine a website that only contains good indie titles and is advertised and pushed so that people actually know about it. The power of google means anyone and everyone can crack open BlitzBasic and make a rubbish [insert popular game] clone and catch unwary net travellers (not that I'm slagging off BlitzBasic, it's a wonderful package, just makes things almost too easy). They then understandably form the opinion that indie games are low quality, buggy uninspired wastes of time and don't ever bother again.

I just hope he can avoid the temptation to pump hundreds of crap games onto his site when the money starts coming in. He could end up with a household name for the place to go inbetween big budget highstreet releases for cheap fun quality games downloads. This is definitely what the indie games world needs, a way for the real quality to be lifted out of the sea and shine.

My suggestions would be:

  • Starscape [moonpod.com] - the undisputed king of indie space shooter adventurey type games.
  • Darwina and Uplink [introvrsion.co.uk] - I have to admit, I could never get into either, but you have to be impressed with what they have done, and their fanbase is huge (so I probably didn't put the time in).
  • Gish [chroniclogic.com] - which you know don't you?
  • War World [warworld.net] - possibly the best looking indie game out there. Currently thin on gameplay but still loads of fun, plus they are working on lots of improvements for it.
  • Fate [wildgames.com] - a nice diablo clone.


Some more casual suggestions, but they're still good!

  • Girls Inc. Team up. [largeanimal.com] - opinion is divided on this - I like it, and everyone else is wrong :)
  • super gerball [supergerball.com] , and hamsterbal [raptisoft.com] - great marble madness type games.
  • Chuzzle [raptisoft.com] - crack like in it's addiction levels, and guaranteed to turn your girlfriend/wife into a furball popping addict (I am thinking of setting up a Chuzzle widows club to support all the neglected men since Chuzzle came out)
  • Altitudes [miremare.com] - a favourite puzzler of mine, that I keep coming back to and hacking away at.


Another few candidates were mentioned here: indie games list thread with pics [moonpod.com]

Re:This could be the dawn of a new age :) (1)

Prophet of Nixon (842081) | more than 8 years ago | (#13685979)

Eh, some of these URLs might not be right since they're from memory, but my recommendations would be:

First, I second Starscape, Gish, and Fate, they're all good.

And some new ones:

Alien Shooter http://www.sigma-team.net/ [sigma-team.net] - The most incredible isometric shooter ever made.
Star Monkey http://www.smallrockets.com/ [smallrockets.com] - A great (though very short) vertical scrolling shooter. Ultra Assualt, from the same company, is also very good, and longer. I just prefer Star Monkey for some reason.
Zombie Smashers X2 http://zsx2.totallyscrewed.net/ [totallyscrewed.net] - The most incredible side-scrolling beat-em-up ever made.
Lux http://www.sillysoft.com/ [sillysoft.com] - An excellent online or offline Risk game, which allows the Risk ruleset to be applied to user created maps, and also allows for large scale scenarios which would be extremely difficult using a traditional board. Has a good following, and some excellent map makers.
Demonstar: Secret Missions 1 http://www.mking.com/ [mking.com] - The best of the 3 Demonstar games (SM2 is also good). A good vertical scrolling shooter blatantly inspired by the Raiden arcade series. I've been hoping for a modernized sequel (either higher-res sprites or polygonned), but I think Mountain King has sort of stopped making games.

And, the best for last:

Jets n' Guns http://www.rakeingrass.com/ [rakeingrass.com] - The greatest shooter of any kind since Tyrian, and arguably better than Tyrian.

If you're interested in some of these, I'd recommend Jets n' Guns first, then Starscape, then Zombie Smashers X2, then Alien Shooter, and definitely Lux if you like Risk.

Other sites exist already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13689880)

http://www.garagegames.com/ [garagegames.com] and there are many others out there already.

It'll be interesting to see how it turns out, but the competition is stiff, especially from gaming portal sites like Yahoo Games, Popcap, Pogo, etc, etc.
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