What Does it Mean to Be a Sustainable Game Studio?

Recently I've had a lot of great discussions with people who either are trying to build a sustainable game studio or planning to do so. I wanted to gather some of the best practices within this blog post, which can help you go forward! 

Please understand though, that the topic is so wide scale that there is no "single recipe" to build a sustainable game studio. I'm going to drop a couple of things here, which will definitely help you along the way but won't bring you instant success.

Why are you doing this?

Understand what you want to be, don't just run around for every 'trend' out there. The very first thing, but the hardest part is to discover why are you making games. This may sound obvious to most, but the fact is that the topic is very hard to grasp. By only knowing what type of games would you like to play/make is wholly different from thinking about what type of company are you building. Because your first game won't (most likely) be the commercial hit, you need to have a clear roadmap after that.

I'm speaking like I have one already. I definitely have a roadmap, but is it the right one? Most likely not, but there is only one way to find out. By going forward and making sure to not run into any fatal obstacles, like running out of money. For me, I see that every day and hour I'm able to practice my skills, the more likely I'll find the solution to run a sustainable independent game studio.

Stop pretending and "faking 'till you make it"

If you're planning on creating a game studio which gets the necessary income from selling games, you should never try to pretend to be a "big game studio". Be what you are and let it show from your works. Because in the end, people can get those "big game studio" games from those big game studios if they like. When they're looking for smaller indie games, they are looking for personal and interesting developers who can provide something unique to their game libraries. Which leads to our next topic.

If you're planning on creating a game company, which get investors/funding for a bigger team, it's crucial that you have the clear roadmap (as mentioned above) and you can present it. It's not about faking that you have the best company, it's about being convincing while presenting it.

Be unique, without being confusing

Creating a "unique game" is not, of course, an easy task. You should be providing something new for an existing player base, without trying to introduce something so different that people do not even realize what the game is about. Dedicate into a genre, core group, and specific player base and create content for THEM. So how do you know are you creating the right type of content for them..?

Iterate, test and figure out YOUR audience

Like mentioned in our previous PODCAST, you are not creating a game for everyone. All player types require certain introduction to features and have different approaches in getting interested in something. This affects the content of your promotional materials, brand awareness, and other marketing strategies to get the word out for the right people.

Iteration and testing take time, how to survive?

My tip would be that you should have a clear plan how will you use your development work for multiple purposes. For instance, if you're creating a 3D game, you should gather your in-game assets and build an appealing portfolio. Do it once, and you're able to offer your skills for companies to create 3D graphics once in a while.

Or maybe you get great thoughts and ideas while making your game? Why not start a blog to share these thoughts and at the same time gather people around you who share the same vision. These people can help you to not only preserve motivation along the game development process but also to get "eyeballs" for your work. By doing this, you can easily find yourself working as a micro-influencer, or maybe even bigger.

If you're starting out with zero budget, you, of course, need to start working with your company part-time. This may be the hardest way of starting to make games. Preserving motivation and sticking in deadlines is hard if it's not "necessary" for your wallet for example. I wrote concrete steps, which you should place into your calendar from day one, to keep going into the right direction and getting stuff done (more likely).

The ultimate structure for a sustainable independent game studio is to create streams of income, all serving the single goal.

Remember to build an environment, which enables you to fail. Because you most likely will. Every fail you make, gives you a better understanding what type of games you SHOULD be making, what type of games is "your thing" and it actually meets the requirements of your audience as well.

Remember to enjoy the road and keep making awesome games! 

It would be awesome to hear about your going, why not join our Discord channel and share your works? See you there!

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