Woven release: a Dutch game industry's tale
Today we are overseeing the launch of our first game: Woven. Three years ago, our 5 man team didn’t succeed in getting our kickstarter campaign funded. After that, we tried subsidized funding and paypal donations but ended up laying low for a while.
Today we are amazed by the launch we are having. We have reached over a hundred thousand people going viral on Imgur, landed a 100+ reviews online and enticed over two thousand streamers to show interest in the game. So what happened?
We’re certainly not the first small game-dev team with big ambitions. This would actually be the fourth big release by a small studio in the Netherlands in the space of a month. There must be something in the water.
Four Dutch studios
The teams that went before us did amazing jobs. First there was We Were Here Together by Total Mayhem Games. But they weren’t the only ones to hold top position on the Steam Sales charts. Twirlbound did an amazing job with their launch of Pine and now they enjoy the ‘mostly positive’ review state. Lastly, there was Keoken’s Deliver Us The Moon. A game with awesome graphics and great storytelling.
All great projects and all of them developed by small teams with less than 10 people. In the face of the ‘Indiepocalypse’, these three teams did amazing. So what’s their big secret?
What do all these studio’s have in common except that they are creative, small-sized, game studios? Is it that they got good-looking CEO’s? Do they all wear wooden clogs to the office? Is it that they are all Indies?
The answers to those questions are: ‘good-looking yes, but irrelevant’, ‘no’ and ‘it’s complicated’. And are they really indies? Don’t all these teams have a publisher? Pine has Kongregate. Keoken has Wired Production and Alterego Games paired up with StickyLock Studios. Strictly speaking, these were not independent developers. So are they really Indie?
We shouldn’t get lost in semantics. ‘Indie’ is more than just an abbreviation for independence and yes, all these studios maintained a big chunk of creative independence. They didn’t pair up with Sega, EA, Nintendo or any of the AAA top dogs, but they did pair up, and that seems to have given these studios an edge.
This industry is pretty forked-up
In an industry where it takes very little to open up the Unreal or Unity game engines and throw some assets together, digital stores are being flooded with prototypes, low-budget-copycats, well-meant first tries and (sometimes pretty good) student projects. Beware the indie flooding.
At some level, it's very cool that everyone gets a chance to participate in this ‘Indie-lottery’, but meanwhile, it is getting harder and harder for indies with quality games to get noticed and receive the attention they deserve.
You know how much love they put into those projects, but those efforts usually aren’t rewarded with a good launch. Guys and gals, surely you don’t need me to tell you this industry has issues. So what did these teams do to get noticed? What’s the big secret? What can we learn from them?
They all paired up with a publisher, which undoubtedly gave them a boost, either to their marketing knowledge or their marketing budget. And even if that won’t bring them up to par with the AAA big shots with millions to spend, it gave them enough of an edge to rise above the indie flooding.
But talking from my own experience, it is not as simple as that. Because if pairing up with a publisher was both the solution and that easy, everybody would be doing it. But even though I do think it holds the solution, the truth is: there are literally thousands of indie developers, and only a handful of publishers.
So we need to look at WHY these teams ended up with a publisher. That’s where you’ll learn the most. Now each of these teams has had their own journey, and while I've spoken with some of them, I can’t claim to know their minds on this. Here are some common denominators:
- They made games publishers wanted to publish; they must have been marketing minded.
- They didn’t sacrifice their own creativity to do so; they made something unique and beautiful.
- They all focused heavily on community, not just staying cooped up in their studios; they reached out.
- Pine and Deliver us the Moon ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to kick-off their community and validate their concept before continuing.
So these are the lessons I would take away:
- Be creative, but take time to think from a publishers perspective, maybe even contacting them early in the concept phase, be marketing minded.
- Create and invest in a community, not only for metal encouragement to keep going, but they also help you validate your concept before moving ahead.
- And don’t be afraid of publishers. They aren’t the big bad wolves some people might think. The publishers mentioned in this article put their behinds on the line to help those teams create. Without our publisher, StickyLock Studios, I doubt Woven would have ever seen the light of day.
Working together on a project, publisher and developer, I think that's a very good thing.
Curious to see what the latest Dutch Fuzz is about?
Head to our steampage 😉