Act Locally

Despite the advance of technology that makes our world seem smaller, it is still important to take action locally.

On Sunday, March 20th, I had the privilege of addressing the Southern Michigan Chapter of the IGDA (International Game Developers Association) on the topic of independent game development and shareware marketing. I spoke about the differences between the retail and online software channels, and I also presented some information about the ASP Indie Games SIG. (A brief summary of the meeting is at http://www.igda.org/smichigan/Reports/Mar05/index.html.)

My talk followed a review of the 2005 Game Developers Conference, so it was almost a rebuttal of certain points of the GDC. Specifically, there was a call for a different distribution channel for games, without any recognition by the “mainstream” game industry that there already is a well-established online channel for software distribution. I started my speech by reading the absurd claims by one “expert” that such a channel did not exist before 5 years ago. Recommended reading on the topic is Thomas Warfield’s A Shareware Life, and specifically “Comedy at the Game Developers Conference“.

I presented a handout that showed highlights from a member survey conducted by the Association of Shareware Professionals. I drew attention to the fact that, of those who responded, more than 30% made almost all of their income from shareware (question #3), more than a quarter made $50K or more per year on shareware alone (question #4), and that 9 out of 10 had four or fewer people (question #6). Given that the poll also suggests that a large number of respondents were just getting started, these are fairly impressive numbers.

After the introduction and brief discussion of the survey results, I went into a laundry list of differences between retail and shareware game channels, having experience with both. I broke the list into the differences as experienced in development, publishing, distribution (and retailing), and by the consumer. I tried to balance the discussion, which generally comes down to creative control, quality of life, and a larger share of profits (with shareware) versus more funding, larger number of units sold, and greater recognition (in retail).

Before the end of the meeting, the chapter discussed its plans for promoting game development within the State of Michigan. Unfortunately, as if to make such a prospect much harder, our Governor, Jennifer Granholm, happened to make a public statement the following week in favor of recently introduced legislation that is opposed by the IGDA (a position that I strongly support). If nothing else, these events have really energized the chapter to get involved in advocacy for the local game industry, so we will be taking some steps toward that goal in the very near future.

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