Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Pan-Handling in a Tornado

A lot of Let's Players visit Gamejolt.com to find new games to play.  Especially channels that specialize in horror games.  So I don't think it's coincidence that Fingerbones--currently the only game I've released on Gamejolt--is the only game of mine that's managed to have success with Let's Players.  The game was featured on Gamejolt's front page, and soon afterward was played by Yamimash.  Then Markiplier.  Then everyone else.  Once Fingerbones found its way into the "Let's Play Circuit," it spread like wildfire, relatively speaking.  Even at the time of this writing, I go onto Youtube and see playthroughs that were uploaded yesterday (admittedly from very small channels).

Fingerbones

 At the time I was working a part-time minimum wage job which I hated, and my immediate response to this unexpected attention was to figure out some way to make money off of it.  My solution?  Another game.  One that would be sold for real money.  One that, I assumed, the same Let's Players would be happy to play.  "From the maker of Fingerbones."

That game was The Moon Sliver, and it was a success in its own way--once it found its way through Greenlight I was able to quit my job and pursue game development (and piano tuning) full time.  But it didn't make its way through Let's Play channels the same way that Fingerbones had.

The Moon Sliver

 I sent out emails to all the big names that had played Fingerbones, along with free game codes, expecting at least some of them to play the game.  To my surprise, they did not.  In fact, most didn't even respond to my emails in any way.  To date, the two most-watched LPs of the game are Bowlingotter's and Harshly Critical's.  And while both are great channels (and certainly have my thanks for continuing to give me exposure), when it comes to sheer numbers neither one measures up to the exposure someone like Markiplier can give.

I went through a similar problem with my most recent game, The Music Machine.  The numerous emails I sent were met with silence, disinterest, and of course no Let's Plays.  A fact made all the more frustrating by the proliferation of slap-dash Five Nights and Freddy's clones and fan games on the same channels.  And numerous complaints about said proliferation in the comments section, from people who would be all too glad to see something different.

The Music Machine



Now, don't get me wrong.  I know my games aren't the greatest thing ever.  They're mine, so naturally I feel that they are, but I know they probably aren't.  And I know I don't deserve exposure and publicity simply because I happened to make release a game.  And, furthermore, I know popular Let's Players are essentially self-employed businessmen, not philanthropists, and it's in their best interest to play what people want to watch.  Not necessarily what is good.

But at the same time, The Moon Sliver was well-received, getting mostly positive feedback in the comments section and mostly positive reviews on Steam.  And at the time of this writing, The Music Machine has gotten overwhelmingly positive feedback from everyone that's played it.  And it's incredibly frustrating to me that both are being ignored in favor of Five Nights at Fuckboys and its similarly witless sequels.  For no discernible reason other than not having "five" "nights" or "freddy's" in the title.

Sometimes being an indie dev feels like pan-handling in a tornado.