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Capy's Vella confronts industry opinions

Tackles the accepted truths that could be holding indie developers back

Today at the Gaming Insiders Summit in San Francisco Nathan Vella, president and co-founder of Capy Games, addressed some of the major opinions ruling the indie game development scene right now. In his talk, titled Opinions On Indie Development Are Like Assholes: And I've Got One he spoke about platform loyalties, YouTubers, the supposed devaluation of games and mobile development.

Firstly Vella wanted to address a touchy subject, that of platforms. Developers denigrating a particular platform in the press or championing another.

"These stories have led to a lot of developers, especially new developers, choosing sides. Picking the winner for them and driving forward with just that one focus," he said.

"One of the things that this results in is actually limiting the potential for indie developers to make their game successful."

He suggested indie developers should look at platforms as opportunities, and not just believe the opinions on those platforms, or they risked missing out on revenue streams from ported games. He shared the net revenue proportions of two Capy titles, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery and Super Time Force to prove his point.

"For every time I found a great piece online about how a Pewdiepie generated X hundreds of thousands of dollars there was another developer saying that they actually didn't see a single spike"

Sword & Sworcery saw 50 per cent of net revenue come from iOS, 25 per cent from Steam, 5 per cent from Android and 20 per cent from other platforms. Super Time Force saw 44 per cent of revenue come from Xbox, 37 per cent from Sony and the remainder from Steam. Deciding not to work on almost any of those platforms would have given up a chunk of revenue.

"Porting is really inexpensive and you don't have to do it all at once."

Next up he tackled the opinion that YouTubers directly created sales. He pointed to stories across the internet from developers about great sales spikes that had been attributed to Let's Play videos, but added that his research left a much cloudier picture.

"For every time I found a great piece online about how a Pewdiepie generated X hundreds of thousands of dollars there was another developer saying that they actually didn't see a single spike at all."

Capy Games had one of its games featured by YouTuber Total Biscuit and didn't see a single additional sale.

Vella didn't deny that the sales spikes could happen, but it wasn't a sure thing and had a lot to do with the tone of your game and the tastes of the YouTuber's audience.

He added that games in Steam's Greenlight initiative did see a definite benefit from YouTubers.

Vella's next topic was trickier, the idea that through sales and Humble Bundles and price pressure indie games were being devalued.

"It's an argument that I'm a little bit uncomfortable with because it does put some blame on the consumer for something that I don't think they really should be blamed for," he explained.

He looked at Humble Bundle games, for instance, and noted that in the last five major Humble Bundles the games had an average age of 442 days old.

"I'd argue that people are making it very clear that never intended to buy our games in the first place. The cool thing is that the Humble Bundle actually allows us, albeit in a small way, to generate revenue off of people that never ever would have bought our games in the first place."

He argued it's not devaluing your game if you're managing to sell to an audience who never would have bought your game otherwise. Steam was another issue, with NPD data suggesting the 50 per cent of players wait for a sale before making game purchases. But again, this - along with console promotions like PlayStation Plus - may allow you to access players you wouldn't have otherwise reached.

Finally, he addressed the myth that mobile development is hard for indies. Turns out that one is pretty much correct.

"That one is totally accurate. I actually talked to a whole bunch of people and nearly everyone I spoke to said it was really hard and every piece of data I found on the internet said it was really hard."

He summarised by saying that opinions and advice can be valuable for indie developers but they're just tools to be used, rather than solutions to be rigidly followed.

GamesIndustry.biz will have an exclusive interview with Vella on the site next week.

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Rachel Weber

Senior Editor

Rachel Weber has been with GamesIndustry since 2011 and specialises in news-writing and investigative journalism. She has more than five years of consumer experience, having previously worked for Future Publishing in the UK.