Game Developer's Post Details Immense Hardships of Going Indie

Despite great reviews, indie game Brigador has had a tough time making sales, demonstrating the problems of visibility in the indie game development industry.

Five years ago, HughSJ was a young college graduate starting a new game development company -- excited to enter the world of indie games with his brother and two friends. Today, he wishes he could go back and stop himself from making such a terrible mistake.

Today, in a post on imgur, one of the founders of the developer Stellar Jockeys, which released indie isometric mech game Brigador on Steam earlier this month, detailed his grueling and thankless journey in game development, uncovering the difficulties that indie developers face in gaining coverage for even the most well-made and unique of games.

Although their game has received very positive reviews on Steam praising its tactical combat and fully destructible environments, and has been compared to groundbreaking and popular games such as Desert Strike and Syndicate, Stellar Jockeys have received very little coverage for its release, leading to few sales and little chance for the company to make a profit on what has largely been a self-funded endeavor. 

In his post, Hugh says:

In our case, 5 years of self-funded work to try and make a unique game, and we released v1.0 last week to resounding...silence. Rock Paper Shotgun gave us a nice review promptly after release, and PC Gamer did a nice preview about all the extras we did and has a review in the pipe, but that's about it. Been 12 days since we released the game and there aren't even enough reviews to give us a metacritic score. You need 4 reviews to get a metacritic score.

And the studio's problems don't stop at poor sales. The game's developers poured their lifeblood into this project, in many cases wrecking their health through stress and sleep deprivation in order to get their game on the market. 

As an added bonus, the stress of that situation 5 years on, plus shipping the game has reduced me from a guy who boxed in college to a 30lb heavier idiot who had to see a doctor for what I discovered were panic attacks (new horizons!). Also following bloodwork being done, the doctor was perplexed by how low my Vitamin D levels were until I explained to him that I literally never go outside anymore. He also asked if I had a stressful job, so I laughed.

HughSJ's post emphasizes the importance of visibility and coverage for indie games, and stresses how few games get enough to turn a profit. At the end of his post, he recommends that anyone trying to get into indie development turn back before it's too late. 

And if you're someone seriously considering going into indie dev right now, my honest advice is don't. You might get lucky, but more than likely you'll just end up with a pile of debt and a handful of (admittedly wonderful) customers.

 So, what do you think readers? Are you surprised by this disheartening account of indie game development? Any advice on how indie developers can make it big? Let us know in the comments!


Games Brigador Genres Action Platforms Tags game developmentgaming industryindie
Published Jun. 15th 2016
  • Sagger Khraishi
    Featured Contributor
    I agree with the guy. There was this thing where some schools asked me to come talk to their students about choosing their degrees for university. So I would always tend to get a question like "Do you love your job?" or "Should I go into game design?". Well, my answer is basically no.

    As much as it looks like it will be fun, it's as churning. For the kids who want to do what they love, it is better to finish university, get a job that can afford the special things they want in life, and go from there. But being an indie game dev is like being a gambler. You might have everything lined up for you but if you don't have luck you won't be able to grow.
  • Paul Caveworks
    Wow... Honestly I feel terrible for the guy and his team.Really. I cant even fathom the feeling of 5 years leading to little profit. And going even to the extent of affecting his health?... Godamn... I get where he is coming from. But going out and disheartening other indies?... I mean come on. I know I am not in his position and i cant know how he feels but... There are many indies that have made it . I know it is like one in a million of them but it does happen.

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