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3:26pm on Tuesday, 18th February, 2014:

Market Sizes


I have this theory about computer game development that I've mentioned a few times to people over the past couple of months, so I thought I'd blog it so I can just point at it next time I want to pontificate on the subject.

OK, so the theory is that indie developers in small countries who make games in their own language have a better chance of international success than developers who develop in English.

If you develop in English, yes, there's a huge market for your games as you can sell them worldwide. However, there's also a tremendous amount of competition. If there are a million games to choose from, why would anyone play yours? It all comes down to marketing. Sadly, as an indie, you can't afford to do any marketing, and even if you could you're not a marketer, you're a game developer. You need a publisher. How do you get a publisher unless you have connections, though? Well, unless lady luck is on your side, you don't.

If you develop games for a smaller marketplace, OK, you won't make millions. However, if your game is good then it has a much better chance of getting noticed. Being one of the best-selling games in Sweden/Slovakia/Israel/Portugal/wherever may not involve great riches, however it does mean you have evidence that your game is good. A publisher is taking less of a risk investing in your game than they would be in an unproven one. You can also do all the fine-tuning you need to do before localising it for English, which is where the real money is. Developing games in English but targeted at an obscure platform is another way to do it.

This has worked in other media for years. We have more TV personalities from Eire on UK television than there would be if it were all about population: if we can see someone is good, well it's less of a risk to employ them. Likewise, the USA takes a lot of our best actors. TV shows that are a success in a smaller country will be bought (and possibly remade) for a larger country, not because the larger country is short of talent but because it's short of ways to identify talent.

This is why, when I'm talking to developers from Germany or Poland or Italy or Romania, I'm usually upbeat. They have a route to success that isn't available for native English speakers.

You do have to make sure that the language is in widespread use, though. Sure, lots of people speak Welsh, but as almost every last one of them is bilingual in English too, there's not a significant market for Welsh-language games...

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