Author: Chris Swain, Chair, Game Design Department, New York Film Academy
There are literally hundreds of thousands of great games available via digital download to gamers today. They are available through the app stores, Steam, Xbox, PS4 – even the handhelds.
These days, getting your game noticed is almost as hard as making your game in the first place. Given this environment of extreme abundance, there are basically two ways game projects can succeed – both require you to differentiate or die.
Option 1: Blow Them Away With Production Values
This means take a genre of game that works – such as first person shooter – and make the world’s best version of it.
This is the strategy followed by giant publishers who have the know-how, brand, and budget to create world class production values. Examples include the Call of Duty series, Grand Theft Auto series, and Zelda series.
If you are a beginner, I don’t recommend trying to compete in this category. Rather fight the fight on your terms you control via Option 2.
Option 2: Blow Them Away With Gameplay Innovation
This means consciously do not start with a known genre of game. Start by creating a type of game play that no one has seen before.
The beauty of innovating via gameplay is that it does not cost anything in dollars. That is free. And once you have figured out a new playable system you don’t have to build a large amount of content nor execute at GTA-level production values in order to attract an audience. Early adopters will come because of the new mechanics and spread the word for you.
Examples include: Narbular Drop (which was created by college students and became Portal), Flow (which was created by college students and became the hit on Playstation 3 that launched thatgamecompany), and Threes (created by a college student and took the App Store and Google Play by storm).
The bottom line is that to win in games today you have to get noticed. Getting noticed means differentiating from an extreme number of competitors. For beginners, the smart route is to differentiate via game play versus production values.