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Which VIDEO GAME GENRE to Choose as an INDIE GAME DEVELOPER - read the full article about game development trends, Game Development and from AuroDev on Qualified.One
AuroDev ,
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If you are trying to come up with new game ideas, you might also be wondering which genre to pick and are some genres better for indies than others? In a previous video I took a look at how much money an average indie game makes and I used a site called video game insights to check what the Steam data says.

That site also has information on how the different genres compare to each other so I figured we could take a look and see if there is something valuable we can deduce from all that information.

Hey, my name is Auro.

I’m a full-time indie game developer and I am the creator of a game called Mortal Glory.

On top of that, I also make these weekly youtube videos, sharing my experiences, to help you on your own gamedev journey.

Alright, let’s go take a look at the data.

Here we have an overview of how the main genres differ from one another based on their estimated revenue and the number of games released in that genre within the last year.

Before we dive into it, it’s good to mention a few things - kind of as a disclaimer.

This data doesn’t include free games.

One game can have more than one genre so there is some overlap between the different dots.

The revenue numbers contain data from ALL the games of that genre.

So even from older games.

This is because otherwise the recently released games would really drag down the estimated revenue numbers.

And finally, there are many things this data doesn’t take into account, so you shouldn’t take anything as the full truth.

Think of it more as interesting observations that you can maybe use to support your decisions.

The positioning of the dots differs based on whether you are looking at the median values or the average values.

For the sake of simplicity, I will just show the median values in this video.

So I am looking at numbers that are exactly in the middle of the curve for each genre.

Okay, let’s see how the genres compare to each other.

Let’s start with the dot on the left.

The genre with the highest revenue and the least amount of games is… MMO.

Which isn’t really that surprising as MMOs are really demanding to make.

They take a lot of time and a lot of resources to develop.

They are also multiplayers so they require constant maintenance to make sure everything works smoothly and constant updates to keep the player base active.

So a very, very demanding genre that requires a lot of commitment even after the release.

Because of all this, there won’t be so many games in this genre.

Most indies won’t be able to make games for this genre due to the commitment that is required.

Okay, then we have 2 dots really close to each other.

They are so close that let’s actually look at both of them at the same time.

They are Sports and Racing.

I think these two are quite similar genres to each other in the sense that usually they both try to simulate something in real life instead of going deep with the fictive elements.

As you might notice, the average revenue is really low compared to MMO’s average revenue.

I don’t think that has necessarily much to do with Sports & Racing genres.

I think it’s rather about MMOs’ average revenue being really high due to the nature of it being an “all-in” genre and mostly populated by triple A studios.

That said, the low median revenue combined with a low amount of games would to me indicate that there is less demand for games in Sports and Racing genres.

Then as the next genre we have RPG.

This is again a demanding genre in the sense that RPG’s usually require a lot of content to be created.

Hundreds of maps, items, and so on.

The effort required for all this content would to me explain why it is located a bit below the middle in terms of new game releases.

Of course RPG is a broad genre and it lends itself to smaller games also.

Maybe that saves it from being much closer to the left corner.

The high median revenue of the RPG’s would indicate to me that there is good demand for this genre and it might be a good genre for indies also, as long as you have enough resources to actually finish the game in a reasonable amount of time.

Okay then we again have 2 dots quite close to each other.

And they are strategy and simulation.

Their numbers are really close to each other, but simulation has a big higher average price for their games.

Games in these genres can be demanding to make, but not always so them being in the middle of the chart seems reasonable.

Based on these numbers, I would say these are good genres for indies.

Then we have quite a big gap before the last 3 dots.The first one of them is… Adventure.

This is quite a generic genre so it doesn’t surprise me that there are so many games in it.

If you don’t quite know which genre your game falls into, it is easy to throw it into Adventure.

You might notice that the average revenue in the Adventure genre is a bit higher when compared with Simulation.

But the median revenue on the other hand is lower.

To me this would indicate that there are more triple A games that are selling well in the Adventure genre than in the Simulation genre.

But since the median revenue is lower, to me this would indicate that there are also a big number of indie games in this genre that maybe do not sell so well over their lifetime, which will drag down the median revenue more than the average revenue.

Then as the next genre we have Action, which again is a very broad and generic genre, just like Adventure.

If you look at the numbers, you notice that the average revenue is higher with Action when compared to Adventure.

But the median revenue is lower.

The numbers are not that far from each other, but to me they would indicate that the revenues are slightly less polarized in Adventure.

Meaning that more games fall somewhere in the middle rather than being separated to big winners and big losers.

So based on that, I would say that Adventure is a slightly better genre for indies than Action.

If there’s an actual data analyst listening, maybe you can comment on the video if I actually have a point here or if I am just talking out of my ass.

Then as the last dot with the lowest median revenue and the most games, we have… Casual games.

This is also a very broad genre.

As you can see from the lower average price, the games in this genre are cheaper on average and based on that, generally smaller games also.

Because of this, it will be harder for them to generate income as can be seen from the low revenue numbers.

On the other hand, the development time of these games is probably a lot quicker so it’s hard to say what the income level looks like if you match it against the time spent making the game.

But just based on this data, it would seem there is an oversupply of casual games, so it might not be a good genre to pick in that sense.

Okay, that was all the dots on this chart.

If we have a quick recap, I would say that these 3 genres in the middle, so RPG, Strategy and Simulation are the best genres for indies based on this data.

But of course in reality it isn’t quite so simple.

I will share more of my opinions on this later on in the video.

The site also has data on sub-genres.

Normally you would need to support the site on Patreon to access this data, but one of the developers was nice enough to give me temporary access to the data, free of charge.

Out of respect, I won’t be showing all the dots, but let’s take a look at a few of them.

This view is quite interesting as the same amount of games is split into more categories than before.

In data science they call this the data being more granular.

We can see that due to the data being more granular, the range of the median revenue is a lot wider than before.

We can also see that there is probably at least some correlation between the amount of games and the estimated median values since on the left with fewer games the dots are higher than on the right side.

On the main genre view it wasn’t so obvious, but it could also be just because there weren’t so many dots to show on the chart.

If we look at the dot in the far right corner, we can see that it is the puzzle sub-genre.

This sub-genre is very much like the casual genre in the other view.

The average price is very low and at least partly because of that, the estimated revenue numbers are also low.

Then let’s take a look at another dot around the middle of the chart.

This one is exploration.

I am not that familiar with the sub-genre, but it would seem like there are quite a few games in this sub-genre.

I guess at least walking simulators fall into this sub-genre.

The estimated revenue is quite low but it’s a bit higher than the dots nearby it when you account for the amount of games so there probably is demand for this sub-genre but there is also a lot of supply.

Then let’s take a look at the dot on the far-left corner with the highest estimated revenue and the least amount of games.

That is 4X.

If you are not familiar with the genre, the name comes from Explore, Expand, Exploit & Exterminate.

The most familiar example is probably the Civilization games.

These games require a lot of effort to make, so they mostly consist of triple A games, which then drives up the median revenue.

It is very hard to make a small-scale 4X game.

I would even like to say it’s impossible, but I am sure there is some example that would prove me wrong.

I wouldn’t start making a 4X game just because it’s high on this chart.

Unless you have a team of 100 people working for you.

But yeah, this chart is available to you if you support the creators of the site on Patreon.

They are constantly updating the site so I am really excited to see what kind of tools and analytics they can come up with! You can also take a look at the sub-genre details for free by going to the Steam Analytics view and playing around with the filters.

But you won’t be able to get a quick & handy overview of the data.

It was my assumption that a lot of the differences in the revenue numbers were influenced by how many indie games there were compared to triple A games.

So I went ahead and collected a bit of data from the site of paid games from the last 3 years and then separated them into Indie games and non-Indie games.

This is the table I came up with.

In the last column I included a simple ratio calculation of the median revenue numbers between Indie and non-Indie games.

So if we look at the Casual genre for example, it has a ratio of 0.21%.

This means that if an average casual game made by a triple A or a double A studio earns 1000 dollars, an average indie game in the same genre will earn 2 dollars and 10 cents.

There is obviously a huge difference in the median numbers as double A and triple A studios have a lot more resources to make high quality games and push the sales.

But I think the ratio number is interesting as it tells you in which genres Indies are earning the most when compared to triple A and double A studios.

Obviously there are a lot of things to take into consideration, but based on this data, the Casual, Adventure and RPG genres seem to be the most welcoming to indie game developers.

On the other hand, in Sports, MMO and Simulation genres, bigger studios are making more money.

Of course you do have to take into account that for example the Simulation category still has a decent amount of indie games and a high median revenue so it could just be that there’s more money flowing into this category and while big triple A titles are swimming in cash, there’s still plenty for indies also.

Okay, I think that’s enough of the data.

My opinion on all this is that while the data is interesting to look at, you definitely shouldn’t base your decisions just on it.

If you really love some genre, don’t avoid making a game for it just because of the data says so.

Just know that, if your genre is not so popular or it is highly contested, you might need to work a bit harder or spice things up more to better stand out from the competition.

Analyzing your competition is one of the things I would really focus on.

Consider, which game will your game be compared to and can you somehow stand out in this comparison? Maybe you can do something better or maybe you have an interesting hook that will really spice up the conventional genre tropes? I could talk a lot more about genres but I don’t want to turn this into an hour-long video.

Let me know in the comments what is your favorite genre and if you think it’s a good choice for new games.

Also, if you found this type of a video interesting, I would really appreciate it if you gave it a thumbs up.

Alright, thanks for watching and I’ll see you in the next one!

AuroDev: Which VIDEO GAME GENRE to Choose as an INDIE GAME DEVELOPER - Game Development