Fuck the overnight success myth

Most people learn the truth after shipping their first indie game: “no one will give you an award”. We grow with the idea that your passion magically transforms into an overnight success. You wake up and have millions on your bank account. This is a myth, we need to break it.

The bride never gave up
You will not be a big hit right away. You will not get rich quick. You are not so special that everyone else will instantly pay attention. No one cares about you. At least not yet. Get used to it.
from “ReWork” by Jason Fried, a great book.

McMillen has been making games for 17 years. Gish is his 19th game. Super Meat Boy (flash) is his 38th game after 9 years of making games.

Terry Cavanagh has made 50 games in 10 years. Only three of them are quite popular (Don’t Look Back, Super Hexagon, VVVVVV). His latest releases really didn’t perform that well, but he keeps making stuff. DLB is his 7th Game. VVVVVV is his 20th game, Super Hexagon is his 35th game.

Matt Thorson is an athlete. Towerfall is his first popular release ten years after making his first game (from 2003 to 2013). When you think about it, he had a breakthrough success with a game exclusive to a now dead console.

Christine Love has been writing weirds games for more than 8 years. She dug her own niche in a world of standardized violence.

Cliff Bleszinski has been making game for 37 years. His latest release, Law Breakers is a financial fail, even after all those years of experience. He kept faith in his favorite kind of games: frenetic shooters.

John basically invented First Person Shooters. His latest games are not as epic, but he’s still around to teach & share his love for video games. He’s making indie game at his own pace.

You are competing with all of these people

Like you, they will keep making games. The only way to be noticed now & in the future is to make different, good games.

If there is one video you absolutely need to see, it’s Jake Birkett explaining that you can make a living without making popular hits.

The people on this blog post experimented a lot. They did business on new consoles. They tried different game engines. They worked with new people. They traveled into the unknown. They left AAA to make smaller-scaled games. Sometimes they worked with publishers, sometimes they didn’t.

There are several practical reasons why you need several years to make game before making money with it:

  • Game sales overlap. Your previous game can bring money to fund your next game. When you have 2 games still being sold, you’re more likely to get money for the third one.
  • Key people trust track record. There are a lot of newcomers in the industry. If you’ve made several games, publishers, console manufacturers, investors will have more faith in you.
  • Skills come with experience. You’re competing with people who can work really fast, deliver high quality content in zero time. You just have to make stuff to be better.
  • Networking comes through meeting people all around the world. Making games alone on your hometown might not be enough to grow.

If you want to build a long term successful career, there are two things you can do:

  • experiment
  • make games

PS: I’m sorry for the lack of women in this blog post. Thanks to MobyGames for the data.