What it Takes to Start an Indie Game Studio in 2021

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Gaming is one of the fastest-growing industries worldwide, and it’s forecasted to be worth $256.97 billion by 2025. The total market share within the gaming industry, however, is dominated by gaming titans like Sony, Nintendo, Ubisoft, and Electronic Arts. Although, there have been a few indie game developers that left indelible marks on today’s gaming landscape, like Mojang Studios (Minecraft) and solo creator Eric Barone (Stardew Valley). In fact, the top one-third of indie games are doing well, with 1 in every 5 making above $50,000 on Steam alone. It also must be said that starting your own indie game studio requires skill, dedication, and great tenacity to succeed.

Create a unique identity

The first requirement is the passion for gaming, so gain experience. Try out as many games as possible across different platforms and stay abreast of gaming updates like the ones listed in our What to Expect From 2021: Games Edition article. This gives you insights and a better understanding of what you want to and can achieve. It definitely doesn’t hurt to have industry heroes to look up to, but make sure that you’re your own game developer. Find out what makes you stand out from the rest: Will you make a notable character like Mario and Sonic? Are you going to produce a series of infinite scrolling games? Or will you focus on story-based sagas? Develop your identity and build strategic skills around that.

Set up your business

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Craft a business plan

Think about your business plan as a success metric. Carve out a path that will help you succeed, whether that means selling a million copies of your game, getting it picked up by huge worldwide publishers, or simply making it onto a popular gaming YouTuber’s review channel. Be as specific as you possibly can when coming up with goals, and plan supporting short-term initiatives to help you reach them.

Secure funding

Lots of developers self-finance, and this can become financially draining quite fast. In gaming, you can opt for external funding from investors or publishers. The main difference between the two is that investors give you financial support in return for equity, while publishers fund the production of a game in order to obtain it or at least have some exclusive publishing rights to it. That said, they aren’t mutually exclusive. Games Dragons consultant Philip Oliver points out that an investor who wants to maximize profit may help you reach out to publishers who can assist in marketing, localization, PR efforts, and, of course, publishing.

Choose the right business structure

Most startups begin as sole proprietorships as these usually don’t take much paperwork, but this may put you at a disadvantage. Starting an indie game studio could push you to invest everything you have in your venture—and should things go south, a sole proprietorship offers no assurances or protection for your assets. Forming an LLC may be a better option since your personal assets are separate from the business’. Similarly, incorporating your business as a C corporation offers the same protection while allowing you to take your business overseas, as most games usually do. Additionally, forming LLCs or corporations opens up more doors for funding, as investors and grant-giving bodies generally require studios to be registered as such before they put in money.

Start Creating

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Traditional game studios would have a full staff consisting of programmers, game designers, artists, sound designers, project managers, and writers. This may not be the case for indie game studios, but they’re all necessary roles—and it could be done by one or two very dedicated individuals. Develop the best game you possibly can, and then conduct tests repeatedly. Get beta players to test it out and don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board until you get everything just right before you release your game.

Gaming has penetrated several aspects of everyday life, and it will continue to do so in the future. Form your own indie game studio and get a chance to leave a lasting legacy in today’s modern world.

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