Steam The death of indie dev?

Discussion in 'Game Design, Development And Publishing' started by Seabass (The Human), Feb 11, 2017.

  1. Misty

    Misty Member

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    It's a problem of market oversaturation.

    A casual gamer only buys about 2 games a month. A hardcore gamer buys about 10 games a month. Which means that your game has to be one of the most interesting games (out of 1000's of games) for someone to want to buy it.

    On the other hand, if someone wants to buy a bottle of pepsi, they buy about 2 bottles of pepsi a day. (But it's actually a worse monopoly, because there are only 10 or so major pop brands availiable in common stores.)

    In any case, it's like a barber shop. Barber shops are localized and depend on the town. But in games you have to compete with the entire world. More stuff to compete with.
     
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  2. Chris S.

    Chris S. Guest

    When it all comes down to it, you need to not only be skilled in making games (which, @Seabass (The Human), from what I've seen you are very skilled, but you also have to market the heck out of your game. With a little luck and a lot of skill, your games may become popular. But it's a hard road, and nothing to bet your financial future on -- there are no guarantees in Indie game development.
     
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  3. dphsw

    dphsw Member

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    Well, that is bad, but not new. Before the internet was popular and indie game marketplaces existed, lots of us still were making indie games (though the word 'indie' wasn't really used at the time), and dreamed of getting sales as high as $5000. Few people had the internet, fewer trusted it with their credit card details, you had to be willing to accept cheques through the post as payment, and you'd accomplished something if you sold any copies at all. My bestselling game in those days took a year to make, sold about a dozen copies, and we were quite proud of that. (It was called Gravity Fight, and you can still find it online, but not many computers these days will still run it, it really depends on DirectX 7, which modern versions of DirectX aren't really backwards-compatible with due to it being 2D-based, from the time when having any GPU at all in a computer was considered a luxury.)

    As you say, most games on Steam sell a few thousand copies. The idea that they usually sell tens or hundreds of thousands comes from the fact that it's the highly successful ones that everybody hears about, and so think of as normal. But that doesn't mean yours is doomed. A lot of games are just clones with nothing to distinguish them from a hundred other games released at the same time - if yours clearly stands out, there's a fair chance it will have better success than average. The same goes if you've made it appeal to some niche audience in some way (which is basically the same piece of advice again I guess, but it bears repeating). It will also probably be more successful if you can release it in different formats, including some free version - in the pre-internet days we'd always decide what games we wanted by playing a demo, and if your game is in GameMaker, there's a good chance you can make a demo/minigame of it in HTML5 that you can publish to loads of free online games sites, which would increase it's visibility no end. I don't buy many games - maybe 6 in the past few years - but 2 of those were because I'd played demo versions of them on Kongregate (though Kongregate itself is difficult to get discovered on, so remember there's lots of other websites like that.)

    And bear in mind, you've been looking at the sales they've gotten in the first few months. While sales usually peak in the first few days, as far as I know, whatever level they've reached after a month or so tends to be fairly sustainable for quite a long time after. Maybe those games sold a few hundred copies in the first few days, but then are selling a few copies a day after that. Having an ongoing income from a game of about $10/day for a year or two afterwards wouldn't be so bad.
     
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  4. Yal

    Yal GMC Memer GMC Elder

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    The problem with Steam Greenlight was a complete lack of quality control - Digital Homicide releasing the same game 10 times with different graphics means they got 10x as much attention and exposure on average than someone putting several years of development time into their game (they actually uploaded all those games to Itchio as well and got banned, btw), to name a famous example. Any system that promotes quantity over quality will get quantity instead of quality.
     
  5. Seabass (The Human)

    Seabass (The Human) Member

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    Thank you. Yes yes yes. Absolutely agree.

    I wanted to post here in post analysis of my recent games release and say that I can actually work consistently now in terms of income. I don't know if it is by chance or by hard work and endless marketing, but either way it has worked out for me. In the meanwhile though, I've seen at least 50 titles sink on release.
     
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  6. Amy

    Amy Member

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    The game industry has gone through its ups and downs since the '80s. And people were saying over 20 years ago that small 1 or 2 person teams were on the way out. That turned out not to be true since you still see small teams (or just one person) making a ton of money off their games.

    It's a great time for Indies, probably better than it has ever been. In the 'old days' you had to buy boxes, manuals and more to get your game on a store shelf. That cost tens of thousands of dollars just to get started. Now you can distribute digitally which is an incredible opportunity that wasn't available before.

    But yes, the competition is fierce and growing as people dream of 'easy millions' coming their way after their 'great' game is released. It's never easy. And most people who find success in the industry have been in it for awhile, and have experienced failure and mediocre sales with previous games they made. Just try and make your game as good as possible. (Obvious advice, right?) And then get the word out about it, anyway you can. Social media like Facebook and Twitter are basically free advertising. (If not for that, how many people would have ever heard of 'Owlboy' and the history behind its long development time?)

    Anyway, good luck. That's always nice to have, too. ;)
     
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  7. GM029

    GM029 Member

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    Funny I just went through this. I have a photography business on the side (selling prints). In the beginning all I heard was 'you can't sell prints any more- everyone has a camera these days and the competition is way too fierce, don't bother!'. Obviously the Internet and technology has changed that landscape drastically just like it has with game development and distribution.

    Well, just like anything it takes a lot of hard work and persistence to make money from it. I ignored all the nay-sayers in the beginning, kept my head down and worked at it hard, and now I make a decent second income off of that business, enough to pay my bills every month. It took a few years to get there but now it's humming and consistently does better every month.

    I see gaming dev no differently. Statistically speaking you are not going to make millions overnight on your game - that is almost a certainty. In fact no one may even notice it or knows it exists at all in the beginning. That's where the hard work and persistence will pay off. EVENTUALLY it may sell really well but there will be a ton of work in the interim. And maybe it takes until your third or fourth release until people notice you and want to check out your older stuff.

    And just because your game flops on release doesn't mean it's over by any stretch. You have full control over advertising and any other means to get the word out there, again it'll probably take lots and lots of persistence.

    IMO the sky is still the limit but it's up to you to figure out how to separate from the crowd.

    As developers it is MUCH easier to get a game out there and on sale than it used to be but at the same time that is increasing the competition significantly. Exactly the same thing with the print business. ANYONE can sell their photos online as prints now as I mentioned above.

    But, success is still VERY possible, it's just not going to be easy.
     
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  8. Misty

    Misty Member

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    I think it's the other way around, indie devs can make experimental and garbage games until one of their games eventually catches on and gets popular, while Corporations tend to stick to formulas in order to secure a consistent profit margin. Corporations have monthly salaries that they have to pay employees, and cannot afford to experiment or take risks too much.
     
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  9. Ninety

    Ninety Member

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    And here we see a rare example of Misty proving the Infinite Monkey Theorem.




    ( :p )
     
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  10. Yal

    Yal GMC Memer GMC Elder

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    I think the problem with industry sequels of today is that instead of making "the same thing, but better", as happened a few years back, we get "more of the same thing", at least gameplaywise. I'm not sure whether this is because of the focus on impressive graphics means gameplay suffers, because the insane scale of AAA projects means nobody knows exactly HOW parts of the engine works so gameplay parts are copied over unchanged so nothing gets broken, rather than incrementally improved, or because the focus on impressive setpieces that HAS to be made from scratch means normal 'filler' level design gets suffering. I wouldn't be surprised if it's a combination of all of them.
     
  11. RichHopefulComposer

    RichHopefulComposer Member

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    lol, Yal. Those are only the ****ty AAA devs. There are just as many indie devs (more actually) who put out terrible, uninspired gameplay. Making games is just hard, no matter what size the team is.
     
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  12. sylvain_l

    sylvain_l Member

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    worse then that, you compete also against all the game created through time. Cause now with cloud and steam-like, abandoware sites, opendev&fan&cie site, p2p you don't have to care about the cd/dvd not being available at your game shop or where to store it at home.


    problem is (or in fact not) that video games industry is mature, and responsive. Entry cost is nearly null (AAA UE4 engine is free, you can find assets for free, there are enough youtube vids about anything). Any breakthrough (in term of gameplay or anything else) can be replicated really fast.
    And at the other side of the chain, big AAA franchise like assassins creed cost as much as hollywood blockbusters. You can afford to fail when you invest ?$100M? in production. So you stick to what's sure.
     
  13. Alex Lyons

    Alex Lyons Member

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    Here are some tips on marketing that could help an indie game:
    • Create a landing page for the game (ex: www.alexlyonsgames.weebly.com/senioritis)
    • Get a twitter account just for the game and use hashtags like #gamedev in your posts about the game
    • Make appealing thumbnails and screenshots to use for promotion
    • Don't be shy! Make connections with other developers, publishers, and potential fans
    • Think big, start small
     
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  14. Ethanicus

    Ethanicus Ethan L!

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    I needed that one.
     
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  15. Harest

    Harest Member

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    A relatively old (September 2015) article from Jeff Vogel on that subject. I think it's still relatively accurate, with an advice that's still spot on :
    And maybe that's why we see more and more games released every day (as well as the tools accessibility), with Steam not being anymore what it used to be before in term of "guaranteed" visibility.
    My personal opinion on this matter is it's definitely not a safe activity for a living. Making a good game isn't enough and there's a lot of parameters for a game to succeed. Many of which you'll not be able to control. But as long as you're doing what you want to do, "just do it" ?
    I've a special vision about it (call it utopian if you want), that you shouldn't do something you don't like all your damn life just to (survi/li)ve. And i think this kind of vision is a lot more popular for the youth than for older people. Also full employment is a damn myth and more and more jobs will be automated quite soon.
     
  16. anomalous

    anomalous Member

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    Feeling terrified as an entrepreneur about to release a product that has not been vetted thoroughly IS terrifying. That's part of the price of admission.

    The difference to other careers is largely that you're not choosing a job really, you're being an entrepreneur. This means big risk, big reward potential. To avoid that, you try to work IN the game industry, which is probably fairly competitive and fairly low relative market wage. Or get a job at any place, etc.

    Games are a complex form of art. Think "starving artist". If you intend to live solely on your own personal art that you own and produce (the game), then you should anticipate being a starving artist. This is how it works, if it didn't, everyone would magically be a huge success, and that's not market-possible.Many indie developers worked in industry and did it part time until it hit. Some had a hit then went back to industry, its all over the map.

    It should be terrifying, and I don't think it really gets easier, even if you are wealthy, or a success...it may even get harder.
     
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  17. Alex Lyons

    Alex Lyons Member

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    I'm a college student for a video game design associates degree. I'm still uncertain about what I'll do after college. I'm currently making a game (Senioritis) with a small team.

    The absolute best case scenario for me is that this game sells millions and I won't have to worry about money ever again. But, the odds of that, let alone the game being profitable to begin with, are still in the balance.

    My fail-safe plan is to work in the industry. Where or who that'll be? I don't know.
     
  18. ShiEksdee

    ShiEksdee Guest

    Sometimes it's just "the right game at the right time" scenario that skyrockets a game to fame. Most of the insanely popular indie games I know of didn't get popular until a little after a year of their release. Just something to think on.
    Also games played by famous Youtubers seem to have a bearing on what gets discovered. I've seen games go from 0 to full throttle in discovery minutes after a Youtuber finds and picks it up.

    And no quality =/= sales. I've seen groundbreaking and phenomenal games sell poorly, and regurgitated garbage sell quickly and massively. However, said garbage games usually had a ton of marketing poured into their release. You can sell people practically on anything these days if you have the know-how. That's something else to think on.
     
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  19. Yal

    Yal GMC Memer GMC Elder

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    I think a lot of groundbreaking games don't sell well simply because they're new, people don't know what to expect and the genre doesn't have any fans that might pick it up to sate their thirst while waiting for the next AAA game of the genre to come out.
     
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  20. Storyteller

    Storyteller Member

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    not as long as Im around.
    as long as there are indie developers, indie dev isnt dead. maybe some of them, just give up is all.
     
  21. Ethanicus

    Ethanicus Ethan L!

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    *cough cough*
    Phil Fish.
    *cough cough*
     
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  22. Skull Wolf

    Skull Wolf Member

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    If I were you, I wouldn't worry about sales for the first game or compare yourself to them. Because of the sad reality; unless it is something super unique and/or you advertise for it like crazy, you won't have but the average 1,500 sales. However, I don't feel that is a fail in any way, shape, or form. Because now you have made a great game and have sold 1,500 copies and that equals 1,500 fans, who are now talking about your game and excited to see what you will do next. Then when your second game comes out you have money to invest into it from the 1,500 copies you sold of game one along with 1,500 fans helping to spread the word.

    Personally, I feel you should smile and be happy you are smart and made a game. A task many try and fail at, sell your copies whether that be 10 copies or 1 million. If you keep investing time and hard work into your games; the sky is the limit.

    Ark: Survival Evolved is made by an independent developer and has had thousands of sales on many platforms.
    (NOTE: Before it released they paid for some massive advertising.)
     
  23. Ninety

    Ninety Member

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    1500 copies sold will never equal 1500 dedicated fans who will market for free, especially considering that most games aren't that exceptional.
     
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  24. Skull Wolf

    Skull Wolf Member

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    Sadly, you are right.... However, without seeing we won't know; maybe this game is that exceptional. But yes you are right I will say again, but the post was meant to encourage was all. Yet, 1500 copies sold will help spread the word for your game is true because whether they like it or not they will talk about it and help promote even if they don't mean to. Like the phrase; only bad publicity is no publicity.
     
  25. Neutron Dust

    Neutron Dust Guest

    1,500 across all platforms and store fronts, or 1,500 on a particular store front for a single platform (eg.. Steam/Windows)? I know i'm asking for specificity on an estimate, but the more information.... etc.
     
  26. Skull Wolf

    Skull Wolf Member

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    I would say 1,500 through Steam unless you plan on advertising it yourself major. Not all sites have the following Steam does. Xbox is another good place you could probably sell 1,500 and easily reach the 2,000 - 3,000 mark I would say if you used both. However, it really all depends on the style of game your making and just how unique it is. If your game is just like 300 others listed you better have something that makes it stand out. (Story, Art, Music, just something that makes people say wow.)

    Look at Nuclear Throne (if you don't know it; here is a link, http://nuclear-throne.wikia.com/wiki/Nuclear_Throne_Wiki ) It was made with GameMaker and sold on PC then PS4 and last I heard had sold over 15,000 copies. So maybe try PC and PS4 like they did. Because this game shows that having a unique story and funny characters is all you really need to sell copies, the graphics are simple pixel style. (The cover art is pretty cool though.)

    Also remember, you will want to start now getting into the Xbox Developer and PS4 stuff, it took me 2 months to become eligible to list my game on Xbox.
    Here is a link to Xbox's Dev area to get you started, http://www.xbox.com/en-US/developers
    and here is the PS4 link, https://www.playstation.com/en-us/develop/

    Please remember I am not saying all games will sell by listing in these places, but your odds increase by using the major platforms. I hope these links can help others on here and good luck to everyone! ;)

    Also, just because you think your game is worth 59.99, maybe get a second opinion. Cheaper can be better and increase your sales major. Not saying you would do that, but it's a common mistake game dev's make. Once more GOODLUCK!
     
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  27. Neutron Dust

    Neutron Dust Guest

    I'm fairly far into development, but my project is probably better suited for mobile or touch screen environments than console platforms, although it could easily be converted for controller support. Thanks for the advice!. You seem like a wise fellow Skull Wolf. What are some way to get exposure on these storefronts that don't break the bank. i have all the money and time to finish the game, but marketing may be a tougher thing without much of a budget. Any ideas? My thumbnail is a sprite from my game just for an idea of the art style (I'm new so no links yet. Sorry for that inconvenience.) so my art is going to be the strong point (and maybe selling point) of the project. This forum is not for the purposes of promotion, so the questions I guess are, is there a place or process specifically by which I can gain visibility for an Art Heavy project, and is there any difference in what works best for different kinds of games. It's a visual novel/puzzle game.
     
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  28. RichHopefulComposer

    RichHopefulComposer Member

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    Nuclear Throne didn't sell because of its "unique story and funny characters," lol. I'm sure those helped, but Nuclear Throne sold as well as it did because it was an extremely well made game with a ridiculously satisfying core gameplay loop.
    Also, those "simple" pixel graphics are better than almost anything I've seen on these forums. They're not as simple as they might look.

    @Neutron Dust: You can post your game on game dev forums (like here or tigsource) or on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook and crap. It's going to be hard to gain followers (though it is possible) unless your game looks amazing, though. It's definitely possible to make a living selling "just okay" games, but it seems like a lot of hustling and a lot of luck, to me.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2017
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  29. Never Mind

    Never Mind Member

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    I'd say it depends on what individual ("indie") means to you. We're all building on the shoulders of giants.
    Everyone can create potentially valuable things. For me it doesn't matter how many people make a game.

    Marketing is just a filter we prefer to use when sharing and locating things of value.. there can always be great things made by individuals, and communities.

    I am personally excited for the future. I believe individuals will continue to have access to even greater tools and possibilities. It will become more possible than ever for people to create games themselves that they truly desire.
    Along with that, I'm excited to see community efforts continue pursuing projects with even larger scopes, things that individuals can't possibly create on their own with current limitations.
    I would call it change, not death.

    I am not experienced with the business and industry of games, so take what I say lightly.
     
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  30. Skull Wolf

    Skull Wolf Member

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    Agree, pixel art is hard, but not as hard as some the game's graphics out there is all I meant by that. Yet, think about it: if Nuclear Throne didn't have those cute characters and story most wouldn't have tried it. Just think no story and a cube going around shooting, in my opinion, that doesn't sound as fun as being someone like Fish lol idk though that goes back to personal opinion though because most gamers don't watch for the core, they see something eye-catching and that causes them to want to know more is how I should have worded that I guess.


    Lol first I am a girl, the fellow made me laugh. I guess I should have put female on my profile. Without breaking the bank, that can be done with some effort. Join every forum you can, create a facebook page for your game, talk to other game developers (most will be friendly), make a youtube video to advertise your game, and talk to bloggers and YouTubers. Get some reviews and feedback on your game. There are many YouTubers that love being the first to play something :) not to mention bloggers love getting the scope first. I can come up with a list and message you if you like for some people you can reach out to.

    And that art looks neat, maybe make some cool background images for computers and have your logo and game title on them, share on facebook a few times. Idk though it is tricky to say one way of getting the word out, it all depends on what you are willing to do and how much time you want to invest into it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2017
  31. RichHopefulComposer

    RichHopefulComposer Member

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    Are there games with better graphics out there than Nuclear Throne? Yeah, obviously. Do most indie games (especially around here) have better graphics? No, not even close. It seems a little strange to call NT's graphics "simple" when most indie devs couldn't match them, to me at least.

    Yeah, the cute characters helped the game's popularity. Just like the sound design, art, gameplay, controls, and everything else did. Like I said, it's a very well made game. "It sold because it has cute characters" is ridiculously reductive, though. There are a million games on Steam that look cute and play like ****, and none of them made millions of dollars like Nuclear Throne did. Nuclear Throne spread like wildfire because it's a blast to play. Yes, the art design was one part of many that contributed to that. =)
     
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  32. Ninety

    Ninety Member

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  33. Neutron Dust

    Neutron Dust Guest

    I apologize for the gender gaff Skull Wolf, but I also place zero importance on it. I think my main problem so far as far as getting visibility has been the size of the demo, and the engine I used originally was not well suited for the project. Right now it's 1/10th the size and more complete than it originally was (33MB from 350MB), and i'm already getting more downloads after just 1 day on itch.io. Plus it's running at about 600 frames with better functionality (granted it's not done yet, but I am blown away by Game Maker Studio 2's performance) as opposed to about 20 frames in the old demo. Is there any wisdom in my thinking about file size, or does that not tend to matter. The logic side of me say more people would download a smaller demo, but maybe your experience has been otherwise. My point to this is I have multiple problems which need addressing at this point besides just the marketing. I'm not shy and I'm not scared to make a fool out of myself, so I would certainly love any contact info that can be given with the caveat that I intend to actually follow through on contacting them. Thanks to Everyone!
     
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  34. sharpie89

    sharpie89 Member

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    I would say yes for windows games. But the android market is flooded with ****ty games and the better ones stand out way more. The windows market has A LOT of great games. But, yeah, depth is becoming a large factor in games. Factorio for example was original, but it wasn't about it's originality, it was about its depth. It has the deepest and most complex gameplay i've seen since... something like sims or rune factory frontier. Those games will still be played to this day, because they have so much you can do in a world that doesn't grow old.
     
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