Building Your Own Customer Base
After having enjoyed my mini-vacation it's time to step onto that one indie soapbox of mine once again. Greg over at Do-it-Yourself Games finally posted the second part of an editorial written by Dan MacDonald of Rainfall Studios. In the first article he describes a problem many independent developers tend to encounter sooner or later. While services such as RealOne Arcade or Shockwave might help accessing a certain audience, they also make it difficult for the companies to build their own customer base due to the nature of the deal.
At the heart of any business is itÃ‚'s customers, a business that has customers is healthy and in charge of its own destiny. A business without customers is either dieing or not in control. When an indie developer relinquishes their right to acquire customers, they also relinquish control of their business.
I want to add that some of these business models aren't really convincing from a customer's point view as well since the accessibility of the software is being limited, too. A number of the distribution channels mentioned is set up with the US market in mind. Having to pay US$ and only a few, certain payment options offered doesn't make the purchase that appealing to people living in other regions. Add in high shipping costs in some cases and the fact that many may not consider a low-mid price investment worth the hassle and you can see that there are potential customers who will refrain from buying a game that's not available otherwise.
Easy and safe payment via bank transfer was what made me buy software from companies such as PomPom. Their games are also available through Garage Games, who received a nod for their fair deals in the second part of Dan MacDonald's feature. He elaborates on possible strategies for small developers to acquire customers on their own. It includes the suggestion to spot a niche where to market a game outside the typical audience and also doesn't forget to point out that an active community probably will be more efficient than any random advertising ever could be.