A couple weeks ago I posted an interview with developer Dylan Gedig about the incredible success behind his game Peglin.
But looking backward, the game’s success didn’t always seem like such a sure thing. 2 years before the launch of Peglin, a very high quality game that combined Rogue-lite mechanics and Peggle beat him to the punch and had a big launch. The game was called Roundguard and it did very well for itself and got a ton of publicity. Roundguard simultaneously launched on Steam, Apple Arcade, and consoles in March of 2020. For a minute, Roundguard was everywhere.
It hit the Peglin developer hard. I found the original tweet by Dylan where he lamented the fact that someone had released a game with what he thought was his idea before he could.
It’s every indie’s worst fear: you are hard at work on a game and someone scoops you and releases one that has the same ultra-unique hook before you can!
In today’s post I am going to talk about how this isn’t such a big deal and how you should actually embrace it and actually reach out to your “competition.”
Be nice! Make friends!
So if you look at Dylan’s tweet you will see that Andrea (one of the developers of Roundguard) responded:
This twitter exchange was the start of a studio-to-studio friendship between the developers of two Rogue-lite + Peggle crossovers.
So even though Roundguard launched and sold quite well, Dylan kept working on Peglin. The two companies stayed in touch. The Roundguard developers were also smart in that they kept working on, and promoting, their game too.
We stayed friendly at all the digital conventions we were both at, pointing people to his booth and vice versa. When we coordinated the Roguelike Celebration steam feature we reached out to make sure he got his game in, for example. So we had been lightly/casually helping each other out for a while.Bob Roberts co-developer of Roundguard
Peglin launch visibility
The lead up to any launch means a ton of extra visibility to any game. Peglin was getting ready to launch and Roundguard had been out for nearly 2 years. At the same time the developers of Roundguard had been planning a version 2.0 update to their game. They decided to launch the update during Peglin’s launch. They also used a Steam Update visibility round
Look at this adorable custom capsule announcing their 2.0 update:
The two developers agreed to package their games together in a “Pegglelike Roguelike” bundle
So as Peglin started the launch cycle, all the exciting coverage from Streamers and the Steam algorithm started to splash over onto Roundguard.
Here are the daily wishlists for Roundguard in April. The peak here is the launch day of Peglin.
About 40-50% of our steam page visits over the last few weeks came from the bundle page or the bundle preview widget on Peglin’s page. The rest were from direct navigation, google, tag pages, steam home page Updated list, and discovery queue. I think we definitely got some algorithmic virtuous cycle benefit from firing all our guns at once here… selling well in the bundle helped our Visibility Round perform better than all our previous ones, and helped steam show us in more other places that generated more Roundguard specific visibility that in turn helped the bundle do better, etc.Bob Roberts co-developer of Roundguard
This chart shows Roundguard’s lifetime units sold on Steam. The spike on the right is the Peglin launch. That collaboration resulted in their second highest sales period after their launch. Keep in mind this game has been out for 2 years!
We tweeted/liked/retweeted things as you’d expect and we mentioned each other’s games and the bundle in our Steam announcement posts on each of our pages. Which resulted in people commenting on both our steam pages with good will about how nice it is that we’re promoting each other by the way. So players also like it when they see us being supportive of each other! Dylan has also mentioned that it’s nice to be able to point to us when people request features in Peglin that don’t fit his design philosophy for that game, but are things we explored in our game.Bob Roberts co-developer of Roundguard
Long before the Roundguard + Peglin collaboration, I wrote about this post about how we indies are not actually competing against each other.
Super fans of your game are eventually going to 100% it. But they are going to want more. For example, if you just Google “Games like wordle” you can see tons of articles with recommendations of more games very similar to it. Gamer’s appetites are insatiable. If you have a good concept, they will want more than you can provide them. So instead of being protective and trying to circumvent games that are similar to yours, you should be teaming up and cross promoting with them. You will share audiences that will buy both of your games.
So my recommendation is to reach out to all the devs who are currently making games similar to yours. Search twitter and steam for games in progress with similar hooks and genres. See if there are opportunities where you can market together, cross post, or share data about what has worked or not. This is not a zero-sum-game.
Secondly, I think indies devs put a bit too much stake in their hook. Yes, a hook will get someone to stop scrolling and consider your game. A good hook can also get a streamer to agree to stream your game, but the bigger factor in determining your success is to have a good game that players will spend HOURS enjoying.
Even if your hook is amazingly good, there can’t be too much “jank.” Similarly, the systems must be deep to encourage replay. As I mentioned in my Peglin article, the source of most of his wishlists came from streamers who would play Peglin weekly. Peglin was so fun that people were willing to play the game over and over again.
So if someone ends up making and releasing a game that has the same unique theme / genre / hook / mood it is not the end of your hopes of doing well. Do not give up. Your hook is the thin eggshell of your game’s marketing. It is what brings them in. The hook is surprising for just a nanosecond where they say “heh that is clever.” That effect lasts just moments in the mind of the shopper. The ultimate arbiter of your game’s success is whether it has gameplay that is enjoyable for the long term. People will be spending HOURS with your game.