Earlier this week I wrote a post about how Dome Keeper earned over $1 Million in a couple days. It is a long post but but there were a bunch of interesting findings that just didn’t fit and so I wanted to compile them into their own “bonus content” blog. So here are some other cool things I learned from Dome Keeper.
Post Your Steam Coming-Soon Page: It isn’t a deal breaker for Publishers
For most first-time-devs, I advise that you post your Steam coming soon page as soon as you have settled on the art style and have made enough unique art that in a few screenshots your game looks like a complete game. Many devs balk at this because they think that will spoil their chances at signing with a publisher. The fear from developers is that publishers want to be the ones to “announce” the game and by creating a coming soon steam page you just stole an important marketing beat from them.
I specifically asked the producer from Raw Fury who worked on, and helped sign Dome Keeper, whether launching a coming soon page was a “deal-killer.” Here is what Garnett Lee said:
Put your Steam Page up yesterday. Don’t hesitate to get an itch.io up. Don’t hesitate to make a demo. Do all of those things. The more energy and emotion you get going around those things, the better for everyone. What you want is to make a game that people are excited about. What we want is to help you find the best way to make that game and make it successful with the biggest audience you can have. The game that you are showing today is not the game you will be selling in 2 years. So go ahead and get it out there to get people’s feedback.Garnett Lee Raw Fury
My last game “failed” will that mean I am a pariah to publishers?
Just about everyone’s first game “fails.” Indies fear that this will look bad to publishers when they try to make their second game and go out looking for funding or to get signed.
Bippinbits released the casual puzzle game Of Mice And Moggies in 2021 as a dry run to see how the Steam marketplace worked. Their goal was to make $100 and get positive reviews. They did that. They got 20 great reviews.
I asked Garnett Lee from Raw fury if those “softer” release numbers was a “red flag” that could jeopardized the signing of Dome Keeper?
“We looked at [Mice and Moggies] as a green light. They [Bippinbits] are not pitching their first game, they have done this stuff before, they have at least walked through this stuff before. That has always been one of those pitfalls, you are green, you are excited, you want to do all this stuff, and then you pitch a dream game for their first game.“Garnett Lee Raw Fury
According to Garnett, the bigger worry is if you have never shipped anything. Instead they would rather see developers who have shipped, regardless of the result.
Rene had his demo up for a long time and was taking constant feedback from his community. Just looking at the credits he has pages and pages of credits for all his playtesters who helped make the game good. Don’t develop in a cave without any feedback. It will probably result in bad reviews later because nobody has had a chance to give you their perspective on it while it was still in development.
Launching without a trailer
Dome Keeper launched a Steam page in May 2021 without a trailer. Yes you can ship a coming soon page without it, and yes Dome Keeper was a success. But, I would still advise developers to put together a minimal trailer together. Just show interesting gameplay. Don’t do cinematics.
A lot of the Steam UI is increasingly showcasing micro trailers when users mouse-over your capsule. It just makes your game seem more complete.
Pink pixel art is so hot right now
Dome Keeper looks great. It is also charmingly limited in its color pallet.
It seems like so many other hit games are pink these days! Here is the proof:
If you are a solo-developer trying to fake it with crappy programmer art, simplify your palette down to just a couple shades of cool-blue-ish colors and a bright pink and you got yourself a game on the cutting edge of design!
Side note, red, white, and black used to be the hip pixel art palette, but it is all about the pinks now. For examples, see:
Thanks to the developer of Nomad Survival for bringing this to my attention.
Gamers don’t care about individual indie game developers
Ok, that is a bit of an exaggeration but not by much. Think back to when you found a really cool director or a great musician and you went back and listened or watched everything in their back catalog. People don’t really do that for indie games.
Thousands and thousands of people have purchased and spent hours with Dome Keeper. But according to Rene, this success has had zero impact on the sales of his first game (in a completely different genre) Of Mice and Moggies.
I heard a very similar thing when I interviewed Dylan about his success with Peglin. Thousands of people bought his main game but it had zero sales impact on his first game Friday Night Bullet Arena (which STILL hasn’t earned more than 10 reviews).
BUT, Dylan did find that fans do care about games in similar genres. When Dylan created a bundle with Peglin and Roundguard (another Peggle-Like-Rogue-Like) it sold QUITE well.
Fans are willing to cross over to another game if it is in the same genre, but are almost totally unwilling to if it is the same developer in a different genre. As much as we wish it were true, gamers don’t fall in love with individual indies, they fall in love with genres.