The Biggest Advantage Indiedevs Have Over The Big Guys

by Adam Foroughi on Sep 30, 2015

Last week, I participated in two panels at Gaming Insiders Summit. As always, it was a great show with plenty of illuminating discussions. But I’d like to highlight one in particular: The topic of how indies can compete with the big publishers. There seemed to be a consensus — and one that I agree with — that the best strategy for indies is to use their size to their advantage. More specifically, indies can take risks that most bigger publishers can’t, and this is their fundamental advantage.

The panel that I moderated, “Strategies to generate the most revenue per player” touched on this point.

I had asked Jeferson Valadares, GM/VP of Product Development at Bandai Namco how much it cost him to achieve 9 million downloads of a recent title, and this was his deadpan answer:

His point was that the IP was so strong, he didn’t need to put a lot of budget behind it. But he could have. Big publishers have big budgets. So in a world where big publishers have both strong IP and the option of spending millions on UA annually, is the indiedev entirely hosed? No. No one is claiming it’s an easy path. Inidedevs can never compete with big publishers when it comes to IP or money, but they can leverage what makes them different — being nimble and willing to take risks the big guys won’t. 

One of the topics that garnered the most attention at various panels at the Gaming Insiders Summit was that of the newest Apple TV, which will have new gaming capabilities. This came up as an example of where an indiedev can make their hay, and gain notoriety while the big shops sit it out. They’ll need to see if developing for the tvOS makes sense for their budgets and earnings projections for the year.

Is it worth it for a big publisher to devote resources — perhaps diverting dozens or even hundreds of developers or teams — to build for an unproven platform? An indiedev has to ask him-or-herself the same question, but the calculations are much easier with a nimble outfit. And indiedevs can take more risks, because they don’t have to answer to public markets.

Even if a new platform like Apple’s tvOS is slow to gain adoption, indiedevs can still make a name for themselves if they are featured in the App Store, or even on an Apple commercial. This notoriety is something they can build upon and is as close to having IP that any indiedev can hope for.

So if you are an indiedev, a small fish in a big pond, embrace your situation. Don’t think about all your disadvantages, think positively about your advantages, the chief one being your nimbleness and ability to take risks.

Adam Foroughi is AppLovin’s CEO.