Competition isn't real

Competition isn't real

15/06/2022
indiedev, psychology

There is no competition among indie developers. The more successful indie games there are on Steam the higher your future chances of success as an indiedev.

Outsized success creates demand for more games similar to it, and as more of those games are created and each further outsized success happens, a new genre starts to establish itself.

As the audience for this new genre increases, more developers are enticed to make games for it, creating a positive feedback loop that only ends when no more outsized successes for it happen.

Since Steam established itself as the king of PC indie games this process has happened many times, both with entirely new genres and with old ones that were revived. The faster each subsequent outsized success happens, the more noticeable this process is.

Currently this is happening with the genre that Vampire Survivors has created, and while it’s still very much up in the air how far that will go, it’s clear that there’s something solid there.

There have been multiple successes following it and the audience for it is increasing. Although none quite as outsized as the original, which is somewhat bearish, but at the same time it’s only been like 6 months, so some patience is warranted.

In any case, I’m not the only one who thinks like this:

There’s also a more pragmatic reason to not believe in competition: the less you believe in it, the more your creativity will flow. You are what you practice becoming, and if all you practice is a zero-sum mindset then that will be reflected in your work.

Consider the developer who wants to be uniquely creative at all costs. If he’s working on a game and someone else releases something that’s very similar to his, he quits and starts on a new one, because “what’s the point of releasing this game when the idea is already out?”

The instinct to only want to release new ideas ironically will lead this dev to never creating anything actually new and interesting, because he has a zero-sum instead of an abundance mindset towards ideas. He thinks they’re a resource that can be consumed and spent, instead of one that’s endless and regenerates itself.

When working as a creative you want to reject competition for the same reason that you want to reject luck, it’s a pragmatically true idea that will coerce your body into more productive outcomes.

If you care about auto-attacking + build-making games, for instance, you should be making Vampire Survivors clones right now. Your ego should be taken out of the equation and you shouldn’t consider yourself above making a clone of a popular game.

Remixing and building upon existing work is what advances a field/genre. If you care about it then you should contribute to it regardless of how much money or status that contribution will give you.

And a final point: there’s only one instance in which competition exists, which is when two games are very similar and released within a few days to a week of each other. In this case both games will compete for the attention of the same audience and then only one will win, generally the one with better memetic fitness.

For instance, if a game very similar to SNKRX - like autochess elements, auto-attacking, build-making and arena shooting - released 3 days after it, that would be competition. If it released 3 months after it, then it wouldn’t. In the latter situation the game actually benefits from SNKRX coming out first and establishing an audience for that exact type of game, which makes the second’s success more likely.

Even if you define “very similar” very broadly, like, let’s say, your game is a roguelite and you really don’t want to compete with any other roguelites, you can use something like steamdb’s upcoming page to pick a relatively empty day with no other big roguelites coming out.

If you look it up there are not that many roguelites released daily, it’s usually one or two. And if you filter further by “good” roguelites then they’re a lot more sparse. And roguelites are like one of the most popular genres of the last decade, so for other genres this exercise goes even better.

In any case, competition isn’t real, except when it is, but it generally isn’t. Believing this increases creative flow and aids egoless building, which precedes true creativity.