The 3 Biggest Mistakes That Game Devs Make When Starting A Game Company… And How To Avoid Them

If you’re a game dev and your goal is to grow your game studio’s profits, then here are 3 mistakes you need to avoid.

And don’t worry if you notice you’re making these mistakes right now… you’ll get a quick technique showing you how to avoid each one of these big traps.

Mistake #1: Not Getting Player Feedback Because Of Fear Of Rejection

The number one fear game devs have is that nobody will like their game, and they will be disliked into oblivion.

So it’s fully understandable why game developers spend months and years “polishing” their game before asking for player feedback.

They want to present their game at the highest quality possible before they approach strangers and ask for their feedback.

They do this because they want to avoid rejection as much as possible.

But this strategy actually makes things WORSE. By trying to avoid rejection, we are actually increasing the chances that nobody will like our game.

Let me explain…

When we avoid player feedback to avoid rejection, we also make a critical mistake: We also spend time, energy, money on a game where a market may NOT exist.

We hope that our “hard work” will pay off.

We hope that the market “finds us”.

But we never track results. We never get the “pulse of the public”. We assume what we want, everybody wants.

And because we never test our ideas with what the market wants, the chance of being rejected INCREASES.

Also, all that time, money, and energy is spent on a game idea that people may or may not want.

It’s a gamble.

Of course, we can get lucky. We can spend months on a game, polish it, and show it to the public when it “feels” presentable… and BOOM… we get a lot of attention… and a brand new market opens up for us… and wishlists and followers rush in.

But if you’re making a commercial game and not a passion project, you don’t want to spend all that time, money, and energy hoping that your game will find a market. The chances of success are low because guessing isn’t a good market strategy.

So we need a better strategy than hoping we get lucky.

So how do you avoid rejection?

To avoid being rejected, we need to deliberately research our idea and validate our idea BEFORE we spend months on polish and quality.

Let me explain…

To avoid rejection, we need to validate our game idea slowly, as we progress in game development.

For example…

Let’s say my idea is to make a Bullet Hell game with Roguelike Deckbuilding features.

Even before I create a prototype… and even before I write a Game Design Document, I would go to subreddits like r/shmups, r/shmupchumps, or r/deckbuildingroguelike/, and I’d get their feedback on my game idea.

I would then use that feedback to “polish” my Game Design Document.

I’d then go back to those communities and ask them to check out my Game Design Document.

Then I’d use that feedback to finish my Game Design Document, and then start working on my prototype.

Then when I finish my prototype, I would go back to those communities and get their feedback again.

You see, you are slowly validating your idea every step of the way. If you don’t validate your idea every step of the way, then you increase your chances of being rejected.

So how does this strategy avoid rejection?

When you validate your idea at every little step, you are testing the “pulse of the public”. You are discovering what players want and don’t want. You’re slowly building a game that “sells itself”.

Of course, you need a strong vision. And you’re not trying to pander to the audience. What you’re trying to do is to see if what YOU think is cool is also cool with the audience.

By matching YOUR vision with what the market wants, you’ll avoid rejection.

But most game devs do this backward. They “polish” their game BEFORE they get feedback.

They work on the Game Design Document without player feedback. They work on their prototype without player feedback. They polish a demo minimum viable product or their actual game. THEN when they feel “ready and polished”, they ask for player feedback.

They assume what THEY want is what the majority of the market wants. So they think that all they have to do is present a “polished” demo or prologue or minimum valuable product or game. But their big mistake is, they never really found out if what they are making is what the market wants.

So they make things WORSE and increase their chances of rejection because they never learned if the market wants their game or not.

And again, this all goes back to avoiding rejection. We don’t want to approach players because our idea might get rejected. It feels better to make something of “quality” so that way we have a better chance of not getting rejected.

But this is a recipe for disaster and makes it worse because we also avoid finding out if there is a market for our game or not.

A better strategy is to slowly validate your idea every step of the way. And use that feedback to help you polish your game at every step, so you develop a game that “sells itself”. And since you’ve validated your game idea as early as you could, you know that the game you’re making is something people want.

  • Remember: Feedback THEN polish
  • Not: Polish THEN feedback

Mistake #2: Avoiding Making A Demo Because Thinking They Do More Harm Than Good

The second biggest, most critical mistake game devs make when trying to grow their game studio is the belief that game demos do more HARM than good.

This is because game devs believe that a demo is not a “fair” representation of their final game. They believe that if a player spots any issues or problems in the demo then that player will never come back and buy the full version.

Also, game devs believe that demos are expensive. Demos cost time, energy, and money — all of which could be spent on making the actual game. And if game demos do more harm than good, then what’s the point of putting all this time, energy, and money into something that doesn’t work?

But this is a critical mistake. Let me explain why…

You see… your game should be your best salesperson. A player should try your game, and your game should “sell itself”.

In other words, a player should play your game, and get so excited that they tell their friends or they post about it online on social media (i.e. Reddit, Twitter, YouTube, etc.).

But there’s one issue…

Even if your game can “sell itself”, how do you get your game in the hands of players in the first place? How do you get word-of-mouth going in the first place?

Well, your best “ad” for your game is your demo.

It’s a lot easier to convince a player to download your free demo than it it to ask them to BUY your game.

It’s a lot easier to grow wishlist and followers using your demo than it is by posting screenshots, Tik Tok videos, devlogs, and trailers.

So how do you avoid this mistake? How do you leverage your demo so that it helps you grow wishlists, followers, and increase game sales?

Remember how I said that game devs believe demos do more harm than good?

Well, here’s a different strategy…

Your demo should be a self-contained, stand-alone, complete experience.

It should be as polished as your final game.

It should have a start, middle, and end. It could be a prologue.

It could be the first level. It could be the first chapter. It could be the first area.

But as long as it’s a complete experience, then it will give your game a “fair” representation of your final product.

Treat your demo like you would treat your final launch version of your game — and you will avoid making something that is more harm than good.

Mistake #3: Making Marketing Content That Asks Players To Wishlist, Or Join Discord, Or “Buy My Game”

You might be thinking right now how stupid that sounds, and questioning everything I’ve said.

But hear me out… I’m going to shift your mindset on a few things about marketing your game…

The third most critical mistake why game devs fail at growing their game studio is because their marketing is asking the player the WRONG things.

You see, the best marketing never asks a player to buy. The best marketing never asks the player to wishlist. And the best marketing never asks a player to join your Discord.

The best marketing doesn’t cry out loud:

  • “BUY MY GAME”
  • “Watch My Trailer”
  • “Check Out This Cool Feature

And I know this is very confusing to you right now because almost all the ads and marketing you see do this type of selling.

But let me explain a few things. This will shift your mindset…

Remember, the players you’re trying to attract are selfish (as we all are). They care nothing about your game studio, the hours you spent on your game, and about your game.

Players want to know “what’s in it for them”.

And asking a player to “BUY NOW” or “Wishlist Now” is not at all appealing.

And this is why most game devs fail at marketing their game — and growing their game studio:

Their marketing DOES NOT WORK. Their marketing is asking the player the WRONG thing.

So what does work?

Here’s how to avoid this mistake in marketing your game…

When trying to sell anything, you need to “stair-step” the process.

You need “small” action steps that lead to “big” results over time.

For example, say we’re waiting for the bus, and you’re wearing a Fred VanVleet Raptors jersey.

It would be very very weird if I came up to you and asked, “hey you like basketball, I like basketball, wanna go check out a game with me?”.

You’ll definitely say NO.

That’s because it’s a HUGE commitment, especially if you don’t know me.

But say I came up to you and asked, “sucks about VanVleet leaving for Houston, hey?”. That approach is a lot less commitment on your end, and you’d reply back. If we hit it off, and we become fast friends THEN I might say, “hey, kinda out of the blue, but my buddy can’t make it, and I have a spare ticket, wanna catch the game”?

Even if you don’t like bball… even if you don’t like small talk… my point is, what most game devs do is they create marketing and go out there and try to get people to buy their game.

But just like me going up to your face and asking you to watch a game with me, asking a player to BUY NOW or WISHLIST NOW is asking a player too much of a commitment.

They don’t know you, they don’t like you yet, and they’re not going to pay money for a game they hardly know.

You need to “stair-step” the sales process.

Here’s how…

1) Grab their interest by creating valuable marketing content (YouTube or Tik Tok videos, or even blog posts).

The key here is always promise the result and benefits your player will get playing your game. DO NOT talk about game dev or updates or news (yet).

2) All your marketing content should lead them to download your demo.

This is why it’s important to have a demo (see Mistake #2). Your demo is the best “ad” for your game. Let your demo do the “selling” for you.

3) Your demo should have a “call to action” and a link to where they can join your Discord or email newsletter.

And follow up with relationship-building marketing content.

For example, talk about your dev process, and your updates, your thoughts about the genre you’re in. Now that they know you and like you and are interested in your game, then it’s ok to talk about this stuff.

4) Turn them into a fan and ask for their wishlist.

Continue to offer them valuable content and updates. Invite people to ask questions… invite them to share their stories about the genre your game is in.

Use this in your content in follow-up emails or updates on Discord. And since you’ve built a relationship with them, then ask them now for their wishlist.

5) Convert them into a customer. As you build your audience through this relationship-building process, and as you build trust, then you’re ready to start “selling” your game.

And it won’t feel like “selling” because all you’ll have to do is tell your die-hard fans the date of your launch and to make sure that they buy it to help support you.

if Your Game Launches In A Few Weeks And You Only Have 129 Wishlists, Here’s What To Do To Grow Your Audience and Have A Successful Launch…

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  • What your player wants so that way you can create content that grab’s their attention
  • Optimize your Steam Store page so that more people wishlist your game
  • How to drive MORE traffic to your Steam page using attention-grabbing content
  • How to develop a relationship with streamers and game journalists even though you’re a small indie dev with no connections
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This is a FREE 6 week course. Each week you’ll get an insight that is easy to understand. And you’ll get a step-by-step guide showing you how how to execute that insight. And after 6 weeks, the goal is to help you grow your wishlist.

Start NOW. Click the button on the right to download your free copy of the “Wishlist Workshop”, and start growing your audience!

Thanks! And looking forward to helping you find players!

Later,

Dariusz Konrad
Port Stanley, Ontario
Canada