I came across an article on Fast Company recently entitled “Why Your Brand Should Piss Someone Off”, and it really got me thinking. Not only because I take a particular interest in marketing techniques (although I do–residual from college). I think it really struck me because I love finding applications for hypotheses like these in real life. I have had the the privilege of playing “fly on the wall” for far too many hours of discussion related to getting an indie studio off the ground: what the first game should be, how it should be structured, who the target market is, and (according to this article, more importantly) brand identity. It’s all about grabbing your audience by the shoulders and shaking them.
At the risk of stereotyping, consumers, especially consumers of indie products, want bold. They’re a niche market looking to have certain creative outlets fulfilled. They certainly don’t want the same run-of-the-mill experience they’ve been handed by the dinosaurs of the gaming industry for the last several decades. The way I see it, that means an indie game studio has to do the following to stand out: create a unique and interesting product and market it in a way that speaks to someone specific, at the risk of pissing someone else off.
Immediately I’m reminded of one studio in particular. While I’ve never gotten into their games, I’m familiar with them because my boyfriend used to work there. In general, they try to set themselves apart in the industry as the social gaming studio for “hardcore gamers”. If you’ve been tuned in to industry news recently, you’ve heard about them. They are called KIXEYE, and your friends have probably sent you the link to their over-the-top recruiting video “The Interview”, which took blatant swings at competitors EA, Zynga, and Kabam. The video alienated some and thrilled others, but at the end of the day, the company has reported a record number of applications. And despite criticism from some, their executives insist that the video is a good lithmus test for determining whether someone is a good culture fit. If you “got” their video, chances are you want to work on the type of games they create – Facebook games for hardcore gamers.
As an indie studio, you have a chance to finally tell your stories, through both your brand identity and your game idea, without a publisher homogenizing your ideas by committee. And sadly, if IndieGames.com feels need to ask ”Are indie developers censoring themselves?” then you’ve got to wonder if indies aren’t taking advantage of one of the greatest benefits of being an indie. If you are going after a certain type of gamer, be unrelenting about it. Gamers will love it. Well, except for the ones you piss off.