On Knowing When You’ve Got a Profitable Idea

So I mentioned yesterday that I had just started playing Crypt of the Necrodancer, and when I was searching YouTube for tips and tricks I found this video by indie game developer Ryan Clark (co-founder of Brace Yourself Games, the studio that produced Necrodancer, Cadence of Hyrule, and more).

It’s a 45-minute talk on how to consistently make profitable indie games, but much of his advice could apply to other creative art forms—so if that’s the question you’re currently asking yourself, set aside some time to watch the whole thing.

The biggest takeaway from the video is probably this pull quote:

If you are not confident in being able to explain why the hits hit and why the others did not, you shouldn’t be confident about your game’s chances either.

Clark then explains, in detail, the three-step process he uses to create a profitable game:

I evaluate the quantity and the quality of the game’s hooks.

I evaluate the viability of the market for similar games.

I consider how I can describe and promote the game.

I didn’t do any of this background work before launching into the draft of that mystery novel I’ve been mentioning lately, and it’s making me wonder whether I should have thought more carefully about THE HOOK and THE MARKET.

My initial instinct is to plow through the draft while I’ve got all of this creative energy and figure the rest out later, but Clark suggests that this how we get competent creative art that doesn’t survive the marketplace. If you put as much time into evaluating and eliminating your creative ideas as you do into putting the best of those ideas into practice, you’ll be more likely to create a hit.

He also recommends running your ideas past your potential audience as soon as possible, so I might as well run this in your direction:

In our eternal and dismal present, 35-year-old failed theater artist Larkin Day finds herself with no choice but to move herself, her crushed dreams, and her unpaid student loans and maxed-out credit cards into her mother’s guest bedroom.

In, like, Iowa.

After her mother insists that Larkin do something besides sit on the couch and scroll social media for celebrities with worse lives than hers, Larkin reluctantly joins a community choir as they prepare for a tri-city performance of Beethoven’s Ninth. When Larkin discovers the choir’s devilishly attractive accompanist dead on the stage door steps, she realizes that her ability to understand and manipulate people’s emotions—a skill honed through her years of stage training—might make her the ideal person to solve this mystery.

(Of course, she won’t be able to do this alone. This story, like so many stories, is really about the friends you make along the way.)

Anyway. That’s all I’ve got for you today, gooooooo enjoy the video and/or let me know what you think about that idea. ❤️

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