Mark Stanley, the chairman of the Collective, chats with GameDaily about diversity, discoverability, and the challenges of indie development.
The indie game space is notoriously challenging, with a seemingly insurmountable number of obstacles that creatives must overcome in order to bring a product to consumers. Between budgetary constraints, inflated development times, and the ever-present specter of discoverability looming above it all, navigating the market can feel impossible for smaller teams. To that end, the International Game Developers Association’s indie Special Interest Group (SIG) has announced a new initiative aimed at helping the little guys.
"The Global Indie Collective focuses some of the brightest minds in our industry on solving the problems that indie developers face," Renee Gittins, executive director of the IGDA told GameDaily. "As an indie developer, it can be difficult to navigate all of the challenges a development team faces. Large game teams are formed of many specialists, including lawyers, business developers, and marketing professionals. As an indie developer, you often have to wear many of these hats and do not have a degree or as much background in all of these roles.
Indies also have to navigate publishing processes on their own, which can be a daunting challenge for those who have not dealt with them before."
The Global Indie Collective is a diverse group of 33 industry veterans who have come together to support independent developers around the world. The goal is to give them access to the vast wealth of knowledge these professionals possess by offering one-on-one consulting, marketing strategy insights, tips for community building, and more generalized advice.
“The games industry is more than just big platforms and publishers. The true magic comes from the thousands of independent developers around the world who are constantly innovating and pushing the boundaries of creativity and design,” Mark Stanley, the founder and chairman of the Collective, told GameDaily. “The goal of the Collective is simple: to leverage the vast experience of its members to help indies around the world.”
Stanley said that he wants to help indies achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves, and acknowledges that these goals are going to vary from dev to dev. The Collective’s personalized consulting is an effort to help in that regard.
“Their journey to success--in whatever way they define it--will be filled with challenges ranging from strategic planning, business development, production, financial management, marketing, people and partnerships,” he explained.
For Gittins, the Collective is more important now than ever before. Indie development is difficult enough under normal circumstances, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the arduous qualities of the business.
"Indies right now are facing even more challenges than usual with the current state of the world under COVID-19," Gittins told GameDaily. "Many indies form important business connections and find support at conferences and other events. With these events canceled for the foreseeable future, it is a particularly challenging time for indie developers."
Stanley’s experience has made him well-equipped to chair such an organization. He’s a 20-plus year vet of the industry, which includes a three year stint as GameStop’s vice president of new ventures and diversification, and head of GameTrust, the retailer’s indie publishing effort. Currently, he’s the president of Playful Studios, the indie developer behind New Super Lucky’s Tale.
“It was important for me to find and define a platform that would allow me and other industry veterans a way to give back to a community we so love,” Stanley said of the Collective. “When the IGDA reached out to chair the indie special interest group early this year, it was a perfect opportunity to leverage their global platform for the Indie Collective to reach indie developers around the world, and help in any way we can.”
As one of the primary challenges faced by indie developers, discoverability is certainly on the forefront of Stanley’s agenda. But the rapidly-expanding and shifting nature of the games industry makes it tough to fabricate a one-size-fits-all solution. Therefore, the best bet for tackling this issue was to diversify the Collective’s members.
“The growth of our industry has turned it into a true blue ocean, yet it has also increased the chances of a game--and consequently, a studio--drowning in such a high-volume, competitive landscape,” Stanley admitted. “The only certainty is that there is no ‘one’ secret ingredient to a game’s success. It was important that the Indie Collective include individuals representing platform, publishing, media, independent studios, under a broad geographic diversity. It is our hope that this breadth and passion will make a positive impact in the journey of many devs as they encounter various challenges.”
That diversity is intrinsic to the Collective’s overall makeup--not just to address the geographic differences between global markets, but to ensure it reflects the incredibly varied nature of independent game development.
“It was critically important that the Indie Collective represent diversity in the video game industry as we would like to see it in the future,” Stanley said. “There are many organizations and people who have made significant strides on the diversity front, but we still have a lot of work to do in this regard.”
He explained that the people who are a part of the Collective come from a wide range of backgrounds, each of them having faced their own challenges along the way. Stanley hopes that this variety and diversity is able to accommodate the myriad unique situations exhibited by the indie sector.
"Diversity is always important, both to provide support for everyone and to ensure a wide range of understanding, skills, and background," Gittins explained. "The IGDA supports all game developers around the world, and to do so most effectively, we must take guidance from developers from everywhere as well."
The Collective’s roster includes some big names from across the wider games industry, including Andy McNamara of Game Informer, Jen MacLean of Amazon Web Services, Shuhei Yoshida from Sony, Vlambeer’s Rami Ismail, Susanna Pollack of Games for Change, and a lot more.
“What if we pulled these different individual superpowers together into one group, and pointed all of us towards one goal?” Stanley continued. “We believe we can deliver some serious good out there by harnessing this collective experience to help as many developers as possible.”
Delivering on that promise is Stanley’s prime directive, the core tenant of the Collective’s operations. The decades of experience the group boasts is an invaluable resource for up-and-coming devs. At the end of the day, that mission of helping indies is what drives the IGDA, the indie SIG, and now the Collective
“Sounds a bit cliché, but helping others is the reward. Many of us have been blessed with many exciting years in the industry, working alongside incredible people who have impacted us along the way. Our hope is to be able to give back in a massive way, one developer at a time. Our biggest challenge is to make sure every developer around the world knows this group exists, and is freely available to all.”
The noble intention behind the Collective’s cause is certainly heartening. In an industry that is no stranger to mass layoffs, studio closures, and a general atmosphere of uncertainty, it’s nice to see someone looking out for the little guys. Hopefully Stanley and company can smooth the choppy waters of independent development at least a little bit.
(Updated 5/23/2020 with comments from IGDA executive director Renee Gittins)
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