So you’ve made that decision. You are going to make a Commercial RM game and make some cash!
It will be easy right, just make a game, and throw it out there and you’ll be rolling in dough.
Okay, if you read that last sentence and where nodding your head, you might be in for a bit of a reality check. If you read it and wondered if maybe I needed to have my head examined, I promise I don’t! At least not over this. Being a commercial success is a process, and you need to really do your legwork first.
Step 1: Do I have the Skills?
The first thing you need to ask yourself is: Do I actually have the skills and experience to make a commercial game? There is no shame in NOT having the skills. Nobody starts with them.
Have you ever finished a game? What kind of reception did it get? Did you rely on a lot of materials that you wouldn’t be able to use in a commercial project?
You need to be honest with yourself. Have you proven that you make is going to be commercial quality? If you don’t think it is, don’t give up! That just means you have a little more work before you worry about coming back to a commercial project.
Work on a free game. Get feedback on it through forums and friends. Don’t rely entirely on friends. Unless your friends are known for being brutally honest. You need honest critique of your work. On top of being useful for learning, getting involved in the community will give you better social connections to help you out with selling later. Don’t try to jump straight into making a commercial game before you even learn to use the software!
Step 2: The Game
The next step is planning out the game you want to sell. This seems obvious, but it’s easy to get ahead of yourself. Until you have most of a game done, there isn’t a lot of point in getting too into the rest of the steps.
Designing a commercial game is going to be a little different than designing a free game. There are lots of features and design decisions that will have to be fit around the fact that the purpose of the game is to sell.
Here is an example: Mouse support is important. You wouldn’t think it would be, but several game portals won’t even consider your game without it. The crowd that tends to buy RPG Maker games likes mouse support, so go ahead and plan that you will need it.
Head over to game portals and find the games that sell. Figure out what they are doing that makes them sell. Look for trends.
Step 3: Funding
Inevitably, you are going to need a bit of cash to get your game out there. Maybe you want to use a script that requires some money to use commercially, maybe you need some tiles or sprites commissioned. Either way, the need for money might be there.
The first option is just to fund it yourself. This is pretty easy, and has the least risks. Yes, you will spend from your own pocket, but you leave zero responsibility to make sure you finish. I would seriously suggest this option if you can.
The second option is friends and family. Ok, this is an option, but not one I would use personally. Maybe you have friends and family that are more giving though! Its an option at any rate. The risk is still there, especially if you are borrowing from them to pay back later, but friends and family are a bit more forgiving. I mean, they won’t lynch you. They’ll just bring it up three years from now at Christmas dinner mid-roast.
Another option is crowdfunding. Such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo. This option is something people turn to a lot, but if you go this direction there are several good practices to keep yourself a bit safer.
- Be realistic in the goal amount. Ask for enough for what you need for materials, but don’t ask for an astronomical amount. But make sure you account for the fact that YOU WILL NEED TO PAY TAXES ON THE MONEY, and that Kickstarter and Amazon take their cuts.
- Be realistic in what you can accomplish. Don’t add a ton of stretch goals you will never finish.
- Don’t start a crowdfunding page until you are done with a huge portion of your game. You want to minimize your risk that you won’t finish. Crowdfunding has the most risks to you as you are promising something in return for that money. Just use placeholders in your game for anything you plan to replace with paid resources.
- Make a super detailed page. Include a demo. Give as much information as you possibly can.
- Research other crowdfunding campaigns. Check out what successful campaigns do that excites people, check out what failed campaigns do to turn people off.
- Stay communicative with your backers. Even if you are behind schedule, keep talking to them. People can be fairly forgiving as long as you don’t disappear on them and they know you are still working.
Step 4: Game is done, time to play it to death
Playtest, Playtest, Playtest, Playtest.
Get other people involved. Have them TRY to break your game (if you did crowdfunding, backers are pretty good for betatesting). With a free game, people will be pretty forgiving of bugs. Once they pay for it though, especially with something simpler like a 2D RPG, they expect a game that is FAIRLY bugfree. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should be as perfect as you can manage.
Don’t just play through normal. Try to do everything at every step. Do dumb things that don’t make sense. Return everywhere you can after each set of events and try to do things out of order. Basically, anything you can think of to do, do it. Players will find bugs if you leave them in there. Your job is to find them first.
Step 5: Now what?
You have a game that is playtested, finished, funded and awesome. Now what?
You have some decisions to make. Do you want to go DRM Free, or do you want to use DRM? Do you want a timed demo, or a feature restricted demo? How do you want to present your game?
Do you want to try and sell through portals, or do you want to sell through your own site? Or both?
None of these choices are necessarily right or wrong. See what is working for others, see what you are comfortable with, and try it out.
As a note, don’t try to go for Steam right off the bat. Steam is great, but they generally focus on games that are ALREADY successful. Make your game popular first, THEN try for Steam. And there are other portals you can use, just search around for them!
Want to learn more about commercial game dev? Have some questions. Check out the Commercial Dev Discussion on our forums! You can find plenty of information from general advice to where to sell your game there, with most of that advice supplied by actual successful commercial RPG Maker Developers.