If you’re an indie game developer, then hopefully you already know about and read Jeff Vogel’s blog The Bottom Feeder. Jeff is the man behind Spiderweb Software, purveyor of old-school RPGs since 1994, and so I think there’s a lot to be learnt from him about how to make a successful business out of games targeted at a niche audience (which, let’s face it, is going to be the case for most Christian video games).

One of the things that Jeff frequently talks about is the value of finding an underserved market and serving it:

“That is the Magic Power of the Indie developer. Find an underserved market and serve it.”

(yes, that’s under-served, not un-deserved!)

My feeling, given the response I’ve had to some of my videos on YouTube and forum posts on TIGSource and so on, is that there is a lot of pent-up demand for genuinely good, well-designed Christian video games. People are jaded by what’s been done in the past, they’re skeptical that it can really be pulled off, but deep down I think they still hope it can.

Sam Washburn says that Jeff Vogel’s situation is different to ours: the market for old-school RPGs may be underserved, but it does at least exist – his games fit a well-known profile and people know what they’re going to get. In the world of Christian video games, however, people desperately fear that they know what they’re going to get – they expect it to be awful. There won’t be that high demand on day one – it will take a while for the word to get around that this game is different, that it doesn’t suck. That kind of slow and steady build-up isn’t necessarily all that amenable to App Store success, where your position in the league tables is everything.

But I’m convinced it’s possible – we’re in a much stronger position than we could be. The demand is there – it’s just figuring out how to overcome people’s skepticism that’s the challenge.

This post is part of a series attempting to blog every day in the run up to the Christian Game Developers Conference

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2 Responses to The Underserved Market

  1. Jay Jennings says:

    “…there is a lot of pent-up demand for genuinely good, well-designed Christian video games.”

    That is so odd. I don’t doubt it, but why isn’t there a demand for Christian baseball, or Christian soccer? Because most people would understand that’s just silly — a game, a pastime, doesn’t have to be “Christian” to be good and just because you don’t shout Bible verses as you round first base doesn’t make a game bad.

    Video games shouldn’t have to be any different, should they?

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t cater to the people who want to buy that kind of stuff, but I hope as you’re taking their money you’re rolling your eyes at them.

    Because a good game is a good game — if you create a “good Christian RPG” but only Christians would want to play it, then I think you probably didn’t make a very good game.

    People should want to play your game because it’s GOOD and not because it’s a Christian game. If what matters to them *first* is that it’s a Christian game, then they don’t deserve anything other than tripe with Bible verses strewn about.

    Reading back I think I’ve come off a tad more abrasive than I meant to, but really, what is a Christian game? Is it a game that appeals to Christians and not non-Christians? Or is it a game that Christians can play without feeling guilty that they’re “wasting their time” on something worldly?

    So you need a new car?
    Let your fingers take a walk
    Through the business guide for the “born again” flock
    You’ll be keeping all your money
    In the kingdom now
    And you’ll only drink milk from a Christian cow
    – Guilty by Association

    Computer games were barely a born when that song from Steve Taylor came out, and there probably wasn’t any such this as a Christian video game or he may have mentioned those in the song, too.

    I know this is too long for a blog comment and it probably feels like an attack, but I honestly don’t mean it that way. Well, not an attack at you, but maybe an attack at the idea of what people think Christian games are. 😉


    PS – I could be completely off my rocker and reserve the right to change my opinion.

  2. andygeers says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments!
    To my mind, there’s a big difference between baseball and video games – video games often tell stories, they often present a certain world view, a certain perspective on life, and Christian people like being helped to think about God and given a new perspective on life. Just look at the success of the Narnia book series. It’s hard to imagine a game of baseball ever doing that for someone, and so of course it’s hard to image a “christian” version of it.

    Christians games, however, and story-driven games like mine at that, are much easier to imagine. What *I* mean by Christian games certainly isn’t that it’s a game that won’t appeal to non-Christians – I hope that people of all faiths and none will enjoy Ebenezer – but that it will present a Christian worldview in an accessible way and invite people to ask questions and explore things.

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