Don’t Bet On Goat

12 Aug
August 12, 2014

I enjoy reading stories of viral success as much as the next guy. There’s always that fun “and then lightning struck, and man, it really took off!” element that appeals to the part of us that longs to win the lottery. Maybe we’ll be next, we think!

And, of course, like all struggling devs, I too envy the viral successes. I would love for that lightning to strike me next.

But man, way too many people read these stories and think they’re typical.

Goat Simulator sells a million copies.

Myself, the most common point of reference I hear when telling people I’m making a game is Angry Birds. Of course, those are mostly non-gamers, so you can’t expect much. But still. I sigh internally, grin weakly, and nod “Yes, something like that”.

“Oh, you’re going to be rich!” they respond. To which I again sigh.

I’d be cautious about trying to emulate virality. It sounds simple. Take a whacky idea, throw together some assets, push it out there, profit! But I’ve seen plenty of developers push out humorous gimmick games that fall completely flat.

For every one that succeeds, there are hundreds, maybe thousands, that simply disappear into the background noise of the internet. But we all suffer from survivorship bias to one degree or another. We have a distorted perception of the hit-to-miss ratio.

So personally, I’d be cautious about treating it like a repeatable formula. Sure, if the muse strikes, go ahead and whip something up, see what happens. But I’d caution against building your long-term business strategy around hoping for lightning to strike.

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