Finding a gaming niche worth it to develop for

Dear all,

as the mobile market gets saturated more and more and it gets harder for us indies to get even noticed with our games (heck I even don't talk about making money, but even free games get rarely more than a few hundred downloads nowadays!) I just want to discuss strategies and ideas how to enter niches and how to find them.

Personally I have now 7 games in the stores (Google Play, App Store, Windows Phone Market Place) so maybe I should just start sharing my experiences.

So my initial thought was to create something unique. I did this with my first game, even though not completely new but very unique and well received from those who accidently downloaded it. :smile:
The problem: Doing something unique makes it hard for the gamers to find as most games are found via the search function (not speaking about the top 20 charts which you simply can't enter). So how could a gamer find something he even doesn't know about and never would search for? ;)

My second approach was to just look into the top charts and doing something similar. Mainly the way that copying something that works well should create some success. Look at games like Candy Crush and so on. Up to now I haven't done that because this casual market is totally saturated, even if you make a really nice clone there are already thousands of them.

What finally worked for me best was to look for localized niches. My best working game so far is a card game (called Mau Mau) which is almost only known in German speaking countries. The competition is very small there so people looking for it would immediately stumble across it. I did another one which is a battle ship clone. This worked excepionally well especially in the local German markets. The same international version has only 20% downloads of the german one. The competition is just much larger there.

I'd be interested how you would spot niches which are worth making games for?



As a parent I'd like to see more games that are fun for kids but still educational. Minecraft is great in that it starts to teach kids how to code by modding while the game itself is fun to play. I think more games following that type of model would be great(no not saying everyone should make yet more minecraft clones). Too many educational games are just pure lame either in the fun dept or the teaching dept.


I agree with both of you.

It's hard to get noticed, espically when people like us usually aren't some big company to throw our games down peoples throat every day on TV and tell them it's the best game because we made it.

Wish it were that easy.

If you notice the way trends work, a lot of it goes by the way the Art looks to them.

Top End Graphics - Call of Duty
Lowest end of Graphics - Minecraft

yet Minecraft is probably more popular than COD. It's a close one.

People aren't really so much worried about Graphics as it appears, Top End Companies aren't realizing this.
yeah Minecraft is fun because you can do almost what you want, but it's more to it and we as developers know this.
But we all have in our heads that people want AAA Graphics and that's what a lot of people try to go for and completely fail.

Because truthfully, graphics can go get kicked down the Spartan hole and never return, because Graphics SUCK.
The WOW factor isn't any longer about Graphics, it's about what you can do in the game.

Could you imagine cutting on COD and next thing you know you can shoot off some orb and it starts sucking things in like a black hole and makes the level look all distorted and if it catched you blows you up. That would cause a WOW Factor, because that is FUN.

But I agree with Tiggus.

Right now I'm focusing on a kids game like Banjo Kazooie. It's fun for kids and Adults, however - it will have trival puzzles that will help kids brains get better at learning things, you know what I mean if you've ever played Banjo Kazooie.

This game is going to take me awhile to make, but it's well worth it.

But the biggest way to get any game developed in my opinion, is to get a major organization to sponsor it and let their marketing team handle it, give them a deal by donating a pretty good percentage to every sale to them.
That's my agenda and hopefully I'll have an answer soon by this said company.

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Thumbs up for recognizing the issue. The old cliche "build it and they will come" doesn't apply to websites or apps, or most anything for that matter because as you stated hundreds or thousands of others have already built it, are currently building it or building something similar.

This gets into the whole USP focus in marketing. That is a good start but hardly helps when the potential customer must first be able to find your game to even have the opportunity to learn what the USP is. You can make the greatest game ever but until someone actually finds out about it the game will be a flop.

One thing Indies could do a lot better is work together. Cross promoting each others games seems to be rarely done. Very simple to implement and a proven method for increasing awareness. If 3 people are building "runner" games all they need to do is at the end of their app place a "if you liked this game you may also like these games from my partners:" and then link to the other two developers' games. They do the same thing and in this way every time any one of your games is downloaded the customer gets a direct referral to the other games.

A lot of this stuff was already figured out back in the shareware days and again in the hot time of the "make money online with a website or writing an ebook" days. Of course, there are new things available such as Kickstarter but I think soon that will become so overcrowded its effectiveness will also dwindle.

Focusing on tiny niche markets is a very sound strategy and the path I took when I was building websites to make money online many years ago. These micro niches are too small to be catered to by the giant developers / publishers but are excellent for Indy developers.

The key is figuring out how to locate your target market. They probably hang out in certain forums online for example. By joining and participating in those forums you can find out what they want, what they like about existing games in the micro niche, what they don't like and then build a better game for them.

One thing is for certain, any dev wanting to do this to make money needs to be focusing more time on marketing than on developing the game. Yes, people will likely give me flak over that but it is the way it is. If you have marketing connections or services that are handling that for you then you can focus on your game development exclusively. But someone needs to be focusing on the marketing.


There someone goes again mentioning minecraft which is a one in a million exception. You really shouldn't mention minecraft, guys. Unless of course, you're making minecraft clones. Hint: you're probably not.

It's fair to say that graphics are high on the list of priorities for most gamers.

I'm surprised there aren't more games focused around learning programming. Ceebot, and its older variation Colobot, are the only two games I know off-hand that attempted to teach coding and I actually enjoyed playing.

Which if you're making a minecraft clone, do us all a favor. Design in modding from day one.

I mentioned it because it is a good example of a game that is fun and can teach a skill at the same time, and I would do it again! Why derail the thread when the intent was clear?

In my case I was referring to:
If you notice the way trends work, a lot of it goes by the way the Art looks to them.

Top End Graphics - Call of Duty
Lowest end of Graphics - Minecraft

yet Minecraft is probably more popular than COD. It's a close one.

People aren't really so much worried about Graphics as it appears, Top End Companies aren't realizing this.
yeah Minecraft is fun because you can do almost what you want, but it's more to it and we as developers know this.
But we all have in our heads that people want AAA Graphics and that's what a lot of people try to go for and completely fail.
..Which is wrong IMHO.

Ah my misunderstanding...internet contexts :hushed:

I don't exactly see how I am wrong, yeah it's a one in a million, but that one in a million can happen to anybody if they know what they are doing.

I don't exactly see how it's wrong though, Minecraft has the crappiest graphics I've ever seen sense the NES.
COD has the best graphics I've seen, except for Xbox One and stuff.

People obviously don't care much about graphics if they play Minecraft.

Sounds like gambling to me, but each to their own :)

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Well Minecraft has just this "Lego Look and Feel". That's why you don't need good graphics for THIS game but I think you can't generalize it.

Hippo - I wasn't trying to do a debate or anything, I was just trying to generalize out that you can still make a good game people will play even without the best of graphics if your game is kick starting something new off, as that person did.

Which is hard, how did he know millions of people would like a Blocky game outside of his friends and associates.
he took the risk and look how rewarding it became.

He made a clone of a game and didn't expect it to be successful at all. The modding community got wind of it. But that ship has sailed.

Really? What game was he trying to clone?

Infiniminer. Which a fair amount of Minecraft's initial state was really Infiniminer with the choice of making gameplay centered around what the community of Infiniminer was already doing. Minecraft wasn't as risky as you'd think.

Hmm. Never heard of it to be honest lol.

Well anyways lets keep this on topic now lol.

Most people never heard of it until Minecraft came out. Talk about finding a niche though. Only catch was the source code was leaked and the author got discouraged enough to stop development.

Analyze the communities surrounding a game. Sometimes the game is designed for a certain playstyle, but the community decides to do it differently.

Another thing to consider are games that may be seem unrealistic to develop. Dwarf Fortress, for example, has been in development for over a decade. Some find the mechanics too much, some find the visuals too primitive, some find the UI to be a nightmare.

Yet it still manages to bring in enough donations to keep the main developer and his brother working on it full time. Donations fluctuate but they've held pretty steady in the thousands with July, when a major release occurred, hitting over $15,000.

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Oh wow, that would be a great bummer, that would probably make me want to quit too, all that hard work just to get leaked out to the public for them to do it.

There's still niches out there that haven't been discovered, it's just putting use to our brains to figure out what it is, thinking out of the box brings great ideas, but it's hard to truly think out of the box because were all used to what we play, and it's always the same thing over and over and over again lol.

Grfx doesn't have to be OMG amazing, but I even personally have shunned games due to poor graphical immersion. In short it has to look good and that doesn't automatically mean realistic..

To some degree I agree with Hippo, minecraft is the exception not the rule. Do the best you can, on finding a game niche it's hard to hit a formula that hasn't already done. So to start with I'd pick something successful and make sure you can twist it as much as possible.