Is it getting harder for lone indies to strike it rich in the app stores?
The idea of striking it rich and quitting your day job has been capturing people's imagination for a very long time. We've all read the stories of app store instant millionaires, but gold rushes tend to go through phases. Talking to people in the industry, I'm hearing that the initial apps gold rush is petering out.
The first stage of a big gold rush is alluvial surface mining, when you can basically stumble across gold lying on the ground. Or you can grab yourself pan and work a creek bed. At this stage pretty much anyone can have a go, all you need is a strong back, a willing spirit and a few basic tools. The gold is there for those who work for it.
This first stage of a gold rush is what draws people in and creates headlines, but that surface gold soon dries up. This is when the hard work really begins, with people teaming up to dig through the basalt to reach ancient river beds -- known as deep lead mining. It's a risky venture, you can find success as a small team but you need to invest plenty of time and effort before you know whether you're even digging in the right spot.
Of course by now word of the initial gold rush has spread, and people start arriving from all around the world only to discover that it's not as easy as they thought. A lone prospector hoping to easily strike it rich is going to struggle unless they're experienced and know where to look. Even the deep leads start to run dry after a while, which is when the big corporates take over with serious quartz reef mining.
It seems that striking it lucky in an app store is getting much harder for lone independent prospectors with no experience who are hoping to develop the next Angry Birds in their spare time. You'll find the odd overnight success story, but they're becoming few and far between.
The lone prospector indie game developers who are finding success usually know where to dig, as they've previously worked in the industry and have decided to go it alone so they can bring their own ideas to life. Even then they need to come to terms with running a business rather than simply focusing on their craft. Some of them are also making money helping others choose where to dig or offering the tools (just like the people selling the pick and shovels made money on the goldfields).
Indie developers are also finding success in teaming up to dig deeper, if they've got the skills and experience to target niche markets. There's room for them to grow and be successful while the giants such as Electronic Arts and Zynga focus on quartz reef mining.
We all want to strike it rich and quit our day job, but it's much easier said than done. Just a good idea isn't necessarily enough.