This was lifted directly from my Static Games Ltd company website. I'm a student and still learning as I go, so forgive me if this seems obvious or unprofessional to some, and please feel free to leave any advice in the comments!
To preface this post, I would just like to cover myself by saying that quite a lot of people have previously come to me for advice on starting up a company, developing a game, and generally being an indie dev. So let me start by saying I'm probably not the guy to ask. My experience is limited, I'm the managing director so I'm not directly involved in making the games anymore and I'm still learning the whole process of being an indie and an entrepreneur myself, so it's basically a case of the blind leading the blind here. That said, if my failings help someone else succeed, then so be it - I'll explain some of the lesser known pitfalls I've pulled myself out of so that hopefully you won't fall into them as well! Just don't take this post to be comprehensive or gospel, and don't assume that it applies to everyone - it was written from my very specific point of view, so no guarantees it can help you!
So with that said, I'm going to paint a picture of how I think 90% of the business plans are going to sound for readers of this blog post. You're looking to start up an indie dev studio. You've got your computer, you've got the skills and you've got the enthusiasm. A bunch of your friends are interested, and you're all going to work full time from home, some of you coding and some of you doing art. Either you're sharing a home, or you plan to use Facebook and Skype, and you'll share your files using those two methods. You've got a game title planned which you think is awesome, and you're certain that other people are going to enjoy it once you release it. It's probably a mobile game, you probably want to release it on Android and iOS, and you probably think that it can sell millions. If this broadly describes your thought process or your intentions for the company, hold your hand up now. Is your hand raised? Good, mine is too, so I can probably help you. Is your hand down? Just read on anyway. You might find it useful, or at the very least you can laugh at my previous incompetence. So here goes with ten things which I wish I had known before I started out.
1. Someone has to run the business.
What we at Static Games failed to grasp when starting up was that running a business and a development team is not a small part time job for one of the developers. It's a lot of work. Seriously. A lot. In fact, I'm now the managing director and that's what I do full time. I have contributed to the coding and development on occasion, but developing games isn't actually a part of my regular day job and probably isn't ever going to be. I was the unlucky member of the team who had to trade off my future developing games and become passionate about running a company instead. Luckily, I enjoy business so this was okay with me, but if you don't enjoy business, then go out now and find someone who does. Not only that, but make sure they're comfortable talking to people and giving presentations, or tell them to learn! As an example, I perform networking and gaining contacts, I sort out finances and taxes, I arrange contracts and perform negotiations on the company's behalf, I look for opportunities such as competitions, loans and grants, I handle project management and keep projects on track, I handle budgeting and ensure that we make good games but within financial parameters, I present whenever the company gives a presentation, I handle paying staff, I sort out any disputes, I make most business decisions, control leadership and direction of the board and the company, and generally perform pretty much any non development related task you can think of... And when I find the time I handle the marketing too. Which leads nicely on to point two...
2. Put as much effort into marketing a game as you do into making it.
There is absolutely no point in making a game if you never tell anyone about it. One thing which we really neglected at Static Games for a very long time was marketing our product and putting our names out there. But if a customer has never heard of your product, or if they never see the game, how do you propose to get this person to buy it? Marketing goes a long way to dictating your sales, and sales are what will determine your money and your success. Marketing doesn't have to cost anything, and with the internet making it so easy to get your name out there there's no reason not to start marketing immediately, though most of you won't! So many people get so caught up in building the product that they neglect building a fan base or letting people know the game exists, and if you release a product with no hype and which no-one knows about, your sales will reflect this. It takes time to build hype and excitement around a product, but it costs nothing to set yourself up on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or other social media, websites can be made for free on places like Blogspot and WordPress and emailing press and outlets like YouTubers costs you nothing and can build a mutually beneficial relationship. Marketing will take a lot of time, but you need to put a lot in to get a lot out of it. If you're going to spend months making a game, it make sense to do everything you can to make sure you can sell it.