Long time no see, right? I haven’t written a blog post since May 2023, I’ve been really busy with shipping my game Creeping Deck. Now that I have a bit of time, I want to give again to the industry by sharing my analysis of a mechanic that can give you an edge depending on your position.
This is a tool mainly for programmers, I call it the “Tech Gate” mechanic.
What is the Tech Gate?
Every market has “barriers to entry”, it’s a way to say that some markets are closed because of specific factors. When you do market research, you’re analyzing why some markets are harder to enter than others.
For instance, let’s say you want to build a Car Factory.
To build a car factory you’ll need :
- A factory
- People who know how to make cars
- Parts to make cars
This is tremendous, and your lowest investment is probably 5 million euros to make one car factory.
In games, we have a strong tech component that help people make games easier. With the rise of Unity and user-friendly game engine, we see the rise of a new diversity of game creators. That’s a good thing culture wise, but it’s also harder for your own game to stand out.
When you pay attention to this mechanic, you can reach a market that is less attacked by other creators, what we often call the “Blue Ocean” in marketing.
How to analyze the Tech Gate?
Some genres are harder to do. People mostly know that from experience, because it always looks easier on the inside. The analysis is probably the hardest part, considering the industry is still learning how to make games.
To analyze tech gates, you need to quantify how much work is a competitor, and where seems to be the biggest costs.
Online Multiplayer games are a good example of this, because you can grasp why it’s hard to do it:
- You need servers (and the code with it)
- You need the gameplay (and the code with it)
- You need the players, but they may also be able or want to play single player mode
Making an online multiplayer, from the beginning, is 3x the normal amount of work of a simple game.
There is definitely a need for research into how to analyze the tech gates on games.
How to circumvent the Tech Gate? “Counter-Gating”.
The second half after understanding these gates is to understand how to get around the gate.
Miju Games has released Planet Crafter. From what I understood, they have gone around the tech gate a bit and analyzed Subnautica. They chose those things for the game:
- Have no animations
- Have no monsters
- Player is on feet without vehicles
- Use asset store for quicker production
- Simple and ugly UI
- No scripted story like
When you have found a tech gated market and learned how to get around it, marketing your game will be much easier.
One method to analyze the tech gate would be:
- First : quantify the content in the game by categories
- Second : think about the different code systems needed to make this game and that much content
- Third : check out what can be removed from the equation while still being loved by players
Estimating a project in pre-production is one of the hardest skills to gain.
Why does it help marketing the game?
Less competitors in proven markets is always very helpful. The tech gate mechanic is a hidden constraint people put on themselves.
New comers to the industry tend to follow tutorial, and you won’t find a tutorial to make a clone of Factorio because this tutorial would take hundreds of hours.
Middle experienced game developers tend to overestimate the complexity of those games and go for simpler games, but go in competition with less experienced game devs.
Senior game developers often quit the industry before, or don’t learn about marketing, or are in AAA studios, or have made a game that is in one of those tech gated markets. (Satisfactory by Coffee Stain was inspired by Factorio).
Can you give more examples of games that succeeded with this method? Or the tech-gated markets?
Factorio is a money maker that required years of work, and a custom engine. If you wanted to just make a clone of this game, good luck.
Satisfactory was made by Coffee Stain, who had shit tons of money and a huge experience in the industry. This game is fun to play AND looks good, and is quite optimized.
Here is the smart kid :
Nova Lands is a much simpler automation game, it looks accessible and fun. It probably cost 200k-400 to make instead of the 1–2 millions you need for a Factorio Like.
Cities skyline is a gigantic tech beast, one of the most ambitious game tech wise. You need a lot of 3d art, probably some AI specialists and a lot of good UI designers.
The counter-gating champion is:
Islanders is a city-builder but in puzzle mode. It just focused on looking like a city-builder, but with simpler mechanics. Smart and elegant, the developers just cheated their way through success in a good, wise way.
Thank you for reading!
Do you have any other examples of games that counter-gated the market in mind? Let me know by email or on social media!