Posted by squinky on Sep 16, 2022

In my last post from a couple months ago, I discussed how we as a co-op have gradually settled on pursuing two kinds of projects: client contracts and Soft Chaos Originals. One question we've been asked on occasion is, why don't we try to make Soft Chaos Originals our main source of revenue? This is, after all, the business model for most indie game studios: while many of them do take on client work like we do, they tend to eventually want to get to a point where they can afford to only work on original projects. And I have to admit, it does sound very appealing to only work on your own stuff and not have to deal with clients. But there are, unfortunately, huge tradeoffs to doing that.

The indie studio dream, as it's been sold to us, is to come up with a big indie darling hit that will generate enough revenue for you to create your next indie darling hit, and repeat these steps forever and ever until you die... or more realistically, until your hit fails to be enough of a hit and you can't secure any more funding and have to shut down your studio. And while the process of creating a hit is far from an exact science, gaining access to the resources needed to have a fighting chance at a hit, such as investment funding, publishing contracts, and good marketing, means you have to spend a lot of time convincing people with a lot of money that giving you some of their money will make them even more money.

As you can probably imagine, this need to impress rich people means you can't create anything too "risky" or "experimental", and you can definitely forget about anything that challenges the capitalist status quo that keeps these rich people rich in the first place! Sure, you can include "diversity", but only so long you frame it as selling to an underserved market demographic. Sure, you can be "edgy" and "innovative", except no, not like that, what are you even thinking?

Early on in founding Soft Chaos, we decided that attempting to play by these rules would only stress us out and hinder our creative process. We would rather continue dealing with the challenges of client work than feel pressured to turn every Soft Chaos Original into a hit, and we feel it's a much more sustainable business model that will make it more likely for us to continue existing in the next 5 years and hopefully more. We don't want to be forced to grow too big too fast, like many studios have to do in order to compete with the technological fidelity of the latest shiny blockbusters. And we don't only want to make videogames, or any one kind of game; we want to keep adding a variety of projects to our eclectic portfolio of cool stuff. Some of our work might go on to find a large audience and make us extra money, most of it probably won't, but in our case, the latter doesn't automatically have to mean failure, since we already have other streams of revenue.

I have to admit, though, I dream of a better, less capitalist world where everyone's basic needs are taken care of, in which we can only focus on making Soft Chaos Originals with no pressure to turn them into hits or take on client work. This isn't to say that we wouldn't still work with other organizations, though I would expect that these relationships would feel less like clients and more like partnerships. It's wonderful to imagine a world where we don't all need to be in cutthroat competition with one another, isn't it? Let's hope we can work to bring ourselves closer to such an ideal.

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