I think I've been going about this all wrong.
I've tried making money "developing games".
In this endeavor, I wouldn't say I've necessarily failed: my first professional game, Blobfish Evolution, was actually quite successful.
Not especially successful as a game in and of it self - not that it didn't make some money for my partner and me - but as a brand.
See, I knew this was something that people would like. I remember making it and saying to my wife and partner:
PewDiePie is going to play this.
There was just something about the creature itself, the weirdness of my illustrations about it, and the style of the game (mutant blobfish consuming its own kind to evolve), that I knew would ring a particular bell with an audience.
And I was right.
Shortly after the game launched, it was played by PewDiePie.
It has so far been downloaded about 2 million times, and at its peak it earned a not-too-bad monthly revenue. The amount of impressions it provided to advertisers was in the hundreds of millions.
One large reason it did this well was because - even though I didn't know I was doing this - I thought of the game as a brand.
I didn't think of myself as a developer. I thought of myself as more of a designer and a conductor of a market narrative centered on a particular image. I had no idea what this meant or how to leverage this particular set of natural skills.
I've done similar things here and there. Develop a brand of sorts, generate an audience, then let it fizzle because I didn't know how to leverage it and I didn't have enough time to do what had to be done even if I knew how to do it.
At one point over the lifespan of this game, I happened upon a series of websites that evaluate the value of an app based on a number of metrics. They always gave my game a $30,000 - 50,000 range.
So it's not like it wasn't worth anything, and it certainly seemed to be worth more than I was getting out of it.
And that's because I don't know how to leverage a brand for maximum production. I didn't know this largely because I didn't think of my game as a brand. I thought of it as just a game.
You see, most people don't think of their intellectual property this way.
This is probably due to the fact that most creative people are very protective about the integrity of their creations. Indie creators don't think of their creations as a brand to sell products. They think of them as a child of their mind whose purity must be protected.
But, if you actually want to make money off of your ideas, all that attitude is going to do is stop you from being successful, and it'll even stunt the potential of your creations.
When I create a character or a game or any sort of world of imagination, I want as many people as possible to be exposed to it. Otherwise, what's the point? I don't create things for nobody to see. And I have no sense of apprehension or anxiety about what a lot of attention on a work of mine brings (some people don't think they can handle that - and they're probably right).
So by not marketing my brand well, I act to stifle the potential of it before it even gets off the ground.
Now, this is just one aspect.
There's also the economic aspect, which, to put simply, is that companies want customers to buy their products.
These products could be anything from t-shirts to supplements to cars to plastic toy components.
And this is where brands play a vital roll.
You see, nobody is going to buy a little oval piece of hard white plastic. But mold that plastic and apply a little paint to look like this
And what you have is a multi-billion-dollar brand.
Just imagine that for a moment: you can sell billions of little pieces of white plastic by simply molding it into that shape.
There is absolutely no reason to want to buy that plastic. It doesn't do anything for you. You can't eat it for nourishment. You can't use it to defend yourself. It's just a molded piece of plastic. But you can sell billions of them - FOR NOT PRACTICAL REASON - just because people resonate with the brand.
And you can apply that brand to any normal thing and suddenly people will want to buy it.
Plain t-shirt? Nobody cares.
Plain t-shirt with a Hello Kitty brand on it? Sell millions.
You see, there are people and companies out there that are looking for pre-constructed, already-attractive brands to buy.
These are companies and people that have an infrastructure of product production and marketing. They know what to do with a brand once they have it. They know how to make a simple think like an oval in the shape of a kitty into a weekly cartoon, a coffee mug, an action figure, a hubcap - ANYTHING.
The catch is they need a brand that resonates with a market.
Of course, there are companies that have their own in-house design teams that come up with brands or are brand experts. These are folks at the top of the game like Google, Coka-Cola, Nesli, Hasborow, etc.
But there are also many companies who buy brands because it's cheaper to take a chance on a brand with some established audience and make it bigger than it is to spend millions on a team of experts to create and manage a brand and fail.
So they'll buy your brand off of you for hundreds of times the current value because they know how to leverage that brand to get as much money out of it as possible.
This is where I'm going to be directing my efforts in this desolate time in my life, because I have nothing better to do but give it my all and try to make something out of my creativity, which I KNOW is valuable but I just don't know how to milk it.
I have a natural instinct for creating a brand and building an audience. It's something that I can do on a whim and create something more attractive and marketable than about 1% of the population. I demonstrated this in the last three weeks by creating a comic that now has a twitter account that has generated 326.7K impressions over the last 28 days, averaging 11.4K impressions per day.
While not seeming like much by itself, this was something that has had $0 advertising dollars spent on it. It's just a social media experiment, and from absolutely nothing I was able to establish my brand as a leader in a particular market.
This isn't me trying to gloat, because in that 1% of highly creative people there are millions of even more talented and - worst of all - educated and experienced people to compete with me.
The good news is that we're in the age of the internet, where it's easier than ever for a good brand to accumulate an audience, and for a company to find a brand that they are willing to pay 10 - 100x it's value for because they think they can grow it to an even greater and more profitable size.
If you want to know what the difference is between a well-branded game and a not-well-branded game, just compare Flappy Bird with Angry Birds.
Flappy Bird is a mobile game that made a single man millions of dollars. It's just a game, and now you can't even get it in the App Store because the developer took it down. He threw something out there which happened to stick and he rode that wave for a while until it died out.
Angry birds, on the other hand, is a complete brand, not just a game. The game established an audience which in turn was used to leverage thousands of different products, from things as simple as Angry Birds Cotton Candy, to a feature-length Angry Birds movie.
Flappy Bird made one man a lot of money.
Angry Birds is a brand that sustains thousands of careers all across the globe.
Of course, I would take either of these outcomes, bu I know which legacy I'd be more proud of having.
Let me know what you think.