Developer Dan Marshall from Size Five Games has published a post, warning others against the risks of making multiplayer games. In a recent blog post, Marshall writes:
If you’re an indie developer, don’t make multiplayer games. There are exceptions, naturally, but by-and-large the number of customers you’re ever likely to get simply isn’t there to support it.
There’s an entire breakdown on all contributing factors that would lead to the above conclusion. Alternatively, to those who aren’t deterred from the message, it doubles up as advice as well.
For instance, Marshall states that a multiplayer game needs intense hype from the start, to have players piling onto servers, preventing empty matches. To do so, it could be a wise tactic to finish the game, then start marketing it for a long time, before releasing it at all.
Multiplayer games also need bots and that’s just not feasible to factor in for indie developers. Without it, players could be waiting forever on a game, but using it costs a ton of resources.
An important part of the reasoning is that even if a game sells well, not everyone will be on at the same time. Further on, the post mentions:
People have jobs and school and are playing different games or watching Netflix.
The Copies Sold : Players Online ratio is preposterous.
In the case of Gun Monkeys, we can look up on Steam Charts how active the game is. In the last 30 days, an average of fewer than 10 people was playing at any time.
Gun Monkeys is a one-on-one game. Imagine what that would be like for regular multiplayer rounds with multiple players.
It’s a shame that Gun Monkeys can’t sustain a community with one-on-one matches, since the game’s idea and its business model both are pretty damn solid. On the game part, lobbies are easily filled and perused to see who has what skills, before going into randomly created maps for unlimited replay value.
On the business end, Marshall long ago dropped the price of the game and made a double copy the standard, so users can always give away the copy to a friend. That way, there’s always an opponent nearby.