Show Me The Games

November 19, 2010 | Filed under: business

An idea as old as stonehenge, is that indie game developers should band together and start up an ‘indie portal’. The idea goes to discussion, then argument, then an obsessive ranting over the topic of what is considered indie, and then devolves into a sort of kibbutz-style hippie-love-in where no decisions ever get made because everyone had to agree on everything, which never happens, because we are, as a tribe, very independent.

So after watching this spectacle about 100 times over the last decade, I decided that what was needed was someone to just bulldoze ahead like an egotistical dictator* and say “this is what we are doing, take it or leave it”. I also thought that a full blown steam-style portal would never happen, so thought it best to start smaller. And this is how ShowMeTheGames got started.

Here is the website in question:

It was a domain name that was free, and reminds me of Jerry McGuire, which is, after all, a story of a guy quitting his corporate job to go indie…

Now I know what you are thinking, “why haven’t I heard about it then?” isn’t it usual form for me to go on a publicity blitz? When am I going to punch Keith Vaz on live TV? The whole point of SMTG was to prove 2 basic concepts:

  • You can get almost 20 indie game developers to co-operate, and actually pay money into a mutual project
  • You can make advertising work for indie developers, it we club together. (this is why we tested it as an ad-driven site at first)

I think SMTG proves both, but you’d have to ask each contributor if its working to get an unbiased view. Basically, we have been running google ads that point to that page, on the basis that if you see an ad for defcon, come to SMTG, you might try out defcon, but you might also like GSB, or Smugglers IV or Castle Vox… That way, it’s like having the advertising and catalog clout of a portal, yet we all still independent, all taking 100% of the sale price. The site is php and randomises the order of the games, so nobody has a better slot than anyone else.

I think there is some future in SMTG. We might start running competitions to win games, or have discount bundles of our stuff, or post up interviews and previews of new games. I just don’t know yet. So far, it’s just an experiment. One decent outcome from it so far is this:

If you are trying to explain to someone what an indie game is, you no longer have to point them at a single example or wave your arms saying “Stuff like World of Goo”. Just point them to, it has a whole bunch of the best indie games I could find. If you can find it in your heart to tweet a link to the site, hashtag #smtg, that would be awesome.

*can you guess who that was?

24 Responses to “Show Me The Games”

  1. Tadhg says:

    Isn’t this sort of what Greg Costikyan tried to do with Manifesto Games?

  2. cliffski says:

    Not quite, because we aren’t acting as a sales channel. Its just a mutual pooling of traffic. You still buy the games from each developer, so there is nobody taking a cut of anything.

  3. jack_norton says:

    Cool, once I have finished Planet Stronghold I plan to “rejoin the club” :)

  4. john burton says:

    Looks great. Do you have any advertising banners or anything? I’d be happy to rotate an advert for this with my amazon ad, on my world of warcraft guild website as it actually might link to games our members would be interested in. Probably a tiny audience of 100 people but amongst the most likely to actually want to look at the games. I’ll stick up a message anyway telling people they might like something there

  5. Jabberwocky says:

    Thumbs up!

    Like a lot of indies, I’m pretty good at making games, but terrible at anything related to marketing. Efforts like this are really cool, and might grow into Something Important.

    What is the decision process behind which new games are accepted onto the site? Is it only games from the founding companies, or do you plan to let anyone in? If it’s anyone:
    – Is there some sort of “quality check” for the games?
    – If so, how is this decided?
    – Is there an indie qual-o-meter gizmo? If so, can I see it?
    – How do website operation costs and advertisement fees work?

  6. cliffski says:

    The website bandwidth costs are trivial, so I pay them. We pool money to
    advertise, the same amount each.
    There is a quality threshold, to try and keep it the very ebst indie games. Sadly, the threshhold is pretty much just ME, and if I think it’s good. Which might sound evil, but at least it’s out in the open :D

    Basically, if you haven’t sold at least a few hundred copies of your game, it’s not the site for you. It’s probably a best match for full time proffesional indies making a living from their indie games, plus a few people on the cusp of being able to do that.

    There are lots of sites with no limits on whats listed like gametrove and gametunnel, but this site was to try and take the very best, and most succesful games, and promote them collectively.

  7. Nutter says:

    Great site, hopefully we’ll be able to add something there one day!

    Just a thought but you could use affiliate “buy now” links and then use the money earned back into promoting the portal?


  8. Hamelin says:

    I remember having commented that this would be a good idea back when you did the strategy superpack with Chris Park and Vic Davis. Congratulations on this one, I hope it works at augmenting the sales of your “members.”

  9. Jabberwocky says:

    > Sadly, the threshhold is pretty much just ME

    I don’t see a better way of doing things. Somebody’s got to make the call. As long as you don’t mind pissing a few people off when you need to be a hard-ass.

  10. Klaim says:

    > There is a quality threshold, to try and keep it the very ebst indie games. Sadly, the threshhold is pretty much just ME, and if I think it’s good. Which might sound evil, but at least it’s out in the open

    Well, doesn’t Steam work like this too? (ok there is also big companies paying valve to have their games in steam I guess) Saying it loud and clear makes it less evil, more sane than if it wasn’t.

    Anyway, I just wanted to ask, about the “steam for indies”, isn’t Desura meant to be just that? I see that the SMTG and Desura don’t achieve exactly the same thing (one is more marketing, the other is more game/gamer support) so they should live together, but you mentionned that you didn’t see any steam for indies arrive so maybe you didn’t know about Desura, or am I missing something?

  11. […] AI War, Gratuitous Space Battles, World of Goo and 17 others. The concept is explained in detail by Positech’s Cliff Harris but it pretty much boils down to an attempt to create an indie game portal, and a simple example of […]

  12. Chris Evans says:

    Love this idea Cliff, good going :)

  13. JLT says:

    This may be related to the splitting-of-hairs as to what ‘indie’ really means, but this seems to me a lot like Greenhouse:

    Can someone edify me as to the difference, if there is one?

  14. […] erstwhile Bat’leth-wielding UK indie games entrepreneur, has blogged about an experiment we’ve been conducting called Well, I say […]

  15. Arowx says:

    Excellent, can I put forward a couple of simple puzzles games I’ve made or is there a on who or what can be added to SMTG?

  16. D. Moonfire says:

    Oh, great idea! Thought, having an RSS feed would be awesome (that is how I pay attention to sites of interest). Categories would be nice, but just seeing new things as they show up would really be cool.

    Other than that, great little site.

  17. kone says:

    LOVE IT!
    I really like the direct demo downloads (if they are given).
    BTW: link to the demo of “revenge of the titans” is broken.

    The shuffling is quite nice!
    If there are going to be more games you will need to put them in categories or something…
    Now get more guys to join the club… I just downloaded 4 new demos… yay!

  18. Aaron says:

    This is awesome!

    The idea’s very simple, rather than “LEt’s do something EPIC to show those big-studio snobs what for, we’ll make our own steam with EVERYTHING!” this was “pool web space, pool advertising… PROFIT?” That was about it, which is perfect.

    Going to post this on my games blog (not much good) and facebook.

  19. Fosse says:

    Any chance you can add genre filters? I understand the idea behind randomizing the games, and it makes great sense for the main page. But being able to select among the game types I am interested in — especially if you get more games on the site — would be very helpful.

  20. cliffski says:

    The site may well be getting dedicated subpages very soon, I’m in the process of organising it all.

  21. Jonathan says:

    Hey Cliff, I figured I’d throw my two cents in as well. I’m definitely excited for what this could bring about. I realize the risk of looking like a jerk being the officiator, but I appreciate you’re being honest with that. Besides the dozens of requests that I’m sure you already have boiling in your head anyway, I was wondering what kind of feasibility would there be in the (likely somewhat distant) future of having an option to have an account with SMTG much like you would have with steam to make your purchases. I’m just wondering because I’m very aware that it would probably be a very difficult financial, legal, and technological hurdle, but could go a long way in attracting customers who like having a single source of entry. I know I often buy a game on steam just because I know what to expect from the purchasing process. Hopefully you’ll be able to find the time, or some volunteer time from others, to make this the service you want it to be.

  22. Ed Maurina says:

    This is great stuff and exciting news. I’m glad you decided to take charge and move forward with this idea. It was and is needed.

  23. Carey says:

    Well, I got pointed there via Longbow Games (Philip of Macedon) which I found on Steam..

    Then I promptly downloaded Cogs.. :)

    So you got one sale out-of-genre from a single referrer back from one of your original advertisers.. so there’s another path to consider..

    Both excellent games btw.

    Most of the others on there I’d already heard of, and in some cases played demos of..

    It’s a good idea and good luck with it!

  24. […] So if you like PC games (or have a PC game you want to distribute, provided you get through Cliff’s self-proclaimed dictatorship), you should check it out. […]