It's good practice to follow trends when entering any industry, to be aware of what's successful and what's not, but it's also important to think differently.
We went to some business fairs and heard a lot of advice from publishers and developers. In early 2010, we were looking to get into the handheld space, but after meeting all those people, we focused on smartphones as they told us that handhelds and consoles were just dying.
I think it was an error for us to follow their advice.
We survived doing some contract stuff on smartphones, but that's not what we wanted to do. Today, we are trying to focus on consoles.
We are porting one of our games, Arson & Plunder, to the PS Vita not just because we think it's the best platform for it but because the platform is also very interesting for a small company: as your costs are lower than those from a larger publisher, you just need a decent amount of sales to make your game profitable. In fact, we are also in pre-production for another console game as well.
I'd also advise that you avoid new, unproven platforms and SDKs. At the beginning, we were eager to learn about new markets, platforms and "opportunities". We talked and met a good amount of ads, monetization, SDK and middleware companies. Don't do that. Focus on your work and, if you need some of those services, be sure to pick the one that fits in your plans and discard the other ones.
Also, don't waste your time pitching to publishers. There was a time when publishers were funding games, but that's almost over. Many big publishers are focusing on triple-A titles, and smaller publishers just want finished or near finished products to distribute. If a publisher is interested in your project, they will contact you.
Finally, make sure you go to fairs and meet people. We decided from the very beginning to meet other companies, so we have been attending several industry events such as Game Connection (France), Gamelab (Spain), Gamescom (Germany). We met a lot of interesting people from many companies, and we keep them informed on our new projects and services.
All this month, Develop is publishing its Start Your Own Studio guide online. You can find all of our start-up articles at www.develop-online.net/startupspecial, plus a full schedule of the guides still to come by clicking here.