The 6 steps to massive game development success


Photo by 3rd Wheel

How do you get from here to there, where: here = dream about massive game success, and there = massive game success?

Well there are 6 steps as I see it:

1) Learn to program. Hopefully in a language conducive to game programming!

2) Fiddle around making incomplete games and engine code. This is where you get better at applying programming and begin to learn about game design.

3) Make a complete free game. Many people never reach this stage. Making a 100% complete game (even a small one) is not easy and takes a lot of staying power.

4) Make a commercial game. This is a complete game that is commercially viable that you sell and actually make money from. Many people never reach this stage after stage 3.

5) Make a successful commercial game. I added a word, but oh it’s an important word. Almost everyone reaching stage 4 will not have made a game that makes any decent money, and so many people give in at that stage. The ones that carry on may have to make several games, honing their craft (game design AND marketing), before they reach stage 5.

6) Make a massively successful game. Once you hit stage 5, stage 6 can be achieved by further improving yours skills, investing money, getting a lucky break etc. It is possible, but only a few developers will ever achieve this final accolade.

I’m at stage 5.5 🙂 Stage 5 has been done a few times, and now I’m part of a team working on stage 6 which I believe is inevitable based on everyone’s skill and the financial backing we have. (We recently released a popular Facebook game called My Tribe that is now scaling rapidly. It’s very exciting to be part of it).

Think of these stages as belts in a martial art. Stage 5 is your black belt, but Stage 6 is becoming the master. To progress through the stages needs regular hard work, determination, and skill. Wimping out at Stage 2 or 3 because it hurts or you are tired won’t get you a black belt.

Which stage are you at?

18 Responses to “The 6 steps to massive game development success”

  1. astk Says:

    Thanks Jake. I’m on stage 4 doing this iPhone game using DragonFire SDK on Windows.

    Really excited reaching here though the game is quite basic. 🙂
    I always check your blog for those inspiration and motivation posts though I don’t usually comment.

  2. Andy Says:

    I love you Grey Alien! Cool article 🙂 I’m at step 5.

  3. Troy Hepfner Says:

    This blog post wasn’t as helpful as I had hoped it would be. I’m at stage 4 and working on stage 5. I’m looking for tips on how to get to stage 5. I’ve made a half-dozen commercial games, some that even sell moderately well, but I’ve yet to make one that I would consider successful (i.e., that has wide distribution and sells enough for me to earn a living without the need for a second job).

  4. Robert Says:

    I’m at the 4th stage. I’m selling my game on appstore right now and learning tonnes about what it takes. And when you sell your game, thats just the start.

    Its important to track what makes its sales go up and what makes its sales go down. It’s never cut and dried. You think you know why but in practise people (your customers) will always suprise you, so my tip for step 4, is analysis and learning from mistakes…

  5. Robert Says:


    you say on your vid “still need to fix some weird bugs” among other things. My tip for you is never, ever, ever let a bug hang around. Always go for the bug right away, asap no matter what else you think is more important. The longer you leave it, the more bugs pile up that can’t be found.

  6. charlie Says:

    How successful does a commercially successful game need to be? Surely that’s a subjective point, considering what a particular developer is aiming for?

    Personally, i’ve been pretty lucky with sales over the years, so i guess i’m probably at about 5 and a bit. I’ll make my mega game one of these days!


  7. hermitC Says:

    Im at stage 4 now but still experiencing stage 1 (learning new things along the way). IMHO a good developer never leaves stage 1.
    I’ve lost the result from stage 3. I think it is stored somewhere on one of the ageold PCs in my bedroom. Bringing this game back to life would be a kind of software archeology 🙂

  8. Grey Alien Games Says:

    Great to hear what stages you are all at! Stage 4 is a big stage for sure. Good luck reaching stage 5. 🙂

    @ Andy, that’s so cool you are at stage 5, congrats!

    @Troy: As for how to get to stage 5, well that depends on many factors such as your chosen platform, what market you are aiming for, how good your game actually is (in terms of design, fun, graphics etc), your marketing/distribution skills as I’m sure you know. (Also it depends on how much money you need to live if you define success as paying for your Indie job). Providing that you’ve been continuously learning, it’s possible that your next game will hit stage 5! Various bloggers and forum members as well as myself, have talked about how to make a successful game, but there are so many factors that you can’t really be taught it, you have to find it out by doing (which is what you’ve been doing) and picking up tips along the way. For me, things began to click by my 5th game, and I was lucky enough to work with a great game designer at Big Fish Games, plus we had a great artist. Those factors took me to stage 5 and I repeated that with my 6th game. I’ve spoken to other successful casual developer who also think their biggest successes start around their 6th or 7th game (also by then you have back catalogue making money whilst you sleep).

    @Robert: yep, analysing stats is so important. It’s all I do all day long at the moment for our Facebook game.

    @Charlie: (Great to hear you are at stage 5). Sure success is subjective. You could say, it pays for you to live, but what is your living standard $20,000 a year or $100,000 a year? Also perhaps success could be defined as earning MORE than your living standard, in fact enough to build a great budget for your next game so you can make that one even more successful? For me stage 5 success was a 6 figure income making games. What’s even more interesting is… how should we define massively successful? Well in my eyes it has to make multiple millions of Dollars and loads of people have heard of it. By the time a game makes that much, it’s unlikely that you are the sole owner of the game, it’s more likely to be a team effort and so the wealth is spread out.

    @hermitC: Same here, I still have some old games on my Commodore Amiga that I’d love to get off and into an emulator, but I’m wondering if it’s worth the hassle. I’m better off making something new and better instead.

  9. Kyle Newton Says:

    Slow and steady is going to win my race. Currently at stage 2+1/2. I’m working on my runway 🙂 and reading all the information I can get my hands on, through blogs such as this and texts such as “Rules of Play” or “Ludoliteracy: Defining, Understanding, and Supporting Games Education” or “Beyond Fun: Serious Games and Media”.

    As for that marketing stuff… I know it’s important but “I’ll get to that when the time comes”. I’ll be asking for literature on the subject when that times comes!

  10. Grey Alien Games » Blog Archive » Making art for an RPG Says:

    […] out my 6 steps to massive game development success. I’d say you need to be on stage 4 (made a commercial game), but preferably stage 5 […]

  11. astk Says:


    thanks for your advice Jake.
    would you mind me translating this article to other language and post on another website?
    will surely credit and link back to this page.

  12. astk Says:


    thanks for your advice Robert.
    Jake, would you mind me translating this article to other language and post on another website? will surely credit and link back to this page.

  13. Grey Alien Games Says:

    Sure thing astk, go for it. And thanks for asking, appreciate it.

  14. astk Says:

    yay… m on my way to stage 5.
    my match 3 game for iphone just released.
    Check it out here:


  15. Grey Alien Games Says:

    Congrats on the release astk.

  16. astk Says:

    There I translate your article into Burmese language. You might not be able to view the letters as it requires special font that doesn’t come with Windows.




    Check out our latest game on App Store:

  17. Grey Alien Games Says:

    Nice thanks for doing that.

  18. Grey Alien Games » Blog Archive » Being indie is a long-term game (includes graphs!) Says:

    […] documented how I saw this process a while ago in an article called The 6 steps to massive game development success. Alas I’m still at step 5 having dropped down from what I thought was 5.5 (Facebook game […]