With discoverability in the mobile gaming market becoming harder and harder, we've decided to shine the spotlight on the amazing and interesting indie developers out there.
So welcome to the Indie Spotlight, where each week a developer tells us about their life and work, and the challenges facing indie developers in the modern mobile market.
PocketGamer.biz: How did you get started as an indie games developer?
Jakob Lykkegaard: I got into games around 2012 after my first Facebook tools focused startup called Pagemodo was acquired.
To be honest then, games were never a childhood dream of mine, but I just love creating digital products and games, so it all came very naturally. We were lucky enough to ride the first big wave of mobile freemium games and sold Playlab back in 2017, which then sparked the beginning of Lykke Studios.
After building and running a 100 person studio at Playlab and a three-person studio at Lykke, I personally prefer the smaller optionJakob Lykkegaard
What is a typical day in your life as an indie?
I personally split my time between Bangkok and Phuket. In Bangkok we have a nice spacious office in an area called Thonglor, where we recently renovated a townhouse with a balcony and have enough space for my friends and wife to work from also.
For Lykke Studios we have a clear goal of not expanding the team above our three core members, so a usual morning is spent brainstorming ideas for next features or games. Then we have a few quiet hours of work and lunch, while frequently dealing with calls in the afternoon with European contractors. We sometimes move the entire office to the villa in Phuket too and work from there alongside enjoying the island life on mornings and weekends.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far as an indie?
The biggest challenge by being small is that we have to do everything ourselves. So for marketing, we do need to rely on the big platform partners such as Apple to help promote our titles. We do also need to limit ourselves on not going too big and advance on a project that would take too many people to complete.
After building and running a 100 person studio at Playlab and a three-person studio at Lykke, I personally prefer the smaller option, as you can get to be a part of everything as well as the perk that challenges feel much smaller.
How do you define 'success'?
I define success as waking up every morning and getting to do exactly what you want to do, like having the freedom to do and build things just because you want to. My idea of success has heavily changed over the years and I feel like myself and the team are in a really good spot right now.
What is your opinion of the mobile games market for indies right now?
It is an extremely difficult market and unfortunately only getting more competitive for eyeballs each day. As rough as it sounds then, I usually do not advise anyone to become an indie developer unless they know exactly what they are getting into. I do however see a new time coming for indies, as just like with Music and TV, where the market entry is lowering.
Could you tell us about Tint?
Tint is our latest game which is a watercolour mixing puzzle build for Apple Arcade. We wanted to create something pleasing to the eye and mind, which lead us to go for a blank canvas and develop our own watercolour paint based on research papers.
It is an extremely difficult market and unfortunately only getting more competitive for eyeballs each dayJakob Lykkegaard
It has been an amazing success for us and we were amazed of how wide the audience who liked the game was. We still create new level packs for the game twice a month.
How did the partnership come about with Apple?
Apple has been my favourite company in the world for as long as I can remember and I have gotten great support from them over the years, including for our AR kit launch title Amon. We owe a lot to them for supporting our crazy ideas and the firm has always been a key partner for us.
What attracted the studio to create a game specifically for Apple Arcade?
With Apple Arcade you only have to focus on what makes the game fun and what you would enjoy building. This allows us more time to polish and build features we prefer without ever having to consider monetisation - that is a massive relief when all you really want to do is to create a game.
What are your current plans for the future?
We have slowly started planning our next title and will hopefully be lucky enough to just keep doing what we have always done. By staying small, agile and free to build what we enjoy.
If you had an unlimited budget, what game would you most like to make?
An unlimited budget would take a lot of the fun away by only introducing more management and bigger headaches, so I would honestly prefer to build the game we are currently planning, otherwise we would be building something else.
What advice would you give other developers on ‘making it’ as an indie?
The games market and platform are ever-changing and as cliché, as it sounds, it's better to just focus on building the best quality content you can dream of.
We have always focused on creating great content for the newest platforms. And while it does not always make financial sense to take those bets, the ones that do get picked up gives your titles freer marketing than you could ever have managed on your own.