Some years ago, a blog article entitled "1,000 True Fans" was published, and it immediately inspired a lot of feedback from the blogosphere. Now, this post isn't necessarily timely in that regard, but I'd like to take a look at the role that the concept of "1000 True Fans" may play in the gaming industry (specifically the "indie" portion of that).
Now, a short primer on the idea of "1000 True Fans:" the idea is that as a producer of any kind of art, it's unreasonable to expect massive popular success. It's somewhat daunting, then, as a beginning producer of any kind of art, to attempt to meet any kind of success. "1000 True Fans," then, redefines success not as wide popular appeal, but rather as having a cadre of dedicated supporters - one thousand "true fans." It's an issue of quality over quantity that is particularly relevant in the area of internet distribution, because it [the fans] represents a source or level of consistency.
Now, this is somewhat simplistic (more detail can be seen at the article, of course), and in fact, even the article isn't necessarily 100% accurate. However, the core concept is an intellectually (as well as emotionally, but that doesn't lend much credence to it) appealing one - the idea that garnering dedicated supporters is what is really necessary for success.
I think this is particularly relevant to the "indie" games production industry, because their business model is highly dependent on social and community involvement and in an arena (the internet) that doesn't lend itself to saturation of media/marketing. That said, the key for any - as the article calls them - "nurturers" of this kind of fan is to make a concerted effort to involve oneself of a deeper level than simply advertisement. Games in particular lend themselves well to this. So many discrete pieces go into a video game - concept art, individual models, sounds/music, prototypes - and many of these discrete pieces are much more easy to distribute regularly and often to an interested community, turning those with some minor interest into "true fans."
- and I think the regularity here is key: consistently reminding people that you exist and that you matter. By providing constant updates - even if they are only trivial - you continually engage a community and force them to move your game to the forefront of your mind. And after all, if they're thinking about it that often, it must be good, right? That's what I'd like to think they must tell themselves.