Indie Game Pre Release
Stress Disorder

by Mario Kaiser
updated September 21, 2022

Recently I was feeling very stressed out and moody all the time and I didn't know why. I was getting unnecessarily angry at my kid, fought with my wife and was mad about myself for doing so without having a proper reason for it – I had just finished the release version of my new game Core Defense (opens new window), had announced the release and had just begun the two month long phase of marketing before the release of the game on Steam. Everything was going according to plan.

While the corona crisis is far from over, everyday life in Germany was slowly returning back to normal and we suddenly had access to childcare again, which definitely decreased my stress level. Also I am very happy about the state of the game itself. It was good when I released it in Early Access on in January – and it is even more so after six months of finetuning and polishing and implemententing all those awesome ideas from the community.

The feedback from players was really promising and heartwarming, the standalone prelaunch demo (opens new window) on Steam had 90% positive reviews, the game had over 3000 wishlists, rising steadily every day. I had finished a game, my life was a lot less stressful than just a few weeks ago – so why on earth was I feeling so tense and edgy?

And then one chill Saturday morning over a cup of tea the realization dawned on me: might it be the impending release itself that was stressing me out? Suddenly, it all made perfect sense! Even though I'm a part time indie game developer with a day job that ensures my survival, I still want my game to be successful. Even though I care more about good reviews than about sales, it would still be nice to sell enough copies to be able to quit my day job and become a full time indie game developer. Even though Core Defense already has earned more during the early access than my last game did in its entire lifetime I think I can and might be disappointed if the sales are lower than expected.

Another very important part of that realization revolves around what I am doing at the moment. As mentioned before I planned for two months of focusing exclusively on marketing between finishing the release version and actually releasing it. And at least for me personally marketing is absolutely horrible compared to game development, which I do because it's fun and I love it.

Building cool things, having people play and love it, polishing it according to their wishes which makes them love it even more – that's a wonderful feedback loop, a blissful vicious circle whose gravity keeps pulling me in all the time.

Compared to that marketing feels like fishing with a fork in the middle of the ocean at night. Writing cold call emails to influencers and bloggers and press outlets, most of which don't yield any feedback or results whatsoever is just a lot less fun than making a game.

All of that probably isn't news to you and it should not have been to me. I was flabbergasted by my own ignorance all the same and felt the need to share. So that my fellow indie game developers who are about to release a game at least know WHY they're screaming at their partners and kids.