Owlchemy Labs shares its formula to successful indie development

Owlchemy Labs
Alex Schwartz founded Owlchemy Labs in 2010, and since launch he's built a team of six and has developed a steady stream of indie games across multiple platforms, including Snuggle Truck and the recent release Jack Lumber. He's still in business, with more games on the way. The secret to Schwartz's success is simple: Don't expect your original IPs to make any money.

Owlchemy funds itself by doing contract work that generates concrete revenue in between its original projects. A lot of indie studios attempt this system, but many of them fall into a common trap, Schwartz tells Joystiq at GDC.

"Be aware of contract work. You wake up in the morning and turn on your computer and you have two folders: One is the contract job and one is your original work. Which one are you going to open?" Schwartz asks. "It's always going to be the contract work because upfront gratification, instant money and having a client to appease always comes first."

In order for the contract-original IP rhythm to work, it needs to be steady and studios have to make time for their own projects. Owlchemy has an A-B system: contract, original IP, contract, original IP, rinse and repeat. The two projects never mix and the team stays on the same page until it's completed. Owlchemy is now on its fifth rotation through this cycle.

Diversifying platforms is also key, Schwartz says. Not porting games to Steam, iOS, Android and any other relevant platforms is "leaving money on the table," he says. Owlchemy develops its games in Unity to make this process smoother, and tailors each one to its unique platform. For example, Snuggle Truck is free-to-play on iOS, but costs $5 on Steam (on sale now for $2). Leading by example, Schwartz has a meeting with Sony tomorrow.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.