Let’s talk about itch.io.
But long term, there are some serious consequences that need to be considered and understood.
I’ve been chatting with Leaf of itch.io on and off for the past few weeks, but not necessarily about the things you may be thinking.
Ludum Dare is kind-of a big deal. By existing and doing what we do, we benefit the greater gaming community. Much of the growth in games created the past several years can be attributed to what we do. In my other post I talked about our impact, our reach, and how much what we do matters to the industry.
We are a thing.
Itch.io is amazing. It grew out of a need of the Ludum Dare community (game hosting), and became this fantastic new way that indie games are shared and distributed. It somehow achieved what Manifesto Games, Desura, Midnight City, and so many others attempted-to but failed to do: create a stable indie games marketplace.
Itch is a thing.
And as members of the community, the itch.io team is super aggressive, adding features to make it easier for everyone that participates in Ludum Dare. They’ve done so many great things, and it makes total sense that we should be working with them. We should do it more. That kind of relationship is rare.
But it needs to be understood that itch.io is a business.
I trust these guys, but even with the best intentions, itch.io has grown to the point where it now competes directly with Newgrounds, Game Jolt, and Kongregate. All of these sites host games and run contests. Game Jolt has been especially aggressive lately trying to catch up to itch.io by adding jam hosting and their own download client. This is not a joke. This is serious stuff.
If Ludum Dare permanently moved to itch.io, it would be damaging.
After submitting to itch.io, there’s little incentive to upload to the other sites. Itch.io is already one of the most popular places to run game jams. But if itch.io also ran Ludum Dare, the largest online game jam in the world, that could be trouble.
We make a impact. A real impact.
There’s a reason Newgrounds and Game Jolt go out of their way to add and highlight the #LudumDare or #LDJAM or #LD35 tags. We had a good relationship with Kongregate as well, until a falling-out several years back. Some of you may not know the story, but Kongregate ran a contest alongside LD, inviting people to submit their Ludum Dare games. They offered cash prizes, which in turn caused a lot of social media outrage, unfortunately souring things between us. Other than one of the winners that reached out after getting a job there, I haven’t heard from them since. I still have a lot of respect for Kongregate. They’re just one of the few people that have seen our bad side, something I unfortunately have to work hard to protect others from.
And also, I need to mention that Tom Fulp of Newgrounds has been one of Ludum Dare’s biggest contributors over the years. I believe this was back in 2012, the same year we first broke 1000 games. At the time I was panicked. Our old host was kicking us off. I’d never run a server that cost more than $10 a month, and certainly not one that cost over $100 a month. My games business has never really done well, despite the things I can brag about (winning cash, trips, hardware, and even a car). So spending over 10x more a month on keeping “the hobby” afloat was something I just wasn’t comfortable with yet. It was necessary, but this was new territory for me.
I don’t believe we were ever month-to-month with donations covering our hosting cost, but you could count how many months we could sustain it. Later in 2012, I received a few large donations. The big one was crazy, a total across two donations of $7k from an anonymous (?) donor, but the 2nd largest was $300 from Tom. I was super humbled by this. It still took time for me to accept the idea spending over $100 a month on hosting, but the generous donations by Tom and the anonymous donor really helped me get comfortable with where I had to be. And finally after several years of spending over $200 a month on hosting, I’ve learned and done enough that our hosting costs are now under $100 a month. That and we even run multiple servers now (the old and the new).
So take that as you will. Personally, I feel an obligation not to side entirely with one company in the game hosting space. Competition is good. It’s healthy. It keeps things interesting, and everyone moving forward. It means I have to do more, but like I’ve been saying, I’m cool with that. I just need time on my side. 😉
It’s important to have choice.
That’s not to say we can’t have preferences. Everybody has preferences. Many of you prefer GitHub to BitBucket or Assembla. Many of you prefer Twitch to Hitbox, YouTube, or Beam. But the more we go out of our way to provide options, to provide choice, the better it is for everyone.
Anybody that wants to work with us should be able to work with us. Not everybody has the drive or resources to do it, but for those that do, interesting new things get done. And while I don’t necessarily have time to work with everyone, I’m happy open source is a part of Ludum Dare. It means I can focus on the things that make the biggest impact, do the hard work, and then members of the community or 3rd parties can do what I can’t.
Ludum Dare is not an island. Live streaming, source code hosting, game hosting, these are things that others do really well. What we do is Jams. Today it’s running our jams, but tomorrow it could be your jam. We’re seen as a hub of game jamming and game jams on the internet. Members of our community even run their own extra mini events beyond our extra mini events. The jammer identity is strong here. And to me, that is what Ludum Dare is, and should be focused on. If you want to run you own game jam today, use itch.io. They’ve got the custom game jam thing figured out, and it works great. But we also do game jams. That is our forte. And some day, we’ll let you run them too. Like I said, competition is good.
Anyway, that about sums up what I want to say. I think Ludum Dare benefits the community best if it stays its own thing.