Thousands of indie games are released every year. Due to fierce competition, it is difficult for small developers to survive even if they launch, as the launch itself is a huge barrier.
The Smilegate Group, which supports the indie business, and Stove Indie, as part of that, find and introduce games that have not seen the light of day due to fierce competition. Although a small number of games have been launched compared to Steam, which has occupied the market, we have set the direction in a way that accurately reflects and recommends users’ tastes.
It identifies the needs of consumers and directly translates it into Korean, or plans events for Stove Indy users by requesting the developer.
To hear the story of Stove Indy, which has entered its 3rd year, we talked with Business Team Manager Oh Kyung-yeop, Part Manager Choi Hwan, Assistant Manager Hwang Su-jin, and Director Kim Ji-hyun.
Q: A brief job introduction and what made you fall in love with indie games?
Hwan Choi: Smilegate believes that in order for the game industry to grow further, it should help the indie game ecosystem grow and increase the diversity of the market. When users come into contact with games of various genres and developers make games accordingly, a virtuous cycle is formed in which the market is naturally enriched. Therefore, the group has been promoting various support projects to foster indie developers. Stove Indie is one of them, and games are a place where customers meet and communicate with customers.
Among them, my role is to research, contact, and suggest good games that develop the entire ecosystem. I fell in love with indie games because it was not uniform and reflected the tastes of multiple users.
Ji-Hyeon Kim: After selecting a game, we perform tasks such as interlocking with release and translating into Korean. I think the biggest attraction of indie games is their innovativeness and creativity that cannot predict what kind of games will come out in the future. I like high-difficulty rogue-like games like ‘Hollow Knight’ and ‘The Binding of Isaac’.
Kyung-Yeop Oh: I am performing all tasks related to users, including sales, marketing, and communication with developers. I fell in love with indie games that focused more on the game itself than online PC games that emphasize relationships.
Sujin Hwang: Indie games are a challenge to develop new and desired games. It plays a supporting role so that developers can develop with confidence. From the development stage to the games in the store, it is the task of connecting to the project of Smilegate in addition to the support program and the stove.
Q: It is difficult to see that the indie game market has excellent business potential. What was the motivation for starting it?
Hwan Choi: It is true that the business feasibility does not seem to be great right now. However, there are users in the marginalized market and there are developers who make indie games. It started with the desire to create a foothold for indie game developers to enter overseas markets and to create a virtuous cycle in which the developer and the platform grow together.
Kyungyeop Oh: Games are released on various platforms such as mobile, PC, and console. Indie games are also being released steadily, but there is no means of sales other than Steam. For a small developer, launching itself is a huge challenge. There are many developers releasing indie games and there are few platforms, so we judged that there is marketability.
Q: It is difficult to see it as a competition with Steam. Can you explain what kind of relationship it is?
Oh Kyung-yeop: If you look at the social commerce market, there are big markets like Coupang and SSG, but there are also customers who buy from specialty shops. If Steam is a huge market, Stove Indy feels like a new sensible select shop.
Q: How would you describe the unique features of Stove Indie?
Hwan Choi: Since the platform is not large, there are many opportunities to directly contact the developer. If there is a good response to a specific game or genre, we provide an event where creators and fans meet in a way such as New Year’s greetings, interviews, and goods for users.
Kyungyeop Oh: It is an undeniable fact that the Steam market is huge. However, since it is too large, it is difficult for indie game companies to release them, and even if they do, it is difficult to have a competitive edge. Stove Indy translates discovered but undiscovered games into Korean and recommends them to users.
Q: What are the criteria for selecting Korean-language games?
Kim Ji-hyun: It’s a fun game that users want. They also receive recommendations from the community. There is a big need for a visual novel, an unplayed game, or an authentic RPG where the story is important. This is because the amount of translation is large, it takes a long time, and the quality is important.
Games that are being translated into Korean or that have been recommended by users are listed on the community status board. Even if the Korean version is not currently in progress, the recommended games are managed separately to collect user opinions.
Hwan Choi: We aim to be global, but currently, most of our users are Korean. We select games that suit the taste of Korean users, games that have hit the global market but do not support Korean language. Because we need time to contact the developer, we are announcing it as a list.
Q: It is important to listen to the opinions of the fans, but to what extent do you reflect the opinions of users?
Kim Ji-hyun: In addition to the Korean version, we also reflect the opinions of users. We collect opinions such as translation errors, game recommendations, and bug reports and deliver them to the developer.
Q: I’m curious about the developer’s reaction to the promotion of the Korean language.
Hwan Choi: Indie developers often want to translate, but they do not have the manpower. They think that the size of the Korean market is not large, so it is difficult to organize a budget. When it comes to translating into Korean, most developers are welcoming.
Q: I am curious about the process of selecting a game and translating it into Korean.
Kim Ji-hyun: You get the language and build files you need from the developer, and you prefer the genre internally, or get support from a partner translator who knows the game. In consideration of existing performance and collaboration, we assign translators and proceed with the work. After the translation is finished, check the transcendental translation, typos, and errors, and ask the developer to apply the translation. Errors that occur in the in-game application process are corrected and released.
Q: You have been operating the platform for about 3 years, and what has been the result?
Kyungyeop Oh: Three years is not a long time to build a platform infrastructure. Comparing the first year with this year, I feel that people’s awareness has increased. After the game was released, if you go to the community, Stove Indie is being mentioned. The story of the advantages and disadvantages coexist and the recognition is high. In the future, the service will have more advantages.
Q: Are there any titles you remember the most during the launch process?
Jihyun Kim: ‘The Life and Sufferings of Sir Brante’ is memorable. The game’s graphics weren’t flashy, so it didn’t get much attention. It was difficult because there was a lot of translation and the word order of names and titles was different from Korean. However, there were people who were passionate about the work, and above all, there were many needs from users. After its release, it received a lot of love and is especially memorable.
Q: Do you have any plans or goals to service exclusive games?
Oh Kyung-yeop: It would be nice if a game monopoly was possible, but it is practically impossible. A developer would be happy if the number of vendors increased. We hope that Stove Indy will be a good option for users in the market.
Hwan Choi: I think the election is ideal. I think the strength of Stove Indie is that it can be translated into Korean.
Q: Which games received the most downloads and attention?
Oh Kyung-yeop: It used to be ‘ATOM RPG’, but these days, men’s games are popular because of coupons, promotional events, and genre curation. Currently, the most popular game is ‘Love Delivery’. There are also many community posts saying that Love Delivery was purchased from both Steam and Stove Indie. Steam also held a goods event that did not proceed.
Hwan Choi: The content of Love Delivery differs depending on where it is purchased. We directly communicated with the developer and requested to add content for users. So some cutscenes are different from Steam. This will be the strength of Stove Indy.
Oh Kyung-Yeop: There were also doubts about whether Sir Brante’s life and sufferings would also be in demand. I thought it was one of the common RPGs, but it became popular. Would it have been competitive if only on Steam? Although Stove Indy did marketing, users with similar tastes gathered and naturally flowed in. It was a success due to unexpected demand, and I think this proves the diversity of indie games.
Q: To what extent is the developer support being prepared and progressed?
Sujin Hwang: The ‘Wise Demo Life’ project allows indie game companies to receive surveys and feedback from users before launch. In addition, there is a business starter pack that supports the game when Stove Indy is selected. We plan to expand support by synthesizing the performance of developers who participated in the support program and recommended developers.
The Stove Indie platform as well as the Smilegate group support creative creation. The discovery and discovery of new games is the direction of the group. There are programs that give scholarships to those who want to become developers, and programs that support developers so that they can focus on development.
Q: I have a translation error or an issue with transcendental translation. I wonder how to deal with errors after release
Kim Ji-hyun: I try to find out as much as possible before release, but ask the developer to correct the parts I miss. In some cases, users directly report it, contributing greatly to the improvement of the quality of the Korean language. When errors are corrected, the before and after photos are compared and published. I think that transcendental translation is an area where one’s senses are reflected. If it fits the characteristics of the translation, it is difficult to say that it is wrong.
Q: What are your future service plans and goals?
Oh Kyung-yeop: I want users to know a lot and become their choice. In the long run, if the scale grows and grows into a platform, I think a good virtuous cycle structure will be created for both users and developers.
Hwan Choi: Most of the users are still from Korea. The goal for the future is to grow Stove Indie into a global platform and serve as a stepping stone for domestic indie game developers to enter overseas markets.