Home / News / Big Indie Interviews: Adriaan de Jongh discusses the importance of experimentati | Pocket Gamer.biz

Big Indie Interviews: Adriaan de Jongh discusses the importance of experimentati | Pocket Gamer.biz

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Big Indie Interviews: Adriaan de Jongh discusses the importance of experimentati | Pocket Gamer.biz

Pocket Gamer Connects London returns on 22nd-23rd January 2024, celebrating its 10th anniversary. Of course, this also means the return of our flagship Very Big Indie Pitch, the popular pitching competition that’s been providing developers with insight, feedback, and prizes for years. It’s also great fun. We spoke with the organiser Sophia Aubrey Drake for her memories and tips earlier in December.

What better way to celebrate ten years of Pocket Gamer Connects than by reconnecting with some of our most successful developers? In this series, we’re learning more about where they are now, what they gained from their pitching experiences, and what advice they have for anyone heading to London for the Very Big Indie Pitch in 2024.

Next up, we’re catching up with Adriaan de Jongh, one of only two developers to have won the pitch three times, to learn more about their past, present and future.

Developer Adriaan de Jongh brandishing the Big Indie Pitch winners’ baseball bat at Pocket Gamer Connects London 2023.

Sophia Aubrey Drake: We know you well, but can you introduce yourself and the team for those who may not know about you?

Adriaan de Jongh: I’m a game designer in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I’ve made a lot of strange games, often helping players to share a fun social experience – of which my latest game, Secret Shuffle, is a great example.

But I’m best known for Hidden Folks, a black-and-white searching game where you try to find a bunch of hiding people in miniature worlds in various themes, chock full of little stories. I don’t really have a company but rather collaborate with different people for every game.

Putting a pitch together or choosing your words helps you better understand what it is you’re making and what makes your game unique

Adriaan de Jongh

You’re one of only two developers to ever win the Big Indie Pitch three times, having won in San Francisco in 2014 and 2016 with Bounden and Hidden Folks, respectively, alongside your most recent win with Secret Shuffle at our flagship Pocket Gamer Connects London pitch in 2023. What is it that made you want to be a part of the pitch in the first place (and also what made you want to keep coming back)?

I’m curious who’s the other! [

Pitching is always a fantastic learning opportunity for me. Putting a pitch together or choosing your words helps you better understand what it is you’re making and what makes your game unique – or what it’s lacking. Going through those motions, making small changes to the words you use, or redefining how you talk about the game, is often fundamental in doing marketing. And so I pitch with every opportunity I get.

How did you find the experience? What was the most challenging aspect, and was there anything you weren’t expecting?

The experience itself is always a little scary, and I’m always a little nervous. My games are generally so very different from the other games being pitched, and while that does make the games stand out, it also means that I need to give jurors a lot more context than those other more regular games. “No, the game happens in real life. You actually dance with your real body.”

 

What happened with your games following each Big Indie Pitch? Did your experiences impact its development and subsequent release?

I think winning an award has two tangible effects. The first is that it’s a great morale boost for the team and a good reminder that “yes, we are working on something special.” The second is that we can boast about it to the press and platforms, giving us a tiny edge over our competition. As an example, winning the pitch for all the games mentioned above was another opportunity for me to reach out to my contacts at Apple, which directly led to App Store featuring.

How have things changed for you as a team since we last saw you? Can you share some of the things you’ve been working on since then?

Secret Shuffle came out worldwide, and it’s doing alright. We played the advertisement game to its conclusion, meaning we found that the business model we picked would never lead to enough revenue (“doesn’t squeeze our players enough”) to allow us to advertise our game profitably, so that’s a big and important lesson.

We’re now all in on organic marketing – namely, going viral on TikTok – and it’s working out well for us

 

Considering the fast-evolving games industry, how difficult is it to survive as an indie developer? What changes have you experienced since participating in the Big Indie Pitch?

It is increasingly harder to survive as an indie developer. Stores are saturated with genre games, the bar to entry in terms of quality is higher than ever, publishers are more cautious than ever to sign and fund games, platforms have increasingly little marketing power… and I currently don’t see this increase in difficulty slow down.

If you go to enough conferences and push yourself to meet new people, it is only a matter of time before you meet publishers, platforms, and other people

Adriaan de Jongh

Is there any advice you would give to indie developers out there based on your success?

Make weird stuff, and take the business and marketing side of things seriously. Hustle your way towards your first successful game. Good luck.

How important is attending conferences, competitions and networking opportunities for independent developers? What advice would you give developers considering attending conferences?

Attending conferences is important for business. If you go to enough conferences and push yourself to meet new people, it is only a matter of time before you meet publishers, platforms, and other people who can make a huge difference in your career. If you’re attending a conference, have a clear ask don’t be afraid to ask. Ask everyone what they’d do in your shoes, without exception. Ask for introductions to people. Ask for people’s plans and what events they’re participating in. Ask who they’ve met and who they think you should meet. It’s a simple thing that will lead to surprising conclusions.

What is your studio currently working on?

I spent the last six months renovating my new house and moving into it. Renovations are almost done, and I haven’t been able to get much done combining that and hanging out with my 1-year-old kid. I’m about to start exploring a new project again though… but no concrete decisions on what’s next yet. Stay tuned.


Want to show off your exciting new game? All details for the Very Big Indie Pitch at Pocket Gamer Connects London 2024, including how to enter, can be found on our upcoming events page on BigIndiePitch.com.

If you just want to attend the conference, then tickets for Pocket Gamer Connects London 2024 (22-23 January) can be found on the Pocket Gamer Connects Website, with mid-term discounts still currently available until the first week of January.

Get the latest news, interviews and in-depth analysis on Twitter, Facebook, and our daily newsletter. We will be adding more Big Indie Pitch stories to the site each week.

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