As your project is nearing release, ask yourself this:
_If you could start your project over again from scratch, would you be doing the exact same thing with it?_
If not, why haven't you changed course yet?
The answer to that is quite possibly what is called the Sunk Cost Fallacy, and it is probably the number one killer of startups, new companies, entrepreneurs, and yes, even video games. The basic idea is that you have invested time and effort into your project and it would be a shame to just throw it all out now – even if it means disaster to stay the course.
This thinking is dangerous because, as indies, we really need to stand out to succeed.
When it comes to the startups of the world, the indies, the trail-blazers -- being average is not enough to stay profitable. The average indie is expected to be broke, go bankrupt, or have a failure of a game on their hands. Heck, most indie companies fold before launching their first game. The average startup in the tech sector only has a 37% chance of being in business four years after finding investors. How can your indie studio survive? How do you stand out by achieving the herculean task of just staying in business?
No game design document survives contact with the market, and being an artistic-based hit-driven-economy, it's really hard to see where you'll end up before you start working.
The key to success is fast iteration cycles, changing course frequently, and homing in on something that resonates as fast as you can. This involves throwing out a lot of code, a lot of play-testing, and a lot of complete nukes and starting from scratch again.
Oftentimes throwing out your project and starting from scratch will free you up to make different choices. Better choices. Maybe whole new games.
It's not easy; doing this requires you overcome those psychological hurdles that successfully drown many others that are trying their hardest.
Eventually, though, you'll stumble onto something. A mechanic that just clicks. A narrative that makes your heart sing. An experience that your play-testers refuse to walk away from. An idea that keeps you up at night, one that inspires you. That's the one you run with. That's when you know you have a hit.
For indies, money is always a problem. Tighten up your belt. Don't give up that day-job until you hit your big-time. Ditch your car and stop eating out. Anyone experienced will be happy to tell you that your idea will take you at least twice as long as you think it will. Every dollar you save is another experiment, another iteration, another roll of the dice for your studio.
Never settle for second-best, and don't work on anything you aren't passionate about. When it comes to succeeding as a startup, good enough is never perfect – good enough just gets you average results.
And being average is death.