Let's first define the term "Asset Flip" here is what I found on the Crappy Games Wiki.
"Asset Flipping" is a term that refers to the practice of building a game almost entirely out of premade assets with little original work.
I deleted the last part of the definition to make my clickbait headline work and also because I want to discuss the use of premade assets but will leave out the relabeling of bought assets and selling them as games. I also want to point out that I am not talking about mobile games because I am not that familiar with the mobile games market.
No effort went into this game
This will be a common complaint which you can hear especially among players, but I also know some folks from the industry who think like this. I think it goes without saying, but every game that is not just a rebranding of an asset will take quite a lot of effort. One could even argue that a reskin of a game is less effort than creating a new game from existing assets. Obviously, the effort varies depending on the type of game, but not every game needs unique assets to work. There is enough room in our industry to have games that reuse existing assets and we should not discard such games.
These games all look the same
Well, first of all, there are a lot of assets and I would argue that since there aren't many successful games right now, this argument is currently invalid. I mean, if no noteworthy games are using a certain asset, the asset can not be in the minds of the players. But even if there were widely spread games with the exact assets you want to use, there are a ton of possibilities to create a unique look when using the same assets. I think no one would argue that these two screenshots of Sin City and Extraction give the impression that they are from the same movie, but they both star Bruce Willis in a black suit.
You can see how basically the same person can be staged very differently, just by varying the use of color and lightning. In games, we have many more possibilities including camera perspective, asset composition, and shaders. Just take a look at these pictures from a full-screen shader asset. I am not saying just use these shaders and call it a day, but it is a good example of how different you can make the same scene look.
Premade assets are performance intensive
It should be clear that not all premade assets are poorly made, but they do not cater to your specific requirements. This is something the creators of a game should keep in mind: see if the assets they plan on using fit the game they want to create.
The themes of "Asset Flips" are more generic
It is true that bought assets are usually more generic so as to appeal to a bigger audience. This means you will see the more common enemies like Zombies, Goblins, Skeletons... Accordingly, your game can not stand out when it comes to enemy design. If you are planning on using established gameplay with little to no innovation, you should think about how you want to differentiate yourself. If your answer is by the theme or enemy design, you can not use premade assets.
When should you consider creating an "Asset flip"
Creating a niche game
The reduced cost enables us to serve even narrower niches than before. We can also take higher risks with the game design. This means more risky and interesting games, which I think is something we should strive for.
Increasing the variety of Assets
In the current environment replayability is an important metric. One thing that helps with replayability is to have a huge variety of assets, but those usually are costly and time-consuming, premade assets can help with that.
Creating bigger games
Sometimes small studios want to create bigger games, but they can’t because of the costs involved. By reducing the production cost premade assets can enable small teams to create the game they want to.
I want to share my game early
One advantage of using premade assets is that your game will be quick to look more beautiful. This can be very helpful if you plan to gather an audience early because it will be easier to show your progress. You need to consider though that you should only show work that you actually performed, not just show off the asset itself. I am still not sure if this is really a plus, it could also be harmful if people rag on your use of assets too much. I will know after having announced my upcoming game and will update this post accordingly.
Why aren't there any successful "Asset Flips"
There are games like "PUPG", "Banished" and "Getting Over It" that use a lot of premade assets, which is how I defined the term "Asset Flip" in this article.
"Asset Flips" currently have a pretty bad rap and this means most developers avoid predominantly using premade assets. I don't want to say that everyone needs to make an "Asset Flip", but maybe when starting your next project you will remember this article and will reconsider if premade assets fit your vision.
Why did I write this blog post?
Last but not least I wanted to mention why I care about "Asset Flips". I recently announced my next game School of Magic and it would be beyond my skills to create this game without using premade assets. Because I do not want to hide the fact that I used a ton of premade assets, I needed to explain why I used them. I will link to this blog post whenever I talk about my game so people who are irritated can understand why I decided to go down this road. Finally, I would like to link to the trailer of School of Magic and ask you to wishlist it if you like what you see ;)