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Making a living as an independent game creator


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#1 rAm_y_   Members   -  Reputation: 362

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Posted 01 April 2014 - 02:31 AM

For mobile and browser games, seeing as there are thousands of games out there, how difficult is it to actually make a living from being an independent or small team of people. How do people actually find your game. Are there any stats of the likely profit you would or wouldn't make. I think it must be a flooded market and you may make a small amount of pocket change but it would be more a hobby than an actual living?

 

Do people actually go looking for new games for there phone say, why would they find your game and why would they buy it, or is it more a case of if they see a well advertised game they may buy it, what is the demographics of most gamers, age, gender etc...

 

 

 

 



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#2 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 20189

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Posted 01 April 2014 - 03:10 AM


For mobile and browser games, seeing as there are thousands of games out there, how difficult is it to actually make a living from being an independent or small team of people

 

Very difficult at first. Assuming you survive it gets easier.

 

There are a few types of studios out there.

 

There are contract shops. These are small studios who reliably make mobile apps (not necessarily games) on a contract basis; they get paid by companies to develop the app no matter how many copies are installed. Like any other contractor finding the first few contracts is difficult, but once their name gets spread around enough a steady stream of business will develop.

 

Then there are the more traditional risky startups. They might start with some volunteers or with people paid by scraps from the founder's retirement fund. They are living on the edge of a knife. They must put out a new game every few weeks, and that game must sell well enough to keep funding the projects. They either reach critical mass with frequent sales, or they have a misstep and collapse. Once they have enough small revenue streams going (perhaps ten or twenty moderately successful games) they transition from a struggling startup to being a reliable small business.

 

Generally the no-plan, no-investment hobbiests never complete their first project, but they also never had a plan for success, so they don't really count.

 

Like any small business from a restaurant to wedding photographer, getting the first few successes are both difficult and critical. Once you develop a reputation it becomes easier.


Check out my personal indie blog at bryanwagstaff.com.

#3 L. Spiro   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 13226

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Posted 01 April 2014 - 03:48 AM

There are contract shops. These are small studios who reliably make mobile apps (not necessarily games) on a contract basis; they get paid by companies to develop the app no matter how many copies are installed. Like any other contractor finding the first few contracts is difficult, but once their name gets spread around enough a steady stream of business will develop.

And you can make this easier and less risky for yourself if you first work at a medium-to-large company for a while and get a good reputation with them. When you leave to make your own company you can request contracts from them.

This is how my first company, Sanuk Games, was started. The owner left Ubisoft but negotiated a contract with them in which they would give him some projects. He did the first one by himself in an office in Thailand (where expenditures are small) and hired a staff of 3 after that, taking still more contracts from Ubisoft.


L. Spiro
It is amazing how often people try to be unique, and yet they are always trying to make others be like them. - L. Spiro 2011
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I went to my local Subway once to find some guy yelling at the staff. When someone finally came to take my order and asked, “May I help you?”, I replied, “Yeah, I’ll have one asshole to go.”
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#4 Buster2000   Members   -  Reputation: 1588

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Posted 01 April 2014 - 04:04 AM

It entirely depends on how you want to make your living as a games developer.

 

If you have a good idea and spend lots of time and effort making a fun game and then hope to make a decent amount of money from the app store then you are going to find it takes a lot of hard work and is very difficult to make a decent amount.

 

On the other hand if you sell your soul and don't mind making cow clickers and advert games on a contract basis then it is very very easy to make a lot of money as an individual.

 

 

I should add that you also really need to live in the right part of the world to make the most money as contract mobile developer as even though its possible to work remotely most of the contract positions require you to turn up at their offices quite frequently and most of the mobile companies seem to all cluster in the same location.  In the UK this is either London or Brighton, in the US it is San Francisco or Austin, Germany it is Berlin, Amsterdam is also very big for mobile contract work.


Edited by Buster2000, 01 April 2014 - 04:16 AM.


#5 Lactose!   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 3225

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Posted 01 April 2014 - 04:42 AM


… they also never had a plan for success, so they don't really count.

Mind elaborating on this part? It doesn't have to be frob long, just a sentence or two would probably suffice.

:)



#6 L. Spiro   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 13226

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Posted 01 April 2014 - 05:05 AM

Mind elaborating on this part? It doesn't have to be frob long, just a sentence or two would probably suffice.

It means they weren’t really serious about going indie in the first place.


L. Spiro


Edited by L. Spiro, 01 April 2014 - 05:05 AM.

It is amazing how often people try to be unique, and yet they are always trying to make others be like them. - L. Spiro 2011
I spent most of my life learning the courage it takes to go out and get what I want. Now that I have it, I am not sure exactly what it is that I want. - L. Spiro 2013
I went to my local Subway once to find some guy yelling at the staff. When someone finally came to take my order and asked, “May I help you?”, I replied, “Yeah, I’ll have one asshole to go.”
L. Spiro Engine: http://lspiroengine.com
L. Spiro Engine Forums: http://lspiroengine.com/forums

#7 Godmil   Members   -  Reputation: 744

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Posted 01 April 2014 - 06:38 AM

There is a YouTube channel called HowToMakeMobileGames, where the guy covers everything (including all the financials) of trying to make a living making mobile games.



#8 rpiller   Members   -  Reputation: 663

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Posted 01 April 2014 - 08:47 AM

I feel like there are 3 methods with this (not much experience here but from reading and observing this is what I see).

 

1) Play the numbers game. Pump out a new game every month or 2 and see what sticks. Whatever game gets more attention and money you spend your efforts on that game and forget the other games. This must be hard to do not because you have to make so many games but because we generally get into making games because we want to make our 1 mega cool game idea and this style turns this into a grind (but honestly which job doesn't become a grind? at least it's a grind in making video games right :) ).

 

2) Make your bigger "cool" game that takes a year or more and hope that people like it.

 

3) Mix both 1 & 2. Work on your bigger "cool" game while still pumping out smaller not as "cool" games every 3-4 months where you only pay attention to the ones that make money to aid in helping you survive. This sounds like the best option but now you are managing 2 projects which isn't easy.

 

 

From my perspective making video games is not a smart move money wise. You can make so much more &  consistent money using your art/programming skills in other fields. However most of us are hit with the "we want to make our super cool game" bug which pushes us to keep trying :)



#9 Mouser9169   Members   -  Reputation: 401

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Posted 08 April 2014 - 10:58 AM

 


… they also never had a plan for success, so they don't really count.

Mind elaborating on this part? It doesn't have to be frob long, just a sentence or two would probably suffice.

smile.png

 

 

I'll give you my plan.  I started looking at games and what was selling when I came across a few 'old school' jRPG style games on Big Fish Games. They were getting good reviews, and seemed to be selling, so I looked into what they were made with. It wasn't an engine I would  have considered at first (no source code access for one thing), but it had one good thing going for it: I knew that people were buying games made with it (good games made with it - I never had any illusions or delusions about that part).

 

I got the program, started working on it, found some of those developers active in the community, had some conversaions with them and what they did and how they went about it, and learned a lot about how that 'niche' in the game market works: how large the potential customer pool is, what the costs associated with promoting it are, how much can I expect to make per unit sold through various portals (and whether or not direct is a viable option - and the costs associated with that).  I adjusted my plans a bit and kept working on my project. There have been a few changes in the market landscape since I started: Steam Greenlight being the most important positive, BFG apparently not all that interested in RPG's anymore being the most important negative.

 

I'm still working, and plan on a commercial release: Take the money from that, and either make another game in the same niche or use the money to 'upgrade' to a higher level engine and shift to a broader market (with the more competition that goes with that)..I won't be able to make that call until I release and see what the market landscape looks like at that point. Points in my favor are I know how to code, so switching languages isn't a huge impediment, and the genre of game I'm working on (RPG) isn't as engine-dependant as some others (FPS, for example). It's story and character development over anything,and all of that is worked out with pencil and paper.

 

I've set a playable demo deadline for the end of this month, about four to five hours of gameplay.  Once that's done and I get tester feedback, I can adjust the rest of my production outline and set firmer dates for those. If you're not setting serious deadlines for yourself, your odds of finishing at all are greatly diminished, and the quality will be lower - that may sound ironic but deadlines force you to focus on what's important, rather than drifting along adding features for the sake of features and never cutting down to the 'core' of your game.

 

The ones that don't plan simply decide one day they're going to make a game (probably the 'next big' MMO or something equally grandiose), find/buy a game engine/tookit. and start building. If they ever finish the game, they don't have any idea how or where to market it, whether or not that type of game even sells, who buys it, how much they pay for it, who the competition in that marketspace is, etc...


Edited by Mouser9169, 08 April 2014 - 11:04 AM.

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#10 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 20189

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Posted 09 April 2014 - 01:39 AM

 


… they also never had a plan for success, so they don't really count.

Mind elaborating on this part? It doesn't have to be frob long, just a sentence or two would probably suffice.

smile.png

 

 

I like to research things and be educational.  Here is a short version:

 

Most projects that fail:  "I want to make a game! It is going to have wizards and elves and orcs and zombies. I want it on Andorid and iOS, and probably PC too. Here is a drawing for the map. Now how do I code an MMORPG for free?"

 

More likely to succeed projects: "Here are some game ideas. The first one has broad appeal but the market is saturated; we might get 25K purchases if we are lucky. The second one has less saturation but is more of a niche, we can probably get 80K purchases. ... Now that we understand risks and rewards, we'll start along option six with this budget."


Check out my personal indie blog at bryanwagstaff.com.




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