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Bills, Hobbys, and 40 hours a week

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ShoeStringGames

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Yepp, here comes yet another tedious post by myself, debating my future. Lets get this thing underway...


Lately i've been reaching a point where ive had to sit down and think, is it worth it for me to dedicate X ammount of hours a day to a game just to put in my journal for ten people to download? Theres alot of variables to consider:

Day Job: This takes presidence over ANYTHING I do as a game developer. I do this for a LIVING! My boss pays me to sit in my office and code 8 hours a day, five days a week. I will not allow myself to slack on that if I am working essentially overtime on a game while im at home.

Bills: The salary I make is good for my age and my experience. The problem is that with the situations im involved into in my life bills become pretty outstanding. Living on my own I have rent, cable, electric, phone, internet, gas, and trash removal bills that have to get paid. That and I dont even own a car to get back and forth to work so Ray has to pick me up every morning and bring me to work. Fortuantly I dont live far but its still an inconvience for the both of us.

Time: You have heard me and countless others talking about how the time that they have in a day is limited to what they need/want to do. Its hard to want to take time away from lets say my GF to work on something that chances are nobody will play.


This brings me to a set of crossroads. I can walk the line of making a game which can be fun and entertaining and enjoyed by myself and the people that choose to download it. I can also walk the road more traveled and design, code, and market a small indie game. Lets weight the options here:


Hobby:
- Quality isnt a 100% necessity
- Art isnt so much of an issue
- Making sure im providing a bug free, error free product isnt necessary
- No real benefit besides the name sake of having a completed game
Commercial:
- Quality MUST BE 100% to the best of my ability
- Art must be paid for out of my own pocket
- Making sure im providing a bug free, error free product IS necessary!!
- Gives me the opportunity to possably make some small ammount of additional income


I see myself more or less leaning towards a commercial product on an indie scale. Something small, simple, yet addicting to play. Ive seen countless puzzle-esque games become profitable to some indies that if I had the resourses I could produce in less then a month. On top of that with the engine that I am using my back end code is nicly handled and is great for this type of project. On top of everything I could really use some additional income to help me ease my worries.

If I chose to make a small scale commercial game I would buget out of my own pocket, potentially around $500.00 to buy some music, art, and marketing. Theres also TONS of sites around the net where I could get free exposure. The gameplay would be smooth and efficient, the art would be professional (or as professional as my buget would allow) and the quality I would put around it would be something that people wouldnt fret paying for.

All fees would be small, even compaired to what would be my "competitions" prices. Ive seen games on this scale selling on average $19.99 for a download copy of a game. I would more then likley sell for around $5.00-$10.00 and provide the same quality and content value. Additionally I could also design the game to be expandable, allowing for large content to be added for a small price (20 more maps/puzzles for $2.00, additional character to play as $1.00, etc...)

In my eyes its pretty much a necessity to produce a game that I would intend to sell. I could use the money, I know I am capable of producing a quality product, and I know that I would enjoy trying to market the game. The challenge would be fun and the potential payout is definatly alluring.

If I weight it out. If I provide myself with a $500.00 buget and plan on selling at lets say the minimum of $5.00 per copy, I would have to see a minimum of 100 copys of the game just to break even. Even in my eyes would be worth it. Even would get my name out there, it would allow people to see the quality of my products, and it would provide me a base to produce other products.

The scale of the product would be small in terms of time spent on it. 1-3 months. It would sell for cheap, and I could definatly use the potential benefits from it.

Whats your opinions on this, if there are any?
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I've been vaguely considering selling games some time in the future. My current opinion is that I want to first become comfortable with the production side of things with freeware games before having to deal with the hassle of operating a business. Having to deal with the legal side of things, marketing (even if that is just running a website and posting to message boards), sales and after-sale support isn't something I feel I'm ready to do right yet. Plus releasing freeware games can be considered marketing in itself.

That being said, I think the challenge of running a small business could be fun in and of itself, so if you want to sell indie games, I'd say go for it. If you haven't got it already I'd buy a copy of The Indie Game Development Survival Guide, which covers the whole process of running your own indie business.

I'm not too sure about the idea of selling your game too cheap though. There's several good reasons to sell at around the normal price:
  • People associate cheap prices with shoddy games, even if that isn't actually borne out with the quality
  • There's usually an overhead charge for downloading games off the internet if you go with a third-party payment company (which is sensible as they'd be more able to deal with credit cards and the like) which can become a sizable amount of the total cost if you sell too low
  • This might just be my observation, but I think the psychological barrier to get past to get your potential customer to commit to buying your game isn't linearly related to the price you charge. Most customers who are willing to pay $5 for your game would probably also pay $20; the challenge is getting them to want to buy in the first place.


Best of luck though if you decide to go down the indie route. As someone who is interested in doing the same some day I'd be interested in reading about your progress.

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Whats your opinions on this, if there are any?


Go for it.

You seem like you're up to the task, and you have the ability, so I would say give it a try.

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The only problem I see with this idea is that you're not considering the business fees involved in creating a business and marketing a product.

Starting a business usually takes around $500 to make everything legal, probably more in a lot of states. Then there's credit card processing, which, you'll want (impulse buyers will make up the majority of your audience) which comes usually at around a $100 startup fee and then around $60 per month for processing.

As long as you make sure you're considering all the costs involved, you'll be fine.

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