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leiavoia

How much can an "indie" reasonably expect to earn?

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Let's say an indie developer creates a game from scratch. it's a reasonably good game. It's not a tetris-clone simple kind of game you expect to find as a freebie on a hardware driver CD. it's actually pretty solid although perhaps not as glitsy as the latest AAA titles of course. Now let's say it sells reasonably well (i understand "reasonable" has a really wide swing to it). Selling just this one game, how much can an indie dev / small team reasonably expect to earn as profit from this endeavor? I'm thinking about putting some serious effort into getting a personal project to market. But i want to know if it's worth my time to even think about going commercial. I'm obviously not quiting my day job just yet, but you know i want to!

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This has been asked several times before. Even by me :). The answer though is no one knows. It could be anywhere between $0 and $1,000,000. It depends on so many different factors.

Your can market a crap game really really well and make heaps of dosh, but you can also create an amazing game and sell very few units if your marketing is lame.

Are selling online or are you hoping to get a publisher and sell your game in shops?

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I think you are asking the wrong questions. In fact, going into indie game dev shouldn't be about money at all. You can make heaps of money doing this. But it shouldn't be about the money. If you want to make games for a living, go make it happen. Period.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
In fact, if you are in game development for the money, think seriously about a different career choice. Oh, there is money there, but at the developer level you are unlikely to see much of it. Now if you were a publisher on the other hand...

You have to be in it for the love of making games or you'd be much better off doing business programming. The hours are (usually) shorter and the pay is (usually) better.

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Even indies need to eat. When the question becomes "can I do this full time, or do I have to keep working at the tar factory," then the money becomes a real concern, and should be treated as a real business decision.

So, how much would you sell? Suppose you sold 50,000 copies, at the $19.95 price point, and you got $1.70 for each after marketing, manufacturing, retail, wholesale, returns, etc. That'd be about $85k, before taxes. If the 50,000 copies are a sure thing, then that's pretty good. If the 50,000 copies is a 1-in-10 chance, then the expected return is $8.5k, which isn't looking as good (assuming you need to eat and all that).

Another question is: who would market your game?

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I would suggest getting a lawyer, and working out exactly who is going to own what. An artist, programmer composer, or whomever, who creates a piece of art or technology for a game, technically owns that art or technology (the dev team does not) unless otherwise stated through a contractual agreement. So before you can count the money, you need a structure in place that takes care of all the legalities of making money. Covering those bases will give you a better perspective about the efforts of going commercial.

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Try doing the math? If your gonna self publish the game then you just have to figure out your expenses then run a couple variable incomes. Find out how much it will cost to press CDROM's, find out how much it'll cost for box printing and so forth.

Myself, I found out that it'll cost me $4 CAD to put together a simple package, silkscreened CD with a custom printed game box. If I sell the game at $19.99 I make $15 a unit. Minimum order is 1000 copies. Cost = $4000, Income = $19990, Profit = $15990....do the math.

But don't forget to you have to market that product with advertisements in magazines or on websites, etc. Those 1000 copies won't sell on their own.

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Quote:
Original post by Dee-roc
Myself, I found out that it'll cost me $4 CAD to put together a simple package, silkscreened CD with a custom printed game box. If I sell the game at $19.99 I make $15 a unit. Minimum order is 1000 copies. Cost = $4000, Income = $19990, Profit = $15990....do the math.
Before doing the math you need to add in all the costs - not just a few of them. What about shipping costs? How do you expect to sell units without any marketing (deduct that cost from your profit), company overheads (even if you are just a freelance one man band - internet access, web hosting, general work costs such as phone, power, stationary, banking, accounts, equipment).

Then there is the cost of development - even if you do it in your "spare time" that time is worth money. You could work at the local burger shack for the same number of hours it took to make the game and earn Y$. Work a better job/overtime at a day job and those hours might be worth 2xY$ - If you aren't covering the cost of developing the game then you aren't actually making any profit.

Lastly how about the cost of your time responding to customer calls/emails when they have a problem? That is an ongoing cost which also needs to be factored in.

Quote:
Original post by leiavoiaNow let's say it sells reasonably well (i understand "reasonable" has a really wide swing to it). Selling just this one game, how much can an indie dev / small team reasonably expect to earn as profit from this endeavour?
The honest answer is almost nothing. The teams/companies that are making money at indie development have been doing it for some time and almost all of them have built up a portfolio of titles. Few, if any, made money off their first title for a host of reasons which can all be rolled up into "lack of experience" and "lack of market awareness"

In short they didn't know how to make good games; or they didn't know how to make a web site that actually gets a customer to part with their cash; or they didn't know how to market their game. In addition the customers didn't know their game even existed and so they didn't buy it. You need to be around for a while so people get to hear of you (or you need to invest money into marketing).

Going indie is a long term endeavour. The good news is that you can start out part time and build up slowly but the bad news is that there is a lot of (non-development) work involved in getting it right.

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Thanks for the gentle responses so far.

Quote:
Original post by hplus0603
Even indies need to eat. When the question becomes "can I do this full time, or do I have to keep working at the tar factory," then the money becomes a real concern, and should be treated as a real business decision.


Amen. That's really what i'm getting at. I'm at an interesting point in my life where i have the following:

- I work a dead end job. I can survive if i live like a rat, but more would be nice. I have no health insurance, no benefits, and no hope for advancement.

- I'm very smart, as most people on this board are. I'm capable of doing a LOT more than i'm doing now. But...

- I have no degree. I went to college for a year. It was an expensive joke. I wish i had a degree, but it is in my opinion not worth the time or the money. I'd rather live like a rat than live like a rat with a huge debt to pay back and little to show for it. I also don't want to work a job that requires me to sign off my soul when i start on my first day, then bang out mindnumbing work for 10 hours a day like some white-collar zombie.

So... if you want something done right, do it yourself. I'm thinking about jumping off the bandwagon and making a living for myself instead of working for The Man. It's risky, probably borderline stupid, but i'm a very capable person. I could also ease into the industry slowly, keep my day job, and do the game dev thing "on the side." But i've got to do something.

Being an analytical kind of person, i'm really looking for some numbers on all of this. I can do math, but i need numbers to work with first. I have no idea how many units sold it takes to be a "small game" versus a "big game." If i knew that, i could get a better idea about whether or not i'm crazy enough to do this for a living (or part thereof).

Is there a place to get some numbers on what companies are selling what and for how much?

Thanks for your input. It's really appreciated. I'm sure you get these kinds of questions all the time but i don't frequent the Business forum too often. I usually stay in the programming ones ;-)

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Hello,

I was in the very same situation as you a few years back, I chose to take a different route though. I took up the occupation of contract development of various items, including games, but mostly just interactive applications of various sorts. I have managed to rely on approximatly $2.5k a month, and I am very good at my trade. I also have been doing this since highschool (which made it temporary at the time) scoring about 1k a month worth of work, and had 6 years programming expiriance before that. Understand that there is no benfifits, but alot of your money, though not all, is under the table. In addition you have alot of freedoms, and free time, for which to devote to side projects. This might suit your fancy. Just understand you have to be very good, not just at programming, but at marketing yourself, to make it in the USA as a contract programmer.

Richard

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