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

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Most people are quite secret about the number of units they have sold, although a similar question to yours was posted in IndieGamer and a few people reported their sales figures. Some people made terrible sales, like 5 in a year, but then there are other games like Pizza Frenzy that have sold over 50,000 copies.

CNET also display download numbers for different software so you may want to check those out and find what are the most popular types of games. Apparently the average purchase-to-download rate is between 1% and 3%, so could work out some very rough min and max incomes for a particular game. Then of course you need to take off what CNET charges for each download. I'm not sure what it is, but I can imagine it's high, perhaps 50% or more.

I'm in the same boat as you. I'm really bored with the normal 9 to 5 rat race so am striving to make a living by selling the games I produce. I don't expect to be in the worlds top 10 rich list, (may be top 11 :) ), but with enough perserverance i'm sure I can make a living as an independant game developer.

My Game Blog

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imo, let me say that regarding indy games, you'll have always to be positive and, learning is the key.. :) I'm working on a 2D game myself which I hope to finish next year. But, the 2nd and 3rd posts of this thread so say a lot. In order to make any decent sales, you need to get everyaspect of your game right. It's just like landing an airplane, you can't skip any check or it will crash. Excellent level design, challenging game play, the graphics don't need to be so super, imho. Friendly web site and easy sale mechanism.
Of course it will help greatly to join contests, share your work in forums. That's also the fun of it. What I really try to say is there's a lot of work to be done between an idea and setting it all into reality, there's no fundamental difference between an indy game or a huge commercial product, no? Always check if it's fun to play. If you're up to it, then you can pick the fruits of it. Because a good game will sell, no matter what.

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"Because a good game will sell, no matter what."

No, it wont.

EDIT: Its al a little, it is not fair to say a good game will sell no matter what. l about marketing. I havent developed many games, but i have done numberous software products, and ill tell you that your sales figures are a direct result of marketing. If you just have a website with your game for sale, how will customers find the website? Most people dont search for obscure names. Its more about how you deploy your games that your sales figures come in. If you can get on a site like realarcade your going to ship titles, even if your game sucks ass IMHO. It doesent mean you will sell many, but there are people that will purhcase products by barely looking at the demo (I have sales figures to prove this for PokerVitals, which, BTW, holds a 15% turnover rate... around 30% of the purchases occured before the software was downloaded (which has a free mode)) So while the quality will determine whether a game makes alot, or just a few pennies, without a good marketing campagn you have officialy kicked yourself in the ass. If they cant find you, you dont have a shot. An example, when PV switched from purely indirect advertising and added a direct advertising by my employer, sales figures shot up around 50%. And guess what? Advertising is going to cost you money, this is usualy one of the major things a publisher does for you. But in this day and age, just get on the sites that let you, such as C-Net, pay the royalties, and ship your product. Thats all you can do.

Richard

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It would be interesting to do some kind of anon survey about what indie game developers do actually earn. Or lonegun men and their shareware. It's probably a bit rude to just come out and ask people that.

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Quote:
Original post by PaulCesar
"Because a good game will sell, no matter what."

No, it wont.
Dead right - games don't sell themselves. Someone has to tell the punters that it exists (marketing). Either you market it or someone else does for you - by that I mean that reviewers say nice things or existing customers "sell" the game for you via word of mouth. However for either of the last two to happen you must have marketed the game to those people in the first place.


I would recommend that anyone seeking to do self publishing invest $100 in memebership of http://www.asp-shareware.org/. They have a private newsgroup full of people who have been self publishing for years and are happy to offer lots and lots of really useful advice.

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Just to further on dans oppinion of ASP shareware, it is a great great program, though when I enrolled a few years back I believe it was $360-$380... I might be wrong though. I dont feel like digging up the docs on it. They used to do very nice shareware distrobutions aswell, with a reasonable turnover rate on them.

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Making money is possible, but it needs certain things, first of all you should have contacts (or start making them right away), skill to make games, sad, but true, the game must be high quality. If you are going to sell your games 19.99 dollars, before you publish or even start making it ask yourself, would you pay that amount of money for this product.

Running indie company gets a lot easier when you have good business guy in there, who can do the marketing, and so on. But it is very hard to find one.

I love working at indie company. :)

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I've published my own games 'on the side'. For me, it's not enough to live on, but it helps. And it's fun.

My advice: Don't quit your day job until you sell enough to replace the income, or at least subsist on it.

Make the games and enjoy the process. You won't survive on a single game -- you need to produce several to get repeat customers.

Do just enough of the 'business' side to get by at first, such as registering with the government (a simple DBA is fairly cheap and you don't need to incorporate), some marketing, and so on. Feed 100% of what you earn back into the business side. If you are able to make a few sales and know your product is good, do a little more advertising until you get a somewhat steady following.

Once you get a steady flow of sales and enough cash in the bank to survive for a while without income, then consider quitting the day job.

Just don't quit your job and assume money will roll in.

frob.

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If you're in a "dead end job" living "like a rat" but you have enough skill to create sellable games from scratch, why not get a job in programming, for a game/non-game company? Without a degree it's certainly harder to get your foot in the door, but if you are as smart and capable as you claim you can get SOME programming job, and it seems that ANY programming job would be more fun and better paying than your current position.
You'll need a demo or a portfolio, so I'd start working on this without quitting work. Then land a programming job. Then think about the path to becoming an indie once you're in a decent job.

If you're so smart, can't you get a job which pays better in ANY field?

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