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How many units do Indies sell?

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I've been doing some research about what it would take to make my game and some rough estimating of what my sales figures will need to be in order to break even and/or to make a profit of any kind. I've come up with some numbers now and would like to compare them to statistics of indy games that have actually made sales. Really what I'm looking for is number of unit solds over a 2 year, possibly 3 year, span (also if available the price for which it was sold). I understand that not all indy games make money, especially their first year and first game, but I'm also trying to make sure I at least get close to breaking even on my investment. Does anyone know of a website or is willing to share number of units sold statistics?

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I'm pretty sure this question was asked and answered helpfully just recently, either here on this forum or on the IGDA business forum. I'm pretty sure if you check the other posts' subject lines for similar-sounding questions you'll find a useful link.

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You need to check out the sales figures but I would say that indie game development is the worst possible workpath choice possible at the moment.

Royalty is so low now that even developers from the poorest countries (if they had developers) on the planets couldn't live on it. It's not impossible, popcap for example is a quite sucessful company. But to make a living I would look at other directions if i were you, there is a global high demand for high paying system development consultants in various fields for example.

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I don't plan on making a living off my games sales I'm just thinking of doing it on the side. Also I'm not looking to sell to a publisher or anything I'm doing the true Indy experience of gorilla marketing and shareware.

Thanks eedok for the site. They really helped me make see that my goals are attainable especially if I market right and do what some of those successful people did.

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Quote:
Original post by grapemilk
Whoa, those sales stats aren't encouraging at all. Makes me want to rethink the game I'm currently designing...

If you're designing it to make money, sure - go ahead and rethink.
So is that it? The only reason you're designing that game is to sell it and make a profit? Really?

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I feel that's the only way I can justify the time commitment, in light of more lucrative pursuits...

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Do not rethink your plan, unless your game clearly isn't as good as those listed above.

But those aren't really great examples of indie games that have sold well. There are many, many more that have sold much more then they have. There is plenty of money to be made. You just have to make a good game and market it properly. Easy stuff.

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This is reality guys. I think it's good that people get to see the facts behind game development.

A couple of points I think should be elaborated on though..

First off, a lot of indie developers are very guilty of laziness. How many times have you downloaded somebody's "demo" only to have the graphics look like pong, the file crash over and over on your PC and half the time they have a virus in the DL. Sure there are some great indie people out there workign on projects but usually the ones that make the most noise are just like a spoiled 3 year old vying for attention. They yell and scream and jump up and down saying "Try me! Try me!" and in the end the product is just riddled with broken graphics, broken code and a very unexciting overall appearance and feel.

Take single plater games.. I funno, like Fable. It's not my ball of wax but it's a recent title. The cost of Fable in stores is 39.95. Now how many indie games have you played even come close to the polish of Fable? Im not saying the game is perfect, hell I didnt really like the game but it was polished. It felt retail and it was worth the $39.95. Now take your average "indie" or "shareware" game at $29.95.. I wouldnt play most of them if they were free. They simply arent up to the calibre of the retail market..

Every once in a while an indie will launch an exceptional piece of software. Those are the success stories you seldom hear about.. Minions of Mirth, an indie MMO developed by 2-3 people over a period of 12 months. Wildly succesful, many awards under its belt and sold over 40k copies. EVE-Online.. another indie development group who hit an MMO home run. So what sets these guys apart? Play the games (EVE online and Minions of Mirth both have free trials/free versions) and it's obvious within minutes that the people developing those products were dead serious about playing in the big leagues.

If an indie developer wants to play with the big boys and is serious about their work they can be just as successful as any big studio. But dont kid yourself. Software development as a business takes market studies, business plans, massive and focussed marketting campaigns at various phases of pre-release/release. If an indie truely knows their target market and knows the buying capacity of that market and what percentage of their target market they have a liklihood of making a consumer out of you should have a good idea well before you get started what your financial return is going to be.

Example:
If I make a pacman clone and put up a website and try to sell it.. am I going to be wildly successful? Most likely not. Most likely I'll sell 10-100 copies a year depending on how well I do meta tags on my website to entice search bots to find my site..

Now what if I take my legal pac-man clone, pitch it to Microsoft and have it packaged with every new X-box going out the door?

Pretty clear difference isnt it. The biggest difference is that maybe the pacman I would sell on my shareware website wasnt quite polished enough for the X-Box. But that said then why would I try to pass it off as a retail game. If you want to play big, you have to have the skills to GO big.

Indies stand just as much chance of making money on their software as if they were working for a company. If you have the skills as an indie and can produce the professional quality goods you WILL make money. That said, if you are doing indie game development for the money.... Why are you an indie? Most indies dont have the skills to cut it in the professional game dev world so they work on their own projects to hone their arts. Thats the way it is with me. No way in hell I could develop a triple A MMO in a professional enviro when I Started my game development some 5+ years ago. Today I have a fully scaleably MMO engine under my belt and an "almost" commercial quality game. Sure I could try and sell copies of my game but why? To embarass myself and toss 5 years of hard work into the bargain bin? Hell no. I'll stick it out for as long as it takes untill I can stand up infront of my booth at E3 and announce to the world THIS is Aakrana, developed by indies to showcase their talents, a game every bit as good as all of the other MMO titles on the market today.

There are indie gaming success stories. I think there are exponentially more failures though simply because alot of indies just dont have the skills and arent intrested in developing their skills. If you put in the time and effort you will get the rewards. For me, my reward has been teh massive ammount of learning about game development. Will I get rich on Aakrana ever? Remains to be seen and it's certainly not my motivation for completing the project (Less than 1% of my motivation is money :)

Dont let the numbers discourage you, but more specifically, if they do.. maybe you need to reaccess why you are learning about game development.

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It's entirely possible to make a living off indie games, if you're focused and professional about it.

Our company, Boomzap, was started by 2 developers from the traditional industry. I'd been working for 6 years, mostly doing PC, MMO and Portable development, while my partner Chris had been doing this for 10+ years, with a bunch of big games credited.

Right now we're a 10 man company, with all the developers having shipped commercial 'traditional' titles before joining our little casual development studio. We also outsource art-work on some of the titles, working with partner studios like Flipside and Playware. While the income the studio generates isn't enough to buy a ferrari anytime soon, everyone gets paid a competitive wage each month, and get to work on our own games.

In our case, we get the bulk of our revenue from Portal sales (places like Real, BigFish, iWin, etc). Boomzap.com gets some traffic, but the sales from there are pretty low (similar to the numbers quoted above). We do a mix of different games, though all are solidly inside the "casual PC" genre. At the moment we've got 3 games in development, one's an RPG-lite, one's an Action game, and one is a Match3 adventure (a sequel to our last title, Jewels of Cleopatra).

Average development time is 9-12 months, with the first 3 months usually spent in low-intensity prototyping phase. Our average team-size is 3-5 people. We run a pure virtual office, with developers scattered from Helsinki, to Singapore, to Seattle. Most of our developers are > 30 years old, and about half are married with children (one of the reasons we left the traditional industry in the first place).

Anyways; just wanted to input that, since from a lot of the previous input it sounded like people can't make a living off indie game development. Of course you can, but at that point you need to treat it as a job, not a hobby.

Allan Simonsen

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Ryan Clark of Grubby Games has said that he earns enough from his casual games (the Fizzwizzle brand is obviously his best) to support two people full-time.

On the 'net, getting people to your site matters just as much, if not more than, creating a good game. Ryan did a good job of attracting, and keeping, people by offering a simple way for people to produce levels for the platformer. He got Fizzwizzle reviewed on many sites, offered a demo on one and all download sites, submitted to contests, etc. He also used to write development tutorials, and more recently hosts the Game Programming Wiki.

The more people to can draw to your site, the more purchases you're likely to get. Be inventive? And once you've got them, keep them! If they bought one of your games, they're far more likely to buy your next game than anyone else.

[Edited by - RedWombat on August 1, 2007 4:47:47 AM]

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I would add a word of caution here. While there are lots of people (mentioned above) who earn a living from indie games most if not all of them have been doing it for several years and/or have previous experience working in the mainstream (PC/Console) development sector. An Indie development business takes time to establish and you usually need a portfolio of several products (and a couple of years) before you generate enough traffic/sales to make a living.

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Quote:
Original post by Obscure
I would add a word of caution here. While there are lots of people (mentioned above) who earn a living from indie games most if not all of them have been doing it for several years and/or have previous experience working in the mainstream (PC/Console) development sector. An Indie development business takes time to establish and you usually need a portfolio of several products (and a couple of years) before you generate enough traffic/sales to make a living.


In the case of myself and few people I know:

* 8 years experience + 3 years indie (nine products) before one was really cultivated and took off, the rest took a long time to become profitable. Currently a 4-person business.
* 5 years experience + 2 years non-game indie (one product in a large niche market) + 1 year before becoming profitable against the two incumbents in the market. Product line has expanded into additional markets, but only after another two years. After five years, hiring one developer.
* 6 years experience + 2 years indie (15 products) before the collection of games became interesting enough to turn a notable profit. Profits just below half of the day-job salary, still growing the business.
* 8 years experience, small team quit their studio and founded another company, published a few well-received console games, then sold their share of the studio.
* 7 and 9 years experience, their studio was bought out and they were laid off because they didn't want to take a huge pay cut. They hired two youth who were also laid off, started a studio, and eventually double-mortgaged their houses before things worked out. First game was a commercial failure. Second game picked up by Sierra, a few years later studio was purchased by Sierra, when Sierra collapsed they bought themselves back, rebuilt the studio, and just recently sold their studio a second time.


You don't just spend a week writing code and then expect the money to flow in. It must be a long term business that is cultivated, not a one-shot make-or-break event.

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Quote:
Original post by frob
You don't just spend a week writing code and then expect the money to flow in. It must be a long term business that is cultivated, not a one-shot make-or-break event.



Amen.

There's a saying:
"9 out of 10 business go bust in their first years of operation, and most game companies aren't even run like businesses".

Allan

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