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TheFlyingDutchman

Another 'chances of success' question

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Currently I am a student in Artificial Intelligence and I'm into game developing for about a year or so. I have another year to go before I get my masters degree, so I have been thinking what to do after I graduated. Although with my educational level it won't be hard to find a job, it is actually hard to find a job that really is involved in Artificial Intelligence (the changes are a lot bigger that I would end up in yet another software company). So I am thinking, what is the thing that I actually like? It boils down to this: I like creating things, especially computer games because I'm interested in them. I have good programming skills (I took three very good C++ courses) and I also have skills in OpenGL programming and GPU programming (I took a course in advanced computer graphics, the end project was creating fluid simulation on the gpu). Besides that, I know a lot about AI of course. One option for me could be: try to get a job at a games studio. I am considering this, but it doesn't give me the freedom in creating the things that I would like. On the other hand, it might be good enough for me, I wouldn't have complete freedom, but at least I am creating games. If the game studio isn't too large, I might actually have some influence on what is created. But today I had another idea. What if I create small games, say a game that could be made within a year time by one person. That way I have complete freedom in what I create, the risks are relatively small because I don't have to hire other people. I could even try to create my first game during my final year being a student, which even reduces the risk (I don't have to earn any money this year, so this would give me a head start). Alright, to earn some money, the game has to be sold. This is definitely the hardest part. How would I sell enough to keep myself alive? Sure, I can sell it on my website, but I doubt I would sell enough copies that way. How about trying to sell the game to toy stores and music/video/software stores? Is visiting them with my laptop and showing them the game a good way to sell some copies? Lets assume the quality of the game is ok (given today's standards), to complete the game you have about 6 to 8 hours of gaming fun and I am thinking about selling it for 10 to 15 euro's. How likely is it that a toy store I visit says: `ok, we buy 25 copies and we will try to sell them'. Or would it be more likely that they say: `well, give us 10 copies for free, if they sell good enough, we will buy some more'? Or wouldn't they even be interested? What do you think is a reasonable price for a game I described (platform: windows/linux/mac, graphics quality: very reasonable for todays standards, but of course it won't be crysis, play time: 6 to 8 hours to complete). Given that there won't be a big marketing machine behind this game, will it sell for 10 - 15 euro's? Could such a game even be created by one person in one year time? How many copies could such a game sell within a year time? How hard would it be to sell 5000 copies in a year time (toy stores, music-film-games stores, website, e-bay)? What are the margins if you try to sell the game to a toy/music-film-games store? If they sell the game for 10 euro's, what would be a reasonable share for me? What are my chances to get my game reviewed by a games magazine if I send them a copy? Do they receive ten such games a week, so they don't even give it a try? I like almost every aspect of game developing: programming, 3d graphics, texturing, recording sounds. Selling the game depends a lot on the success rate I think. I have some experience in finding sponsors for a student union, so I know these kind of things are hard. I might have to buy licenses for music, because I can't handle that aspect on my own. Because creating textures and environmental sounds is also a lot of work, I also might have to buy some libraries for this too. So basically I think I have an idea about what is involved in creating a game and selling it. What I am really missing are the numbers. How many copies would I be able to sell? What price could I ask? How much time does it take to create a game? What does it cost to press cd's or dvd's? How likely am I to get my game reviewed? Well I've been day-dreaming. Should go back studying again. But I am curious about the numbers, anyone with some experience who can fill in some of the gaps?

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Welcome to the world of independent developers (or in short, "indies") :)

There is an active scene of developers doing exactly what you described. One of the goals of Microsoft's XNA platform is to get some of these developers to develop games for the XBox 360. You will also see such games on Steam in the "Indie" section.

Development time frames typically range from 2 months to 18 months (with around 3-4 months being the norm)

Prices you will see range from $6 to $25, depending on product size. Extremely low prices aren't common because in part because that communicates to the players that the game is not worth much, $9 and $12 are normal.

Some indie developers are true multi-talents, others outsource certain aspects (eg. there's a niche market of individual artists and musicians that will build a game's assets for a small fee of just a few hundred dollars. Outsouring the programming aspect of an indie game is much less common, but it looks like that's not an issue in your case anyway).

--

Just trying give you an overview of the scene, of course the price and time quotations are personal observations and I might be off a bit ;)

You can find a lot of informations and other indie developers on IndieGamer!

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Wow, that is indeed exactly what I meant! LOL that I could have missed that. I'll carefully check out that forum you mentioned and I think I just start developing in my free time and just see where it ends :).

Nice to see that there are more people that want to do exactly the same and that it is in fact a respected part of the gaming community (with games sold on Steam for example and also games magazines doing reviews on indie games).

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Quote:
Original post by cbenoi1
I'd suggest you buy this book:

Indie Game Development Survival Guide , by David Michael (aka DavidRM on Gamedev).

Much of your questions are answered in there.

-cb
Great book.

One common route is to take a regular job and then work on your own project evenings and weekends. It can be hard work if you want to put serious time into it, but starting a successful business is normally hard. People starting a business will frequently work 80-hour weeks, so if you have a normal 40-hour job
it's possible to effectively work nearly a full-time job on your own stuff. It's a sacrifice of course, but this way you are not depending on your indie games for money.
On the other hand, I'm sure I've heard it said that if you do depend on your own games for money, you're going to be way more committed to making damn sure you succeed!

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Thanks for all your reactions. I'll buy that book, it looks very useful indeed. For now, I started working on a game, it is meant as a study project so I can learn about techniques and creating a lot of base elements that are reusable for other games. I'll try to finish the game in about 10 months time (while in my final masters year) and see how successful I can be in developing and selling a game. Afterwards I can make the decision: find a job, or continue being an indie game developer? :)

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Quote:
Original post by TheFlyingDutchman
Alright, to earn some money, the game has to be sold. This is definitely the hardest part. How would I sell enough to keep myself alive? Sure, I can sell it on my website, but I doubt I would sell enough copies that way.

Your doubts are correct. The chance that your first indie game will make enough money for you to live on are close to zero. Go over to the Indiegamer forum that Cygon linked too. It is full of people who will make it clear to you that building an indie games business takes time. Your first product will sell zip because....
1. It probably won't be all that good.
2. No one knows your website exists so they won't go there to buy your game.

All the successful guys over at Indiegamer had to finish several games and spend time generating awareness before the combined sales of their games got to a level where they could afford to quit their day job and go full time.

Quote:
How about trying to sell the game to toy stores and music/video/software stores? Is visiting them with my laptop and showing them the game a good way to sell some copies?
Not a good way at all. You would spend hours and hours for almost no return. Most shops won't buy (chain stores especially only buy through a central sales office and only if you pay them thousands in marketing promotion fees. Small independent shops will take too much time for too few sales and far more importantly all the time spent wandering the streets is time not spent writing your next game so when you have finished selling the first game you will have no more revenue because you have no second game.

Quote:
How many copies could such a game sell within a year time? How hard would it be to sell 5000 copies in a year time (toy stores, music-film-games stores, website, e-bay)?
You would be lucky to sell 50 of your first game, let alone 5000. Go to the indiegamer site and see what they say.

Quote:
What are my chances to get my game reviewed by a games magazine if I send them a copy? Do they receive ten such games a week, so they don't even give it a try?
the chances aren't great but it is still worth trying. It doesn't cost much and doesn't take too long and it is worth it if you get a review.

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