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Forza1

Expected Revenue

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I have been considering the gaming industry for some time now and I can't help but think how much revenue there really is to be made. There was a study done in 2009 claiming that Americans alone spent $25.3B on games, which is probably an understatement and has definitely risen since then. However, there is also a ridiculous amount of competition and realistically a very small percentage of released games end up being successful. Before I go any further, let me explain why I am here talking about this right now. I am in my early 20s and have no college education so I don't believe my chances at this stage of my life are very high for getting a job at any of the gaming giants.

Now of course I could go to college but, to be blunt, I don't find any point in it, I feel as though I have easily been learning at a much faster pace on my own then I ever could at school. So I am at something of a cross roads. Should I join / start an indie game company or should I try and push myself through 4 years of college and be in my mid 20s before I even start my career? Don't get me wrong, I'm one of those nerdy people that love to learn, but I'm also very eager to start my life and another 4 years of waiting doesn't appeal to me at all. So I guess my question is can one really make a living off being an indie game programmer?

I started thinking about the numbers and it doesn't look too great. Assuming that I spend a couple years on a game then get lucky and sell 10,000 copies of it, where does that leave me? I would imagine that, for an indie game, I will be charging roughly $10 per copy which should leave me with $100,000. There's a couple problems though. First of all - I would have to pay my team of course, it's unlikely I am making a game that sells 10,000 copies on my own. Then I would have to look at partner expenses such as shared profits on Steam if I choose to sell my game through that platform. Assuming that I'm left with $40,000, that's really not a lot of money for a few years work and who knows how long until I make another game that actually sells.

Unfortunately even the above situation is pretty unlikely, I imagine that my first few games will sell next to nothing. I am not being pessimistic, just realistic. So I ask you, the professional community, what your suggestions are. I love programming and I really want to break into the industry but I obviously need money to live as well. Do gaming giants like Blizzard, EA, Valve, and Epic take programmers without a degree if they have enough experience? Is a degree really necessary to go anywhere in this business with the exception of the lucky few that manage to grow their own? Should I sacrifice another 4 years because it will be worth it in the long run?

Thanks.

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So I ask you, the professional community, what your suggestions are. I love programming and I really want to break into the industry but I obviously need money to live as well.


Your choices aren't restricted to 'make indie games' and 'go to college'. What are you doing for a living now? What is your professional experience?

Breaking into bizdev is easier than gamedev simply due to more options/less competition. And most places offer tuition reimbursement if you're in a situation where night/weekend schooling while getting professional experience is an option. Not saying that's what I recommend, just pointing out that options exist.


Do gaming giants like Blizzard, EA, Valve, and Epic take programmers without a degree if they have enough experience?
[/quote]

Some do, some don't. If you're in your mid twenties (read: don't have a lot of professional experience) and don't have a few indie games or a wildly impressive portfolio, they won't.


Is a degree really necessary to go anywhere in this business with the exception of the lucky few that manage to grow their own?


It certainly helps. As an entry level programmer, you don't really have much else to show. Given the choice between a good programmer with a degree and good programmer without, the programmer with the degree is the likely better candidate in many eyes.


Should I sacrifice another 4 years because it will be worth it in the long run?


You're not sacrificing them, you're investing them to become a better, more well roundedly educated person. If you've learned a bit on your own, check for schools that will give credits for testing out of classes or 'life experience'.

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You're not sacrificing them, you're investing them to become a better, more well roundedly educated person. If you've learned a bit on your own, check for schools that will give credits for testing out of classes or 'life experience'.


Perhaps sacrifice wasn't the best word. I was pointing to the fact that 4 years is a lot of extra time to spend at my age, it would be different if I had gone straight from high school to college. I also have never even heard of schools giving credits for testing / life experience before so I will look into that. My current job is free lance programming, I'm only making slightly more than I would full time at a minimum wage job. I admit I haven't looked into every possible option at this point but, as I said, I'm very eager to actually start working on game programming which is the primary reason I'm not very interested in college.

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Do gaming giants like Blizzard, EA, Valve, and Epic take programmers without a degree if they have enough experience?


If they have enough experience and a great portfolio and resume. Yes.

But this is a Breaking In question, not a Production question. The question of how much revenue a business can make is a Business question, not a Production question. I think this thread is more of a Breaking In topic than a Business topic, so I'm moving this to Breaking In.

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[quote name='Forza1' timestamp='1333033251' post='4926359']
Do gaming giants like Blizzard, EA, Valve, and Epic take programmers without a degree if they have enough experience?


If they have enough experience and a great portfolio and resume. Yes.

But this is a Breaking In question, not a Production question. The question of how much revenue a business can make is a Business question, not a Production question. I think this thread is more of a Breaking In topic than a Business topic, so I'm moving this to Breaking In.
[/quote]

It should perhaps be noted that actually getting experience without a degree is hard, (professional experience is the only experience that really counts). an impressive portfolio on its own will often not even get looked at (If you have neither professional experience nor a degree you need something else on your resume that will make whoever looks at it get interested.) (a important position on the development of a good, well known freeware game or mod can be a ticket past initial screening for example, don't expect the HR person to actually download and look at your game though, if they havn't allready heard of it then it won't help much)


I started thinking about the numbers and it doesn't look too great. Assuming that I spend a couple years on a game then get lucky and sell 10,000 copies of it, where does that leave me? I would imagine that, for an indie game, I will be charging roughly $10 per copy which should leave me with $100,000. There's a couple problems though. First of all - I would have to pay my team of course, it's unlikely I am making a game that sells 10,000 copies on my own. Then I would have to look at partner expenses such as shared profits on Steam if I choose to sell my game through that platform. Assuming that I'm left with $40,000, that's really not a lot of money for a few years work and who knows how long until I make another game that actually sells.


Try a cheaper market, web and mobile games can compete with lower budgets (a 2-3 man team can push out a decent mobile or flash game every 3-4 months) , revenue through ads for the "free/demo" version also helps boost total revenue slightly.

If you go for the PC market then you need to either make something new or atleast make a modern spin on classic gameplay to be able to compete with a low budget, There is more room for high prices though so the total revenue can also be alot higher. (The market for casual PC games has pretty much disappeared in favor of casual web games so its alot harder to sell casual games on the PC now that just a few years ago, it can often be better to target the niches than to go for the casual market on the PC)

Either way gamedev is not an easy field, competition is fierce and you'll have to work hard to make a living unless you get insanely lucky.

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I admit I haven't looked into every possible option at this point but, as I said, I'm very eager to actually start working on game programming which is the primary reason I'm not very interested in college.


It seems to me that you have two problems:

- You want to work on games.
- You want to advance your career.

These aren't necessarily tied together. It would be awesome if they could be, but it does not seem realistic based on what you've told us. If I were you, I would focus on the career. Anyone can download a compiler and work on games, including you. Getting a degree will give you more, better options. Getting more professional experience will give you more, better options. Having some financial stability will give you more, better options.

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Forza1, I wouldn’t even consider the employment route if you aren’t prepared to go for a degree. It’s the norm nowadays, especially at the entry level. An old fart like me can get away with it, but I joined the industry when no degree was the norm and competed among those ranks then, picked up the experience and now I can hold that against all my competition, degree or not (for them and me). It would be too easy to say this has never been an issue for me - it doesn’t seem to have been, but the likelihood is that I’m just not aware of doors which didn’t open for me.

Either way, degree or not you won’t have this benefit of experience for many years. If you do manage to get your foot in the door, you might get the experience over time…but unlike me you’ll spend your entire life competing against people who got the degree when you could have and got the same level of experience during the same years. It will be a lifelong battle for you. Don’t make life harder for yourself.

It seems to me you have two choices if you want to make games.

a) Don’t get a degree, make your own games and if it turns out to be successful for you, the lack of a fallback or the need to qualify for alternative employment in the industry (or even outside it) won’t matter. Even if you’re shithot, there’s a crapshoot element to this…beware.
b) Get a degree. You can work for others making games more easily. You’ll have the option of doing that first if you wish and the option of being an entrepreneur won’t ever go away. You can go for this sooner if you want, but if it fails, or you need to take a raincheck you’ll have the credentials that qualify you more easily for continued employment.

You’ll get to do everything you want and have better fallback options with the latter. It might take a little longer, but you’ll have all the options you want in life. When you’re older and you have a family to support, you’ll be able to do that more reliably and with less worry.

You are very young still. Time is on your side. You mention sacrifice, but if you don’t take the time to do things right…don’t forget you’re sacrificing the time you have. Better to take the time and by age X have all the options you want, rather than get to X…have tried something, failed and have less options open.

Bear in mind at any age, you’ll always have the choice of going back to school to pick up credentials you didn’t get sooner. I would add though, that having a choice doesn’t mean the options are realistic and as you get older, even if you have the choice…the option to go back to school will be a more difficult one to take. There’s no better time to get the qualifications than while you’re young and have less things going on.

I lie, there’s another choice. If you want to make games, make games. You don’t have to be a professional to do that and you can pursue another entirely successful day job/career at the same time. For some people, this is the best option to be honest.

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My current job is free lance programming, I'm only making slightly more than I would full time at a minimum wage job.

Not to be overly critical, but to some extent you are clearly "doing it wrong".

Minimum wage around here is < $10/hour, and I used to earn $20/hour doing basic webdev in high school. Freelance Java work as a sophomore in university earned me $25-35/hour, and more work was available than I had time to fulfil alongside my studies...

You should probably take a long, hard look at the type of projects/clients you are taking on, and whether they are taking you for a ride.

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This is a tough topic that, for some reason, comes up a lot. It's tough to say really because some companies may not take you without a degree but as it was before, if you have a great portfolio or something to show that you are capable of doing the work, then your good to go without a degree. Case in point, I went to college and realized that I was getting more in debt with each semester so I cut my losses with an Associates in Business Management, now I find out that people don't even consider this type of degree to be sufficient anymore that it's all about the Bachelors and the Associates are equivalent to a High School Diploma. My roommate did not go to college at all, actually he did not even get a high school diploma but a GED, and got A+ certified at some point years ago, he is right now working for a major company and before that he developed for the government, these aren't no name companies either. He is self taught and learned over the course of about 4ish years now (I think) the level he is programming at now makes college level look like a joke, especially when you pretty much waste the first two years with "core classes" and junk like that. Honestly if you truly know what you are doing I would look into contracting companies that hire you and contract you out to the big guys, there is a huge market for programmers right now (my roommate gets job offers frequently, the most recent being from As Seen on TV for 75,000 for six months) if you can find a contracting company to take a chance on you and you are able to handle the job or at least prove that you are able to handle the job, then your golden and each contract you complete, you learn more and can raise you asking price. He went from $30/hr when he first started and now his asking price for the next contract will be $65 and this is in the course of maybe two years that he started getting contract work for programming. Ultimately it is your decision and there is no guarantee that your story will be the same, but at least I can give you some food for thought on the matter, my Associates now is nothing but a 30,000 debt, which I barely make in a year.

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college level look like a joke, especially when you pretty much waste the first two years with "core classes" and junk like that.


This quote is the reason I down-voted the post above. Core classes are most definitely not a joke and are not a waste of time.

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