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Average revenue/dev time for mobile game?

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Hi,

 

I have an idea for a 2D strategy game. It seems fun to give game development a shot, but the costs and time investment seem a little daunting. I really have no clue what to expect.

 

How much would you say does the average game make, and over what period of time, assuming there is a free version and a $1 one without ads, and that it's released for iOS and android? I know there's no one right answer, a rough estimate is all I'm looking for.

 

Also, how many hours of development time should I expect (excluding art/audio assets)?

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Ouch...

 

ETA: sorry, maybe I should've posted this in 'Breaking into the Industry'

Edited by quetzalcoati

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Traditionally there are gatekeepers. The gatekeepers have stemmed from a need of funding and capital investment.

Software doesn't have those barriers to manufacture and produce and store in warehouses and ship to stores. Consequently the app stores have huge numbers of new games and apps launched daily. The various app stores grow by about 1000 new apps every day. Competing in a world where you have so many new competitors daily, in addition to millions of older competitors, is difficult.

Even a marketing budget of a few thousand dollars is not enough to draw eyeballs for more than the shortest time frame.

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sorry, maybe I should've posted this in 'Breaking into the Industry'


No. That forum is about JOBS in the industry. That is very far from what you're asking. You asked about development time (project management) and expected return (business).

Time to complete and release depends on experience and scope and platform. You said mobile 2D strategy game. Since you have to ask, it's unlikely you can make it in as little as 3 months. If you get a highly experienced team and an elegantly sparse design, it can be done in about 3 months.
 

barring spending tens/hundreds of thousands on marketing, is there anything I can do?


Sure. You have to be creative and find a novel solution. (And here you thought creativity was limited to the development side!) Do a lot of reading on Gamasutra and Kotaku and GamesIndustry.biz, and see what some others have done.
 

Also, how many hours of development time should I expect (excluding art/audio assets)?


Just saw that part upon rereading. A minimal team size is probably three. Three people times three months is nine, and a man-month costs at least US$10,000 in the US. So $90,000 (I know you didn't ask, but that's the natural followup question). It's possible to do it for less, but likely it'll cost more. Edited by Tom Sloper

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Three people times three months is nine, and a man-month costs at least US$10,000 in the US. So $90,000

A man month of a real professional's time at a real startup costs $10k.
At a no-money/no-office indie startup, with inexperienced staff (who have no serious financial commitments, and an underdeveloped sense of self-worth combined with youthful enthusiasm and misplaced passion), a man-month might be closer to minimum wage (~$1250) with no additional overheads.

 

I know this is an outlier as I've seen hundreds of these projects completely fail... but I know of one studio who managed to get by on ~$40k/mo, which went to half a dozen directors' salaries plus office overheads, while paying a dozen other staff in nothing but promises of profit share upon release! I mention this not because it's a sensible plan that should actually work... but just that I do know of one case where it magically, somehow did work...

I see... so barring spending tens/hundreds of thousands on marketing, is there anything I can do?

Slowly, over many years, build a reputation of consistently making great games so that Apple/Google features your game on the front of the App Store.

Or make games as cheaply as possible so failing to repay costs is less of a risk, and churn out an endless stream of crap games, hoping that one will be a viral hit.

Or do it as an expensive hobby instead of a badly run business.

How much would you say does the average game make...

As above, the typical (median) game probably makes nothing. There's many, many millions of games out there, and most probably haven't even been downloaded. A handful of mega hits make hundreds of millions of dollars though, so while the median game probably makes $0, a meaningless average of a hundred million bad games + a hundred mega hits = (100000000 * $0 + 100 * $100000000)/100000100  = the average game makes $99.99 laugh.png That just goes to show that averages aren't very useful though!

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I see... so barring spending tens/hundreds of thousands on marketing, is there anything I can do?

 

Cut your spending to the minimum (which ideally is 0$), work smart AND hard (thus make sure you pick a game of the right scope, and work with laser like focus), and, as Tom said, come up with new and creative things.

 

Don't be the 10000st flappy bird clone. Be inventive and you will already stand out to some degree.

 

Don't expect your game to a success and hope for 100'000$ in profit. Calculate in that about 1 in 10 of your games will ever make a profit, and make sure you plan accordingly.

 

 

Above all, don't quit your day job for game dev yet. Or if you don't have a job yet, get one first. Treat game dev and your Indie "career" as a hobby until you either start making money with it, or at least see "a finish line" in the foreseeable future ("we go live in 6 months, and this game will be a big hit"). In the second case, make sure you are covered for the failure that might be waiting for you at the finish line.

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You might want to give PC a go first. The consequences aren't as harsh, as you can release the game on your own for free. You can also build up a following, and get some attention.

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Also consider your audience.  If you are a gamer then you probably looking at making the type of game that you would like to play but, the market on mobile devices is entirely different than the market for PC and console.
The games that do well on mobile are puzzle games like Angry Birds and time based multiplayer cow clickers like Clash of Clans.  That isn't to say that you couldn't have a little  success with a 2D strategy game but, the chances of it becoming visible are very small.

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Indeed mobile is just about the harshest platform to think about right now. The barrier to entry (aside from a miracle hit) is enormous.

Cost of production of a good app is somewhat steep (definitely lower than consoles though, but compared to a web-based game...)

The real issue is getting noticed in the millions of games on the stores. You're not going to make top 100 and need to have a means to drive traffic to your game through some other way.

Quite honestly, I've worked with some of the top names in this industry and they're even struggling on the mobile market with the majority of their titles, relying on their few hits to finance the rest of their development. Unless you plan on releasing 30+ games in the next 1 or 2 years, mobile is probably not a good idea unless you're lucky.

 

Then again, that's my personal opinion.

 

(of course, if you make, say, a PC game in Unity, and all it takes to port it to mobile is a new control scheme and adapt your UI and that you had planned for this, then publishing it ALSO on mobile can't hurt, and you might get exposure on mobile from your PC users, so why not?)

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I'm convinced that at this point, they only way to break into the market (PC is more forgiving in many ways, but mobile especially) and reach a sustainable, worthwhile revenue stream is to plan that it will take you several well-polished games.

 

There are a lot of one-and-done developers out there who go in expecting to have cash just roll in -- and when they find that to not be the reality, or even close, they abandon their games and their users, fail to make updates, and -- if they make another game at all -- usually reach for something even more ambitious, and equally flawed. Those games are actually the majority of what's out there, hundreds or thousands per day.

 

But there's also a strong tide of good-quality, polished, fun games coming out all the time too. 10s each day, if not 100s, You have to match that polish, even if your game is simpler (contrary to appearances, a game like flappy-bird was highly polished). You have to compete with these guys to even begin to make a name for yourself, no one cares at all how the 1000s-per-day set-are slugging it out over nickels. Aim for minor-league, not beer-league.

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(of course, if you make, say, a PC game in Unity, and all it takes to port it to mobile is a new control scheme and adapt your UI and that you had planned for this, then publishing it ALSO on mobile can't hurt, and you might get exposure on mobile from your PC users, so why not?)

 

Well, it certainly is worth a short try and a cheap to produce prototype, but for most games, the statement that "building for mobile is just a click on the build button away" is not true. Even with a new control scheme, and the whole game planned around it (the graphics and game logic not depending on desktop like performance and whatnot), there are many other tasks to perform.

 

Testing for mobile must take the top seat, if you ignore marketing and publishing. Might be not too hard on iOS, but for the myriads of Android handsets and tablets and consoles out there, that is going to be either a nightmare, or you will have to release your game in a state tested on only 0.1% of the total amount of different devices out in the wild. Also not the best option as you can be guaranteed that on some device, there will be issues. And these issues will end up as negative comments in your app store review section... in the best case (in the worst cae, no comments will show up. Because nobody even bothered to download your game).

 

Even if you build your game for mobile in addition to PC or whatever is your main platform, and put it on the app store without the needed marketing push. What is the point? Nobody will find it, nobody will download it.

You might only have spent some days on the additional version, but the chance that this version generates additional revenue is slim.

 

 

Personally I'd say go for one platform at a time, and make the most of that. Really invest additional time in more marketing and better bugfixing and aftersales effort instead of trying to quick-cashgrab yet another platform. Your prime platform will suffer in the second case, while the additional platform most probably will do poorly as it is treated as an afterthought. While in the first case, your game might at least shine on one platform, while you can build a name for your game and studio that when you DO decide to release to a different platform down the line, a) you will be able to give the new platform the treatment needed to make your game also shine there, and b) your might already have a name from the earlier release on a different platform.

 

Also, never underestimate the effect of doing an additional release down the line can have. If your release for 5 platforms at the same time, you get news coverage once. If you are lucky, as your game still is an unknown factor at the time. If your release to each platform with some months in between, you have a chance to get news coverage 5 times... and MAYBE the later coverage will be more effective as your game no longer is unknown.

Edited by Gian-Reto

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Well, it certainly is worth a short try and a cheap to produce prototype, but for most games, the statement that "building for mobile is just a click on the build button away" is not true. Even with a new control scheme, and the whole game planned around it (the graphics and game logic not depending on desktop like performance and whatnot), there are many other tasks to perform.

 

It's certainly not one click away, but on SOME completed products, it's much easier to adapt the input and UI work assuming it was build in a somewhat device-agnostic manner. It requires a means of doing things that infers a lot of experience however.

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As an indie developer who released their first game, I was also toying with the idea of having my first game on mobile. But when I read the entire process to even have a smidge of a chance of being successful, I stuck to PC for the time being.

 

The responses here are very good as always, but I'd like to add a few more requirements to the list. Include soft-launching your product with analytics to ensure that your game has staying power, being really good with data or hiring a very expensive data analyst and finding out where your competitors are doing marketing.

 

The third one costs money, yes, and to have a chance of being successful. you need really strong marketing. Reddit and GameDev.net by themselves will not cut the mustard. You can't even do a KS campaign on a mobile game because KS is mainly PC-oriented, and KS is a great boost in addition to your marketing.

 

Release on PC first, get a following and enough capital to market your mobile game. Otherwise, as others said, you're very likely to get $0 on the overcrowded app stores.

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