sysads

Any hope for Indie developers?

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Hi Everyone

I am new to this forum and hoping to add and gain from the community.

As the topic says "Any hope for Indie developers"?

I have been a game developer for about 2 years now and have come to realise that the number of indie developers have increased drastically. This had lead to lots of game templates been sold in market places, hence that lead to lots of duplicate games been released in the stores hence leading to an increase in number of games.

  • No matter how good your game is, without exposure it will get lost in the avalange of domant games in the stores
  • Without marketing, it becomes difficult to get a good game boost
  • Not many will agree with me on this point but sometimes you need LUCK. The guy that did Color Switch was the first guy I met in buildbox forum long before his game was released. The story on how his game came to be popular was both good game play and a bit of luck through multiple connections.
  • I have seen lots of non interesting games that are doing so well and most are paid advert hence they tend to get about a million downloads

If a thousand developers each release a very good game today:

  • Now only 1% may likely get featured. Maybe a few more may end up in the front page of each category. What happens to the rest?
  • Maybe 5% of the rest may have funds to invest in marketing
  • Maybe another 5% would have a friend that has lots of followers in social media hence showcasing it there and getting some boost

What hope does the rest of us have?

  • Are there any strategies we need to look at to help with exposure?
  • Most youtubers I have seen with lots of followers tends to only demo trending games
  • Is ASO really still works? Now a days, Apple reject games using trending keywords even when your game relates to it, while Google ONLY rejects when you try to update your game

Observation

  • I have observed that when something crazy starts trending like Fidget Spinner, a lot of developers rename their game to fidget spinner even when the game play does not depict a fidget spinning
  • Influencers appears to have some sort of impact on game becoming trending but you must know them or pay a lot

Final thought

A lot of developers have dropped along the way while some keep having hope for one break-through like me :)

I hope to gain something from your comments, as that would help me do better.

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You don't get into indie dev because you're hopeful for the future, you get into it because you have no hope left. Nothing matters. We're all going to die, specially you.

 

Make some games.

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2 hours ago, Hodgman said:

There's also no reason to go it alone with the $132 in your bank account. Lots of cities have booming 'startup' scenes. You can go to silicon valley and come back with a million dollars (and a lot of contractual obligations) pretty easily, assuming you're taking your job seriously. Or even just getting a business loan from a bank (assuming you've got a serious business plan). Or applying for government (local/state/federal) grants and subsidies. Or just taking your business plan to friends and family and begging for startup capital... but again, this is what separates the business people from the hobbyists.

If you want to make games as a hobby, accept that it's a hobby.

If you want to make games as a self-owned business, accept that you're now an entrepreneur with a start-up business, not a game developer.

I don't disagree with this at all. But this is not the same as I completely agree. Why? Because of the exclusions

1. It is the quality of developers that matters, independent of whether they seek investment or not

2.  By using their garage (or working from their homes) they have effectively cut out around £2000.00 office rental per month plus other energy bills (depending on where you rent)

3. By using their old computers and laptops they have also saved £10,000 

4. By working as a group of friends and living in their garages (or with mum and dad), they have cut out the need for very expensive monthly salaries plus home rental expenses - and this can very easily run into several hundreds of £££

5. Not to mention that investors, banks and other loanees are business people and are involved to make money, so conservatively I will that cuts-out another 25% of your capital. As for the banks, you have to start paying back the loan bit by bit almost immediately

6. Time pressure is good... to some extent. But it could also be a serious distraction  which could adversely affect the development.  The burden of serious pressure - which is what you get from greedy investors these days could hamper development 

Lists of those who have created mega-companies, but started out in their garages is a long one. I'm not even going to start naming them because they are household names and we all know them

So I see no reason why the model you described cannot be bettered by cash-strapped developers. Not saying it not a good and workable model but I'm saying its probably wasteful and could be bettered with those working out of their garage

As for OP's original question 

2 hours ago, sysads said:

What hope does the rest of us have?

  • Are there any strategies we need to look at to help with exposure?
  • Most youtubers I have seen with lots of followers tends to only demo trending games

Despite my objection to Hodgman's post, the clue imho lies in his post.  Even if you start on your own or with a group of friends working from your homes or a garage,

1. think big, plan big (realistically big), work like full fledged professional(s)

2. be creative , find the special thing that would make your game stand out. If you don't find that special thing don't start. If that means writing your own in-house engine , please do

3. so that still some marketing strategy with little or no funds, here again you have to be creative. 

 

1 hour ago, TheChubu said:

You don't get into indie dev because you're hopeful for the future, you get into it because you have no hope left. Nothing matters. We're all going to die, specially you.

xD Funny enough those of us who have gotten to and have tasted that state of no hope, have become fearless. When nothing hurts you anymore, when nothing matters anymore... you just go flat-out

Edited by grumpyOldDude

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3 hours ago, sysads said:

Are there any strategies we need to look at to help with exposure?

... A lot of developers have dropped along the way while some keep having hope for one break-through like me

So you're saying the reason you make games is not because you love making games. If you love making games, keep making games.

 

If you only make games in hopes that lightning will strike your game, well... you have to understand that the chances of that are slim.

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hahahaha I am loving some of the responses, very infomative.

@TheChubu no one is going to die, not me and I hope not you too :)

I hope others who might be reading this find some comments helpful and hopefully re-think about the foundation of why they took to game development and workout what will work for them and plan towards it with everything they've got.

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A couple of things I learn here on to board. I'm trying to sell and indie game maker but I realize something:

1. You're competing with many other people so your stuff must look better.

2. You're doing the project to pay bills and stuff - really gay.

3. People can criticize your stuff to the point where you feel like giving up.

So I'll use my experience as an example. Ok, here we go...

I'm developing a version of Mario Maker and Mario Paint that I find to be really cool. You can not only create graphics and levels but your own characters and program them. So what's so innovative about this? Nothing really but I thought it would be cool to do it because just like creating your own editor for your own needs creating my own Mario Maker is just plain cool.

So why did I go through the trouble to create Mario Maker again besides it being cool? Well, the thing is that I wanted to create my own games and play them and then create a small community of people to create levels for me so that I can play them. So the point is that hobby projects or indie stuff are mostly about you and it is hard to tell what people want. The average joe likes stupid stuff like mindless shooting and complicated game development tools that are hard to use. No simplicity anymore!

I've taken advice and am going with what my real passion is: make stuff that I can personally use and share it with people. So when it comes to money I think, well, this is to pay for stuff that is not cool like rent and bills and taxes. Food is cool so if I got payed in pizza I would take that!

Not trying to deter you from indie stuff but its hard. It's just those masses of people and how to please them and your passion is going into paying rent and utilities - doing it for some tool.

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I think main trap that most indies have fallen is "making yet another of a game" , most games around are in fashion of "hey we have unity so why not a game".

If I'm not mistaken , Stardew Valley is made by one person on a very average AMD laptop in few years but it was success from my POV with few millions of revenue. Because it wasn't yet another platformer with even cooler graphics or tower defence wonder.

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6 hours ago, SotarOraiste said:

I think main trap that most indies have fallen is "making yet another of a game" , most games around are in fashion of "hey we have unity so why not a game".

If I'm not mistaken , Stardew Valley is made by one person on a very average AMD laptop in few years but it was success from my POV with few millions of revenue. Because it wasn't yet another platformer with even cooler graphics or tower defence wonder.

That cat copied off of Harvest Moon. Now that's what I call business!

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9 minutes ago, francoisdiy said:

That cat copied off of Harvest Moon. Now that's what I call business!

I had heard that it's "heavily influenced" of Harvest Moon. As long as Harvest Moon is Nintendo specific and "a Nintendo game" , it's no problem.

Indies don't need to make amazing inventions all the time, just focusing on rather niche genres have merit imo.

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1 minute ago, SotarOraiste said:

I had heard that it's "heavily influenced" of Harvest Moon. As long as Harvest Moon is Nintendo specific and "a Nintendo game" , it's no problem.

Indies don't need to make amazing inventions all the time, just focusing on rather niche genres have merit imo.

Now that's confusing. This industry stuff is wack!

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Just now, francoisdiy said:

Now that's confusing. This industry stuff is wack!

Well ... I never played Harvest Moon (checked few times only via youtube) , even if it is based on same idea and similar mechanics, I doubt it is a blatant ripoff.

On my own I prefer indies to go after well made niche games rather than yet another mediocre 3D game or whatever popular at the time. Even revival of "oldies but goldies" is a nice strategy, unless you're Sony backed "No Man's Land" people don't have super high expectations from indies.

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When I read the OP, I guess we are talking about mobile games.

 

My 2 cents: move over to PC or Console, and let the mobile sector alone for now. Mobile Games are dead for devs that cannot compete with the likes of King or the other top 5 or 10 in terms of ads and market research. True, there are the lucky guys like the flappy bird dev, but way to many shovelware and to little moderation by Apple and Google to ever be able to muscle you way to a good position with hard work alone.

 

While Steam has also become a cesspool of shovelware garbage and bad devs trying to make a quick buck, at least Steam seems to be moving in to do something about it... at the speed of a glacier, mind you. But in contrast to Google and Apple their thing is games front and center, thus if their games market suffers, they suffer.

Same with the Console e-stores really. Sony has left some pretty shady games unto their platform as of lately, but I would guess that at some point they will also have to step in and put some measures in to stop the flood of garbage. Additionally AFAIK it is still not such a no-questions-asked thing to publish a console game like it is on the mobile app stores.

 

Just let the mobile market run its course, and either be on the right side of the fence when it finally collapses, or swoop back in when it starts to cool down again. I would guess a lot of the shady business does NOT pay out as well as the garbage devs might think, and a small change by the platform holder or the worldwide economy will destroy the loopholes they are currently trying to abuse (like Steam rolling back their trading card system. Now if they also change the rules for achievements (like capping the amount of max achievements per game, or something like that), the bad devs will have to go back to putting ads into their games and try to maximize play time per player).

This ain't the Indieapocalypse if you ask me... its a liberal market running wild, and platform holders being slow in recognizing that they need to regulate it to some extent or risk people loosing interest in said market.

 

I know I lost a lot of interest in Steam. Besides the flood of garbage its the flood of bad ports, and me not really being interested in all the Steam side functions... but certainly, having to wade through a sea of garbage to find the pearls if I for once not search for a specific game certainly does not make me want to start up a steam store search. Back to my Retro games and the few PS4 diamonds I guess.

 

 

EDIT:

Oh, and another thing....

You know how many startup companys will make a profit within 2 years? Almost none. When you build up your own company, you have to be ready to go through multiple years of negative figures while you try to find the winning formula, make connections and find clients.

Maybe you (and many others I guess) went into this with the wrong idea? I know, there will be guys who prove my point wrong because they managed to make a profit within 6 months, but for MOST startups, that ain't the case. Even high profile startups like facebook where in the red for 5+ years while they cranked up their business and muscled their way to the top.

You should have savings in your bank account to pay the bills for multiple years, a steady stream of income either with a day job or occasional side gigs for clients, or just the ability to live dirt cheap to even consider starting up your own company... else you are just hoping for having luck and winning the lottery, which is never a wise decision.

 

On the flipside that means you need patience... more patience than most people could have, to see your company slowly grow to a profitable entity. 2 years of famine is nothing in the world of self employment... its just a sign that your probably have to re-adjust the way you do business to not eat into your savings another year.

Maybe read "the lean startup"... the core principle of that is to try a lot, fail quickly and pivot in a different direction if you do. If you do mobile development, I guess you can crank out a game within 3-6 months. If you have not found the winning formula for 2 years you either have tried 4 times already and now know a lot about what NOT to do in the current mobile app store ecosystem, or you did something wrong (like spending too long on a title, or trying the same thing over and over again).

 

IMO of course....

Edited by Gian-Reto

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8 hours ago, SotarOraiste said:

Well ... I never played Harvest Moon (checked few times only via youtube) , even if it is based on same idea and similar mechanics, I doubt it is a blatant ripoff.

It's a blatant rip-off. It's great.

 

Regarding Steam and the app stores and the insipid, petulant cry for "regulation"...

Think about 10 years ago. How often did you come across a good game? How often is it now? No, really. Go look at your accounts and actually count them. If you're still a gamer then there are more now than there were then. Why? Because the entire market is expanding. The old model could NEVER have sustained this growth, so why the hell would we go backwards? For every whiner who gets butt-hurt about games they don't want to play and leaves there are 100 new customers buying games that they do want to play. It doesn't matter how badly you want it, this distribution market is not collapsing any time soon. These people are making more money than god EVERY SINGLE DAY.

If you can get over the irrational resentment about someone other than you making money then the upshot of this situation is that you have the opportunity to very, very easily find and buy more and better games than before for less money. If you don't want to "wade through a sea of garbage" then try thinking about an actual search strategy rather than diving thoughtlessly into the unsorted mass. Scan the top seller/top rated lists for genres that interest you. Find a curator who shares your tastes, either on Steam or on YouTube. Watch E3 indies videos and jot down things that interest you.

Most importantly, stop caring about shit that doesn't interest you. It doesn't cost you anything unless you decide to sit there and fuss about it like a child. The complaints on Steam are absolutely ridiculous. Most days SUF is nothing but asshole after delusional asshole sitting there just drenched in entitlement and nerd rage. This one wants to ban anime games, this one wants to ban indie games, this one wants to ban early access, this one wants to ban Call of Duty, for fuck's sake. A cacophony of drooling, authoritarian pricks who can't tolerate a world that doesn't cater exclusively to their preferences.

9473c550f0.gif

The environment has changed, and you can adapt or you can suffer. The only reason to just wade blindly into the database is if you've got the bizarre idea that you're going to find some tragically undersold, low-rated game that just happens to be a misplaced gem. It's not going to happen. There are people all over the world looking at these games day in and day out with literally autistic dedication. If there's something even remotely worthwhile in a niche you're even passively interested in, a trivially strategic search will reveal it to you. If you actually look for things that you're interested in rather than throwing yourself at the DB sideways then you'll very likely hear about it 6 to 12 months prior to its release. But hey, even if you can't be assed to make an effort what are you missing comparatively? Don't even look then, just make note of things that other people talk about and check on what interests you... You know, like you did when it was brick and mortar? That still works too. Jesus fucking Christ, you don't even have to get out of your god damned chair anymore!

So the idea that these markets should or will change to accommodate severely outdated notions of content delivery is ridiculous. These people opened the floodgates and the result is that they're drowning in cash. Why the hell would they do anything to change that? Even Steam Direct isn't about getting rid of meta-marketers or ensuring quality; it's about making even more money for Valve. The scuttlebutt is near-transparent publicity because it's TRIVIALLY SIMPLE to whip the idiot army into a frenzy over nothing at all and then sell them a solution which, "Oops!" just happens to make you a hell of a lot more money. So if you're sincerely thinking that this is some kind of progress or some powerful blow for your authoritarian view of what games people should be allowed to sell or play, well... The one that got played was you.

 

 

Edited by Khatharr

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@Khatharr:

While I do agree with many of your statements, that leaves out the fact that there are a F*ckton of games on thes storefront nowadays that are what Valve now classifies as "fake games". Games that never have been made to be real functional games, just simple scams to abuse loopholes. Are these a problem if looked at with your world view? Probably not. They still clog up the store and benefit no-one (besides, jsut maybe, the dev, and then the store owner).

And there IS the fact you leave out one simple thing: someone else has to do the work so you can just use your clever search strategy and get the good games without the effort.  So these guys have no right to complain that the current situation makes their "job" of finding the good games harder? They are not paid by you or Valve or anyone to do their job, and even if they were, they had all the right in the world to complain about a situation which makes finding good games harder than finding gold in the earth, for the guy that does not just want to leech, but add some new finds to the general list of good games.

 

And then we as a group of mostly hardcore gamers who spend a lot of time informing us about the games that are worth the money often forget that many less hardcore gamers still buy games based on the box art or some other metric we know is stupid (for example based on earlier titles in the series... did this myself back when I bought CoD:MW3).

Sure they should invest more time when making ANY purchase. Sure they get exactly out what they put in in effort. Still, lets not forget about the "casual plebs" ;)

 

Some people blow the situation out of proportion, yes. The situation is still a problem for many people. I don't think any SANE person would want to go back to walled gardens and publishers having to vouch for devs to get them unto any platform besides PC.

SOME regulation doesn't hurt. As usual, ANY of the extremes is bad. Overregulation just as much as completly open markets. I guess we still need to find the golden middle ground. But letting markets run wild usually is not leading anywhere good, IMO.

 

 

EDIT:

watched a totalbiscuit youtube vid yesterday that seems relevant to the topic: 

 

He makes a ton of good points.

Edited by Gian-Reto

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You have to please the crowds. Sometimes the crowds like dumb things like Flappy Bird which is simple but dumb and repetitive. Look at Angry Birds and talk about repetitive game play. Release something different and more complex the crowds might not like it. It may not appeal to the crowds but that does not mean that the game is bad. I personally don't care crowds of people like my games. For me as long as even one other person likes it besides me that's good enough. I typically like to establish a fan base of 2 - 6 people. So basically as long as I like the game and another person likes it too I did a good job. Now for the issue of money... that's a stumper. I think that when you mix money with fun it takes to value from the game itself. For instance, I find more solace in playing the game myself and having people create levels for me and challenging a couple of others in the game itself. So creating games for fun is my thing and I don't care for the what the crowds think.

On another note my project has gotten me a job so indirectly it make me money!

He's da formula for making money on games:

Ok, here I go. Get a notepad or something to write this down.

1. First off you need to find a popular game that people like.

2. Make a game just like that but add a few different things.

3. Say that you came up with it.

4. Harvest Moon.

5. A lot of this is luck at the end of the day.

I suggest quit crying about lack of success and grab a couple of friends, make your game, and enjoy sharing the game with others. That's the way I'm taking it now.

money = rent + utilities <- Do you really want to put so much effort into games for this?

making games + sharing with friends = good time fun

I found out that creating games is cool because I can create stuff of myself and friends. I love showing people that I communicate with my games and having them play the games and then listening to their opinions on the games and fixing them. Then most fun comes from challenging others in the game itself. Like, for example, creating a battle game and challenging a friend in it but then the friend not knowing what hidden easter eggs there are in the game and you knowing. Gaming is fun but I think maybe don't have unrealistic expectations and don't get upset if you don't make money on the game. Just realize that money is only good for living expenses and that a job will always be more stable than freelance. You also meet people at work and socialize. Not a terrible environment. I personally don't mind working but I do have fun writing games but not necessarily to pay my bills.

Don't take life to seriously and have fun... like these guys... http://www.smwcentral.net

 

Edited by francoisdiy

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Although people may earn money from games they throw up while making or selling, I think pleasing crowds no longer works because that market especially casual one is quite saturated. I'm not saying make yet another Europe Universalis but not Frappy Bird either.

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There is always hope... Given most of the post I see on this and other forum especially in the technical dept that usually goes.." I'm working on this game...but how do I do XYZ " where XYZ are sometimes fundamental concepts that should have been acquired before even going down that road, I'm going to go off on a limb and say there are plenty people out there that have in their head some "get rich quick" indie scheme. Not saying this is your approach as no knowledge of your intent, but if you enter the field with some "get rich quick" scheme in mind, then prepare to be disappointed. Lets say you make a game and its not doing so well sales wise, we all want to recoup our development cost, but at same time, you have to be realistic or set realistic goals. If  you are going to dwell on sale figures vs making the games you love, then to answer your question, all hope is lost. Whenever becomes more about money rather than passion, then all hope is lost...my 2cents..

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Wow, what an awesome thread.

Well sysads I've been apart of this community since 2009 and I think this video best describes the process.

 

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On ‎06‎/‎07‎/‎2017 at 11:05 PM, sysads said:

I have been a game developer for about 2 years now and have come to realise that the number of indie developers have increased drastically.

Can I ask, what sort of games are you working on? You sound like you want to release them commercially, are you aiming at releasing them on steam?

On ‎10‎/‎07‎/‎2017 at 9:56 AM, Khatharr said:

This one wants to ban anime games, this one wants to ban indie games, this one wants to ban early access, this one wants to ban Call of Duty, for fuck's sake. A cacophony of drooling, authoritarian pricks who can't tolerate a world that doesn't cater exclusively to their preferences.

Damn that guy, doesn't he know that Cod is work of genius.

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I have a full time 40 hrs a week job and I developed game for fun. My first game took me 1.5 year of part time work had a lot of fun making it and learned a lot too. It is now lost in the universe of the internet, but 4 people manage to find it and I made $16 dollars in three years LOL (no effort on advertising obviously ). Working on my second game now sold my old hot rod that was in the garage and hire a graphic artist for a few months (note :My first game graphics are mine lol I am a coder but eeeeech!!!).  

This time around I will try the crowdfunding route; again like most of you said my chance are NULL at best but I will still finish the game regardless of funding or not. Presently have completed myself the server game engine( @grumpyOldDude saving $2M)  and still working on client side stuff got two 60 seconds 3D blender generated Video trailers plus one Video teaser which again I made my self but with my graphic artist drawings/illustrations;)(@grumpyOldDude Saving $250K). I am 8 months plus or minus 8 ;) of part time work away for my million dollars spit in the ocean.

My only rant when you freeging budget is over $1M-$5M you are not a indie you are a subsidiary of a AAA+.  don't crowdfund !!! ask your freeging mother CORP for more instead Grrrrr!!!!!!

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1 hour ago, GiroKa said:

My only rant when you freeging budget is over $1M-$5M you are not a indie you are a subsidiary of a AAA+.  don't crowdfund !!! ask your freeging mother CORP for more instead Grrrrr!!!!!!

A $1M budget for an indie game isn't that unusual. Often the founders of new companies will "invest" their wages back into the company, which means they're owed the money on paper, but no money exists yet.

e.g. A senior game developer could have a salary of around $120k pa. When they quit to start their own studio, they'll pay themselves that same salary. Let's say we've got two veterans who are "going indie".

The company is founded by Bob and Alice, who sign employment contracts for a $120K pa salary.
Every month, the company "pays" Bob $12k (the payslip / tax invoices say so), but Bob never receives any cash.
At the same time, Bob "invests" $12k of his own cash into the company as a loan (at least the paperwork says so).
At the end of the year, because Bob has "earned" $120k, he has to pay $32k to the tax office as income tax.
Alice does the same thing as Bob.
No money exists, and no money actually changed hands... but after one year, the company has $240K of debt on it's books -- it legally owes that money to Bob and Alice, who have loaned it to the company.
The company declares on its tax paperwork that it has spent $240K on R&D activities, to which it is entitled a 45% cash rebate.
The tax office pays the company a $108k reimbursement on its losses.
The company partially repays Bob and Alice's loans, giving them $54k each (which after paying their own tax bills, leaves them with $22k each actual income, free from the taxpayer...), and the company still owes them $66k each.
If they sell their company in the future, the new owners have to pay them $66k each (on top of actually buying the company).

That's a simple two person team with no company expenses, and their on-paper budget for one year's work is around a quarter million :o If it was a four-person team, working for two years or more, and they had some actual expenses (hiring contractors, buying equipment, renting a cheap office space) then their company could easily be in the $1-2M range... And it's not that this is all just made up either -- that's the amount of money they'd have to make off their game to actually make quitting their jobs and "going indie" a worthwhile venture.

That's the difference between "indies" who are already far into their careers and treat their independent work as a legitimate small business, and "indies" who are beginning their careers and make games in their spare time as a hobby.

AAA games cost more like $100M these days, not $1M.
$1M is the new indie.

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11 minutes ago, Hodgman said:

$1M is the new indie.

This is actually very true.

Consider this: A average person earns $15 000 - $32 000. We can then consider this as a summery of personal cost (living expenses and education).

The average indie game will take 1-2 years to make.  Indie teams are often 1/ 2 /6 / 15 people teams.

The average developer will spend more than 2 years learning.

So even for the best case scenario.

Hobby game made by: learning for 2 years on your own then making a game in 1 year. =  $45 000 - $96 000 is the amount of money you lost making the game. You would have earned this much by being a fry cook for 3 years.

Games also have extra cost like engine costs, Unity's micro transactions asset store assets, software for making assets and third party licenses.

 

The average mobile game makes $ 1000 - $ 4000. You would need to make  4 -15 mobile games a year to earn the same wage as a fast food employee. (Note this is all mobiles, some like iOS makes $0- $200 as a average) 

The average steam game - no idea. Steam doesn't want to share. However from the developers I talked with it looks like around $1 000 a month. So at +/- $12 000 a month they do make what can be considered an average salary.

 

So in short making games requires more skill than working at a fast food restaurant and you will be payed less.

Making indie games in hope of getting that once in a life time game like Minecraft, Stardew Valley or Flappy Bird. Is like spending $15 000 a year on lottery tickets, except the odds are worse and games take effort.

Make games because you want to.

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    • By Jesse "Chime" Collins
      Bombs away! Take shelter!
      The biggest allies that a game developer can have is their community. The gamers themselves are what makes a successful game. A game can be great, well made, and incredibly deep, but if no one buys it, you can assume it’ll go under the radar and has the potential to fall into obscurity. In contrast, the biggest enemies that a game developer can have is also their community. This can be seen in the most heart-wrenching sense this past month.
      Let’s start early in September to explain what’s all gone on so far. Felix Kjellberg, known by millions of people by his YouTube alias PewDiePie, got himself dunked in hot water again for things he’s said. This is an internet sensation, with one of the highest subscribed channels in YouTube history at over 52 million followers. His fanbase is of all ages, but the demographic does get pretty young. To call him an “influencer” is an understatement.
      And yet, this isn’t the first time he’s gotten himself put in the news in the past year for pretty insidious things he’s said or done. His previous escapades landed him in the hot seat by both YouTube and Disney, where he lost both of his largest partnerships. That’s a heck of a way to have consequences to your actions.
      PewDiePie's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
      But, this time, he was live streaming a round of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds stream (PUBG for short). As someone that curses like a sailor, myself, I can’t really judge him on the vulgar content that was surrounding the offending word. Unfortunately, in a “heat of the moment” call-out, he used a racial slur, the “N-word” more specifically, against a player he was shooting at, without remorse. Now, I’m not here to complain about his crude humor or be offended. I’m here to discuss the implications and consequences that have come due to his (now) third strike in under a year.
      Let’s cut to a few days later. Sean Vanaman, co-founder of Campo Santo, the developing studio of Firewatch, decided that they no longer wanted to be affiliated with PewDiePie. That’s fair. He has made multiple Nazi references in the past and is now live streaming himself yelling racial slurs. It’s a fair assessment and want to distance yourself. Therefore, they issued what is called a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) Takedown of any Firewatch-related videos that PewDiePie has made, which has YouTube personally remove videos under the order.
      Let’s explain what a DMCA entails. Back in 1998, the DMCA law was put into effect to protect intellectual property and copyright thereof. This law was created to help deter theft or copying of images, writing, video, or any created materials. If someone duplicates a piece of art, the original creator has the right to a DMCA Takedown, which is enacted by the original owner and contacts the incriminated party either by governing or contingence body. In the case of video games, a game developer can send a DMCA Takedown to a Let’s Player or game reviewer, if they so choose.
      Camp Santo Taking Charge Of the Indie Dev Community
      In the case of Campo Santo, furthermore, they contacted YouTube directly. They requested the Takedown of any videos that PewDiePie may have done involving their game, Firewatch. The developer won the fight and the DMCA Takedown took effect, which is a success in the name of indie developers having power over offending content. PewDiePie even apologized, albeit after the fact.
      Now, why is this bad? The developer won. The guy using racial slurs didn’t. Little guy won over the big, bad guy. We all live happily ever after. It’s a classic story trope. We move on, now, right? Wrong. Very, very wrong. Unfortunately, there are consequences. This move has caused two major tremors in two different directions: Influencers and Indie Developers.
      On one hand, this act has now set precedent for indie developers to abuse the system, if they so choose. The main argument is that indie developers that don’t like a poor review score can now issue a DMCA to remove things they dislike.
      DMCA Leads To Anger. Anger Leads To Hate. Hate Leads To...
      So what? The influencer takes it down and they move on? Unfortunately, under YouTube policy, if a video creator gets three DMCA Takedowns, they are banned from YouTube. It does not matter if PewDiePie has over 50 million subscribers and made over $15 million in 2016. If he gets two more strikes, his channel will be completely gone and his bread and butter will be (sorry for this) toast.
      He’s just one example. Imagine an up and coming influencer gets into video creation and streaming, only to have three strikes. If they do three reviews and give three poor scores because a game may be bad, there’s a chance they might as well just need to pack it up. This will cause a rift on what game people will review, but it will also fundamentally change the way that reviewers look at their subjects. Developers now have the power to only have positive reviews of their games be seen by millions of people.
      Not only that, but many YouTubers do fun, funny, and idiotic videos to parody games or IPs. Where it is perfectly legal to parody something, Nintendo, for instance, is known to be very protective of their work and have been known to issue DMCA Takedowns for parodies or likenesses to their work on YouTube in the past.
      As The Bombs Drop...
      In a very strange twist, a large amount of gamers and/or PewDiePie fans went for the jugular. In an event known as “review bombing”, the community bans together in what can only be described as a “negative carpet bomb or reviews”. In this case, they took to the FireWatch Steam page, which had originally held a “Mostly Positive” score in their rating system. These community members, proceeded to down-vote the game and leave negative and sometimes nasty remarks. They left it vague in some cases, but the majority rule was that the developer had upset them, so they needed to make sure the game suffered.
      Let Off Some Steam
      Steam, generally ones to stay out of any and all drama and commotion, spoke up for once. The issue, this time, seemed to line up perfectly with something they had already been doting on: a way to solve for review bombing. They posted a blog to their website which detailed their solvent for this unfortunately common problem.
      “So why is review bombing a problem?” the blog reads. “On the one hand, the players doing the bombing are fulfilling the goal of User Reviews - they're voicing their opinion as to why other people shouldn't buy the game. But one thing we've noticed is that the issue players are concerned about can often be outside the game itself. It might be that they're unhappy with something the developer has said online, or about choices the developer has made in the Steam version of their game relative to other platforms, or simply that they don't like the developer's political convictions. Many of these out-of-game issues aren't very relevant when it comes to the value of the game itself, but some of them are real reasons why a player may be unhappy with their purchase.”
      Steam to the Rescue?
      Noticeably, they seemed very hesitant to get too involved actively, but in the long run, their solution made sense. After solitarily discussing what options they really have or don’t have, they went on to their vision for a better future. “In the end,” they continued, “we decided not to change the ways that players can review games, and instead focused on how potential purchasers can explore the review data. Starting today, each game page now contains a histogram of the positive to negative ratio of reviews over the entire lifetime of the game, and by clicking on any part of the histogram you're able to read a sample of the reviews from that time period. As a potential purchaser, it's easy to spot temporary distortions in the reviews, to investigate why that distortion occurred, and decide for yourself whether it's something you care about. This approach has the advantage of never preventing anyone from submitting a review, but does require slightly more effort on the part of potential purchasers.”
      Firewatch is a slightly older game, which they can value had higher marks among the excited fans that bought early after its release and ever slowly declined after nearly a year and a half but remain in the “Very Positive” realm ever since. The problem with the review bombs are that they rise to the forefront and become the “Recent” reviews, which currently sits at a “Mixed” rating due to the trouble. Valve’s fix would ensure that people see reviews as a timeline of sorts, giving a historical look at the reviews. The decline is shown, but people can click to see the differences between the higher remarks and the bombing run.
      This entire situation has been a cavalcade roller coaster and I fear it’s only the beginning. The real core of the situation is gamer toxicity, but that’s a problem for another day. Only time will tell how this will end, though.
       
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