Game talkHow well can indie games do?

 Posted by (Visited 10568 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Jan 142009
 

No, not top sellers like Braid. Ordinary indies that don’t manage to hit the top of the charts or land an XBLA deal — the stuff that comes and goes on the web portals, made by a guy or gal in the evenings working on it, often churning out hidden object games or another match-3 game because they have to.

Well, Grey Alien Games, an indie developer themselves, has culled some answers from a rather noisy thread on Indiegamer.

Cliffski, of Positech Games, made $189,423 in 2008 from direct sales…

Princec of Puppygames posted his direct sales figures and they told a very different story. He has made $11993 from 1073 units sold in 2008.

Siread of New Star Games posted his Direct Sales stats of $43246 and 2545 units.

SteveZ of Blue Tea Games shared his direct sales figures for 2008 of $1299 and 72 units sold… This then prompted a surprise turnaround from SteveZ who posted his Big Fish Games royalty report from November 2008. It showed $20837 in royalties in just a single month!!

Separately, but prompted by that post, we see the CEO of Anawiki Games posting

My sales stats for 2008: $21,650.09 and 1152 units. I have released 6 games so far on PC, Mac and Linux (not all of them have Linux versions). Two of them have been released in 2008.

One takeaway here — it’s hard work, and for most, you can’t quit your day job. But there’s plenty of opportunity if you are determined and skillful.

  15 Responses to “How well can indie games do?”

  1. To be fair, indie game development is something you get into for the love of it, kind of like why we got into working on MUDs in the old days or the demoscene. If you make enough to quit your day job, that’s awesome, but as you say – don’t quit your day job.

  2. “How well can indie games do? No, not top sellers like Braid.”

    Sure, and how’s Activision doing if you don’t count Guitar Hero and WoW?

    These success rates don’t seem out of line with big-budget games, though of course it’s hard to amortize risk across titles as a single person.

    It’s awesome to see solid sales from Positech. I hope some of those numbers are coming from Democracy. :)

  3. cliff wrote:

    To be fair, indie game development is something you get into for the love of it, kind of like why we got into working on MUDs in the old days or the demoscene

    Hey now. I got into MUDs specifically to make money doing something I loved, and it’s either been my day job or been funding my day job for 11 years now! My suspicion is that you’re a lot better off providing an ongoing service (ala MUDs or MMOs or persistent browser games) as an indie than you are selling standalone games. If you have to sell through portals, you can never own your audience since the portal always will. The economics of it don’t tend to be great for indies as far as I can tell.

    –matt

  4. [...] Posted on January 14, 2009 by Alvaro Cavalcanti Um dos mestres do Game Design, Raph Koster, publicou no seu blog uns números interessantes sobre o desenvolvimento de jogos independente (indie). Eu aproveito para [...]

  5. I’ll second that. Out of Raph’s list of the 13 top most trafficed MMO’s, many of them would count as independant and started from humble beginnings – Runescape, Club Penguin, Habbo, Sherwood (Sherwood is still cottage industry) Add Three Rings and Iron Realms to the list of independant success stories as well. Some of these started out with a team size as large as eight, thus not fitting Raph’s lone gunman requirment, however Runescape and Sherwood do fit the description of being made by a guy or gal in the evenings.

    Although I gather this post was intended as a note of encouragement to indy developers, I think there is more upside potential than these numbers would imply.

  6. Well, the “post your sales stats” stuff started by people trying to show that you DIDN’T have to sell through portals… cliff, who doesn’t rely on them, makes an awful lot more in direct sales than the people who have a foot in portal waters.

  7. Interesting numbers, even though they do not paint the whole picture.

    I would love to know the stats for Spiderweb Software.

  8. Thanks for posting this! These figures are not at all bad – it makes me want to give this space another go with a slightly more competent development partner. :)

  9. Maybe not enough to quit your day job, but a great augmentation to a day job (and better than flipping burgers to put yourself through college).

    Heck, I only make around $40k a year.

  10. We have earned just over forty dollars:

    http://www.untoldentertainment.com/blog/feature-articles/pimp-my-game/

    Lesson learned: unless your game is #1, ad rev share is completely useless.

    But we just posted an interview with an iPhone developer who was successful enough to quit his dayjob:

    http://www.untoldentertainment.com/blog/2009/01/15/free-iphone-app-store-redemption-code-for-textropolis/

  11. I’ve been hesistant to post here because I continue to struggle with how to classify independent development in terms of entrepreneurship. I’m leaning toward using a spectrum of organizational sophistication, from hobbyism to conglomeracy with independence placed closer to hobbyism and entrepreneurship in the middle.

  12. “independence placed closer to hobbyism and entrepreneurship in the middle”

    Independent is a term that says very little about the size of company and it’s easy to jump to the wrong conclusions. I think any link between independence and hobbyism will exclude most successful independent game companies. Here’s a few examples:

    Before being purchased by VUG, Radical Entertainment called themselves the worlds largest independent game developer (200 employees at the time). For the most part they did licensed titles for large publishers and retained very little IP outside of their in-house game engine tech. Is that independent? (My opinion: Independant: No)

    Jagex, Three Rings, Habbo do browser based MMOs. They’ve retained their IP and all have over 100 employees. They have made deals with large portals (Miniclip, Addicting Games, etc.) for distribution, while doing a good percentage of distribution through their own sites as well. All three have also taken VC investment. Is that independent? (My opinion: Independant: Yes, Hobby: No)

    MaidMarian.com (my company) is a cottage industry MMO developer. No outside funding, just me and my wife, no large portal deals although many loose arrangements with smaller game sites. It’s not a big company, but it’s not a hobby either – it’s full time employment for two people. My income is substantially better than when I was working as a technical art director in the console industry. We probably have the most in common with the group Raph is talking about, although our revenues haven’t been anywhere near as low as these examples since 2005. Are we independent? (My opinion: Independant: Yes, Hobby: No)

    All of the above are commercially viable. It’s clear from some of the IGDA independent roundtables I’ve attended at GDC, that there are those who consider any effort that is not based purely on artistic expression and that includes some form of commercial viability to be something other than independent. Perhaps it is this group you are refering to as hobbists, although they seem more the starving artist type to me. My opinion is that it’s very difficult to sustain any sizable project for an extended period without commercial viability. Independance and IP retention are linked, but independance says very little about the size of the company, it’s revenues, distrubution or investors.

  13. [...] Raph’s Website » How well can indie games do? One takeaway here — it’s hard work, and for most, you can’t quit your day job. But there’s plenty of opportunity if you are determined and skillful. (tags: http://www.raphkoster.com 2009 mes0 dia19 games indie mercado estatísticas) [...]

  14. [...] are many more articles available on this topic, but none of them provide the answers you seek. That is until [...]

  15. [...] are many more articles available on this topic, but none of them provide the answers you seek. That is until [...]

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