Originally published on rasmusrasmussen.com
The title of this post is true for most indie game developers out there, at least if you measure success in terms of profit. There are other ways an indie game can be a success but I'll get to them in a bit.
In today's video game marketplace competition is tough. It's easier than ever to make, publish and distribute new games, but with that, it gets increasingly difficult to get noticed, attract an audience and make money. This is true for all games, but small indies typically invest their own money in everything from buying assets in the Unity marketplace to renting booth space at PAX, making them more vulnerable to the impact of financial failure.
If you're making games as a hobby and income is just pocket money - read no further. Go make games, and have fun! But if you're hoping to go full time, or build a small studio, be prepared to work your ass off, doing a lot of things that have nothing to do with designing features or levels for your title. There will be spreadsheets.
Research is crucial, of course. You've looked at similar titles on Steamspy, to get a feel for how they sold on Steam, right? You've tracked down any postmortems or shared sales numbers from teams and projects similar to yours, correct? If you want to take your indie games past hobby level, you can't ignore the existing market.
As an initial reality check, answer these three questions to the best of your ability:
- What are the projected sales numbers in the first year?
- What's the price point you have in mind?
- How much time (unpaid hours) and money will you put into making the game?
With this information, you can figure out whether your expectations are realistic. When you realize that they're not, you can start to think of ways to tweak the numbers.
The Price and Profit Calculator
To help my fellow indies, I made a tool that lets you experiment with different projections. I call it the Indie Game Price and Profit Calculator.
Being realistic about your expectations helps you make informed business decisions about marketing, partnerships and thinking outside the box to boost your numbers (or lower your cost).
Don't let competition and volume take the wind out of your sails. As mentioned, even if you fail to profit from your release, there are other ways an indie game can benefit you. For one, it's a great way to learn more about all aspects making games, from audio design to publishing. It's also a great way to network with other indies, many of whom are in the industry. Networking may lead to jobs or partnerships, and so on. Having finished and published something does open doors. Making an indie game is just as much an investment in the careers of everyone on the team, as an opportunity to make a profit. If not more so.
Regardless of your motivation for making games, I hope the calculator tool is useful, and best of luck with your project!