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Why You Shall Not Quit Your Day Job To Make A Game App

To be or not to be? A thought for all aspiring indie/app game developers.

Level design draft on Bonnie's Brunch

Last year I left my job in an online game company to become a full-time indie game developer. After one year and countless struggles, our team finally made a commercial iOS game -- Bonnie's Brunch (iTunes Link). And I've shared the postmortem here.

Although the iOS gold rush was already over, I keep hearing a lot of people urged on jumping into indie/app game development. In reality, the time is different and the battle is tougher than before.

Recently I had a chance to give a talk on one local meetup for Taiwanese mobile app developers. Being an indie over one year, I had learned my lessons in a hard way. I think being an indie is less about how to make a fortune in a short time, but more about knowing thyself.

The following are the outlines:

You heard all the success stories on App Store(s), so you want to quit your day job? To be a full-time indie game app developer?

Think before you leap!

Because you...

1) Got Nobody Pays You Wage

Income != Expense

  • Time to live off the past savings
  • Say goodbye to luxury habits
  • Live a frugal life

2) Own A Million Dollar Baby 

Value = Idea * Execution -- Derek Sivers

  • Don't ask people to sign an NDA first
  • A great idea is worth a million dollars
  • ...Only if it can be well executed

3) Want To Do It All By Yourself

Band Of Brothers (Sisters)

  • Great partners do what you can't
  • Spend extra time with them
  • Know their itches & quirks
  • Friends != Partners

4) Not A "Mad Hatter"


  • "Small games need generalists" -- Adam Saltsman
  • Not just making a good game and then profit
  • Get your noble hands dirty
  • Know your audience: you won't be able to please everyone

5) Wanna Make A Fortune At Your 1st Game

Lessons To Learn

  • You won't hit the nail on the head in your 1st, 2nd & 3rd games
  • Don't make your dream game yet
  • Budget for at least 3 games
  • Don't forget to count in the living costs

6) Need Alarm Clocks To Wake You Up


  • No reveille to wake you up every morning
  • You are your own boss!
  • ...And that's the real problem
  • Enjoy your free time but not too much

7) Hate Getting Along With Yourself

You Are Alone

  • No peers to talk to, gossip & flirt with
  • You'll have many toys causing distraction & procrastination
  • Motivation: easy to lose, hard to recover

8) Have No Family Support

Relationship Matters

  • Try to convince your beloved ones
  • Unconditional love will get you through the hard time
  • Put out the fire before it burns you down
  • Career can be rebooted, life can't

9) Follow What They Said

A Hundred Shining Faces

  • A million sad songs underneath
  • Stories they won't tell & you won't hear
  • Go nowhere by just reading & listening stuff
  • Don't chase the fad

10) Born To Be A Shy Guy

Outside The Box

  • Speak up your mind
  • Join and/or build a community
  • Don't be afraid to flop -- It won't be the first & the last
  • No Secret Era: Honesty goes a long way

Final Notes

  • Make at least one game app when you have a day job -- If you can't make it now, you won't make it tomorrow
  • If everything needs to be 100% ready before taking action -- You can do nothing at all

My Q & Your A

  • How long can you live without income?
  • When the going gets tough, will you give up?
  • If you were going to fail, would you still go for it?

You may read and download the full version on Speaker Deck.

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