How to make money on an indie game

    Before starting to write this report, I read more than 115 post-mortem and stories of indie developers. What do I understand? Firstly, my English sucks. Secondly, indies are very different. Highly. And to catalog them it took a lot of time.

    You do not need to take this as a whole story, these are excerpts from a bunch of different stories. Under the cut, there are a few categories and numbers. Almost everything that will be in the post I tell in this video, but of course text duplicated under the cut.

    About 1.3 billion people play games in the world. Those. about 18% of the total population of the Earth are gamers. Game market turnover of about 71 billion dollars. Now to indie. In 2012, Notch earned 100 million selling the game through the site. He is recognized on the streets, and his words are almost religious for some. This is for a rough estimate of the scale. Then I will try to break down into categories.


    How do flash games earn?

    Speaking flash games, most often they mean a portal flash, and not games made using Adobe Flash. Games are free, and they are monetized through internal advertising. This means advertising is inserted in certain places in the game. Those. Inside the game there are places that can be sold. You can sell in different ways, therefore there are several types of transactions.


    The bottom line is selling all the advertising rights of one company. She pays you a one-time Amount in X and further on the distribution rights of this game are with this company.

    A small brawl for owning exclusive rights to the game Berzerk Ball 2 ensued between the owner of and the congregate . They raised rates, interrupting each other and gradually reached almost 100 thousand dollars. Kyle, the owner of the boarder, said that somewhere after 60 it became clear that the game simply did not pay off, but continued to squeeze. Why? Sponsors are ordinary people, they are inherent in excitement.

    Primeri and Saytloki:

    It differs from the exclusive in that the rights to the game do not belong to one company. They give less for it, but in the future, in addition to the main version of the game, which will crawl through the portals, you have the right to sell site blocks. The approximate selling price is about ¾ X

    Sidlock: this is a version of the game, specially for a specific portal. Those. you cut out all the sponsor banners and insert the logos of another portal. Usually, for such a site-lock they give about 10% of the main amount of the prime-license, but this is very arbitrary. Formally, website prices are limited only by the sponsor's capabilities.

    Armorgames , one of the largest flash portals, bought website blocks for a while and did not spend money on primaries. Due to the huge attendance, most locks turned out to be more popular than the primaries version of the game, despite the distribution.


    The least risky type of transaction for both parties. All advertising rights within the game are owned by one company. The developer is paid for clicks on ads for a certain period of time. Upfront agreements are also very frequent, where the developer receives an unsalable amount. This means approximately that the developer gets somewhere ½ X right into his hands and the rest of the money he will receive after the first month of clicks on advertising, when the game goes into the world.

    Formally, the performance does not have a ceiling, but still it is. One of the founders of the congregate, Greg said that twice the games reached the limit of 100k, which is usually stipulated in the contract.
    If interested, one of them is Coaster Racer

    There are cunning website blocks that work like performance. For example, the Russian developer sbat sold sitelocs worth 6 times more than the primaries. The fact is that these were site locks for Microsoft sites and yahoo, and they paid money for viewing them.


    Where to look for sponsor companies?

    Before you dial any database of contacts and emails, before meeting at conferences you can safely sell the game without even knowing the name of any of the sponsors.
    There are auction sites like fgl and gamebrokage for this . You put the game there and after a while the sponsors begin to place bids offering certain conditions.

    One of the tricks is to make a bet yourself on behalf of the sponsor or ask a friend of the sponsor to make a fake bet. But if Che is not legal.

    Also, the emails of most sponsors are easy to get in the Contact us and For developers section on large portals. There are email lists of all sponsors, but due to mass mailing, they are increasingly losing relevance.

    Also, do not forget about large companies. For example, if you have a cool indie soda game, you can calmly bang Coca-Cola. Usually, in such cases, reskins are bought for amounts close to exclusive.

    Own advertising and profit:

    Some developers start portals themselves and support them with their games. There are many success stories of niche portals that do not often need to make games for them.
    As Sergey Eliseev (a very large portal told us on the flashgam of 2009, they constantly post the same game on their portal, with slightly changed graphics (reskin) about motorcycles. And every time they play it successfully. Still.

    Comrad from Turkey Erman Haskan has been making flash games for four years. Slowly and for pleasure. It posts them on its gaming website and in free distribution, acting as a sponsor. There are no other games on the portal, only copyright ones. The most famous of them are Ultimate Assassin 2 and 2099.

    I don’t know how about last year, but in the year before last 7 million people came to This is approximately 600 thousand visitors per month and 20 thousand per day. According to the information that I came across, usually with such traffic the site can count on an income of about $ 3,000 per month.

    The trick is that with such traffic the site is located on a free hosting and the owner does not have any problems with the server and load. Indeed, Google itself takes care of this. :) Yes it is. Erman Haskan made his gaming portal based on the free Google service Blogger.

    Saytlocks in China

    Do not forget about the prizes and bonuses that can be obtained by making the game. Some contests are obvious. For example, from the popular portal portals
    The top prize monthly prize is $ 1,500. We also give away $ 250 to the top-rated game and $ 150 to the second- and third- place games uploaded on Kongregate each week.

    Sometimes you can get a prize from amazing places. For example, the Chinese portal gives out cash prizes (up to 8k) to the most successful games, but even registering there is not so easy



    I will devote quite a bit of time to portal multiplayer games, since indie developers rarely take up them and there is not enough information.


    If we take congregate statistics, the data is as follows. Top 50 multiplayer games account for almost 100% of the profits from microtransactions.

    According to one of the top games:

    % of players on the left,% of profit on the right


    ARPPU - Average Revenue Per Paying User - about $ 140

    People who spend $ 500 + bring in most of the income from the game. Those who pay <$ 10 bring 2%. No, of course, everyone loves the extra 1-2 percent, but in fact they practically do not change anything.

    This is the statistics of one of the top games by profit, but the statistics are almost the same on other successful games. 4 or 5 of our most profitable games receive most of the money from players who spend $ 500 + and all of our top 10 games for profit, even if they have ARPPUs of $ 20- $ 25, most of the money comes from players who spend $ 100 +

    Unlike portal flash games without constant updates and support, the forum game is bent. She needs the constant care of the developer. Rare portals take games with internal purchases, so you need to take care only of the main portals with which you agree.


    At the moment, there is an active demand for games made on HTML5. Despite the fact that they almost do not pay off, the demand for them does not fall. Now HTML5 games are in trend and large investors are giving smaller sponsors investments to promote this trend. For example, investors recently allocated an investment of $ 5 million to the largest sponsor of SPILGAMES , and they buy a bunch of games, in whole bundles. (it was true at the time of writing, now 90 people have been fired from the company)

    Monetization of these games is like a flash, but there are almost no deals like performance. Among other things, due to the fact that html5 is relatively new and by ear, as well as because of its versatility, contests with millions of budgets are constantly held now, which is very good.


    Kickstarter is a very interesting system.

    In short, for those who do not yet know why kickstarter and crowdfunding in general are needed.
    Suppose there is an almost finished game in which there is everything except high-quality voice acting and sound effects. You post all the drafts / sketches / working demos for this game and ask for money for high-quality voice acting. In return, donators will receive a copy of the game at a discount. This is what ideally the creators of kickstarter saw.

    Now the scheme is approximately as follows. Dudes make a demo, and sometimes just sketches for the game and ask for money for it.

    When can this work?

    a) These are very famous game developers. They have many well-known games and trusting their experience, you give them money in advance for sketches to fully finance their development.


    « The Wasteland 2 " $ 2,933,252 and Tim Schafer, gathered at the « Double Room the Fine the Adventure " $ 3,336,371.

    b) The game is awesome. It is a niche game that everyone has been waiting for for a long time or it has well-forgotten mechanics in a new format. New ideas, cool art, an awesome movie can all work.

    It is on this point that indie should pay attention.

    What is the sacred meaning of kickstarter for indie? Besides the fact that it is fashionable, stylish, youth kickstarter is a good platform for press release of your game.

    Kickstarter has a regular audience, including journalists. They already have wallets connected, have shopping experience and they trust the developers from kickstarter. However, one must remember that none of them will see your game. Organic traffic is very low. She will appear in new for a couple of seconds and disappear. Without quality PR, do not expect attention.

    (Then a little text from the Khabrov article and my extras).

    Awards (rewards). This is one of the strongest motivators why users invest. For example, very often for $ 15 you can get a box with a game, which after the game is published will cost for example $ 50, and for a reward of $ 50 you can get a gift edition + T-shirt + flash drive from the game’s logo. The rewards can be many different, from $ 1 to $ 10,000. For example, Tim Schaefer “sold” four dinners with him and Ron Gilbert to four different people. The cost of the meal was $ 10,000.

    It is important that many projects do not take into account the cost of making the awards that they promise to beckers. For example, one project claimed as a prize sweatshirts with symbols, the production of which, together with mail, cost more than the amount that the backers paid. Another example is another team, which, together with taxes, not counted by the cost of sounds and music, the underestimated cost of making awards, has only $ 4,000 left to develop. Therefore, carefully consider the cost of making all the game content, all the prizes, shipping (international shipping costs about $ 15).

    It accepts payments, transfers money from backers to developers and is engaged in checking accounts, cards and other financial issues of One of the main problems for foreigners on Kickstarter is Amazon - it is he who works only with US residents. Now, as far as I know, Kickstarter is looking for ways to solve this problem and become an international platform.

    Amazon's Benefit is an excellent payment system. Its essence is simple: you can support the project with any amount (from $ 1 to $ 10,000). But until the project collects the requested minimum amount, the money remains in your account. Amazon blocks them, but they do not leave your account. This gives beckers confidence and peace of mind. At any time, they can change their bid on Kickstarter, or cancel it altogether (and this happens with any projects - you need to be prepared for this and treat with understanding).
    In case the project is successful - the money is transferred by Amazon at this moment. If the project has not collected the required amount (at least $ 1), the payment is canceled and the money will not be transferred anywhere.

    Not everyone can use Amazon, so many developers on their sites make additional payments via PayPal (and / or other payment systems). For example: one game project collected about $ 580,000 on Kickstarter and on its website (via PayPal) got about $ 35,000 (I don’t remember the exact numbers, but the order is like that). Thus, it makes sense to duplicate the acceptance of payments through alternative payment systems.

    In connection with this Amazon chip, I recently noticed an interesting possible scam. After the launch, the project did not receive due attention and did not collect the necessary amount of money in the early days. The authors threw money from fake accounts, and when in the end the amount was accumulated, they canceled the kickstarter campaign, saying that they had an investor. In total, the game gained potential buyers, did not fail the company in kickstarter (i.e., it was successfully lit), and at the same time, the support money returned.

    Useful sites

    Kickstarter project statistics site - Before creating a project on Kickstarter, I strongly recommend that you study similar projects there, daily influx of backers, average payment, and more.

    And Swiss scientists collected data on 16,042 campaigns that took place from September 2012 to May 2013. In addition to data on the dynamics of contributions, they monitored Twitter for tweets with the word “kickstarter” and a link to the project page and examined the composition of the project backers - their activity in other projects, typical amounts of contributions, etc ... It is the use of a combined model taking into account social interactions that significantly improved the quality of the prediction. Just 4 hours after the start of the campaign, you can predict its outcome with 76% certainty. After 10% of the time allotted for the campaign, that is, on average after three days, the accuracy increases to 85%.

    Mobile games:

    Indy cannot afford the marketing strategies of large companies. For large companies, strategies can be described in Rockefeller's quote “Do not be afraid of high costs, fear small incomes.” Companies now spend $ 5 million on launching new top-end applications in Appstore (compared to 500k in 2009). Indie can only spend his time writing an article on a blog and forum.

    Look objectively at the market. All figures from post-mortem and sales should be passed through the filter. Top 25 developers received half of all profit in 2012. 80% of developers get 3% of profit. Worthy data analysis by Owen Goss from Dave Addey: 19% of apps earn $ 24k. 80% $ 300. It is quite similar to reality. If your mobile game earns 100k, then you will give 30% to Apple, 30 to your publisher and share the balance with your partner and tax.

    Appstore is so clogged with marketing games that only phishing + reward can give your game a chance to emerge if you publish it yourself.

    It is very important for indie not to forget to cover a large number of devices. Typically, owners of rare devices have no choice what to play and they choose one of the few games.


    The perfect breeding ground for indie PC games. There are many other alternatives to the incentive.

    The only thing they attract is discounts on games. Therefore, the profit from these sites in the amount of about 10-15 less than the profit from the Steam.

    Clippings from the book of Galenkin :


    Letters players, YouTube personalities, reviewers, and all that kind of “their guys” are the same journalists as representatives of IGN or Eurogamer. For example, the recently popular YouTube channel Yogscast won a tender for the production of the Playstation Access video program, which was previously run by the major publishing house Future Publishing (PC Gamer, EDGE, and Stuff magazines). Letspeers and reviewers will be happy to make a video about you if it collects views. Unfortunately, here I can not advise anything specific, except as "make a good game." Unlike journalists who are limited to a short format, a lettles player can spend many hours on your game if it is interesting.
    It is useless for flysplayers and reviewers to pitch stories - the audience loves them just because they do not try to pass the game through themselves and analyze, but show it for what it is. They are not interested in interviews, videos, and even more screenshots.
    Therefore, the only mechanism for working with them is an early version of the game. This, I want to note, is a rather effective mechanism: your game may not be ready for reviews, but it may look good enough so that it would not be embarrassing to shoot a video.
    I highly recommend not giving the version of the game to the players before you launch pre-orders or sell the game. The audience of let’s players, like the audience of gaming sites, actively buys games, but has a relatively small margin of attention. So if the game cannot be bought right away, they will most likely forget about it. In addition to lettered players on YouTube, there are a huge number of so-called "YouTube personalities" that do not necessarily shoot videos about games. Even if the games are not interesting to them (especially if they are not interesting!), They may be attracted to the theme of your game. In addition, they still understand the video and attract the attention of an audience larger than yours.
    Doing a project about physics or history? Talk to those who are filming
    science fiction on this topic. Together you will surely succeed
    create something cool.


    To announce the launch of Prime World in the USA, we used the gender features of the game - separate prices for men and women, individual starting characters depending on gender, special gameplay mechanics for couples. By that time, the game had been in test in Russia for half a year already, and we perfectly understood that gender mechanics did not improve the game in any way. But this is a great story for Western media. Material about developers who want to help women, but at the same time insult them with inequality to the depths of their hearts, went around the entire Western press - we got not only to gaming sites, but also to Yahoo, CNN, feminist portals and resources of the LGBT community. We knew that our decision would provoke the anger of a large part of the audience that does not play games. This was the whole point of the campaign - it’s nice to mess up “by negligence”, then it’s nice to fix it. We are in advance
    prepared obese female characters and sexy male ones - these are the two most discussed problems when portraying sexes in games.

    Organize something unusual that they will talk about. Let's say Electronic Arts once staged a fake "angry citizens" demonstration against Dante's Inferno. CD Projekt section of Triss from The Witcher for the cover of the Playboy.



    You should not pay attention to pirates, and flirting with them is not particularly useful. The story of Game Dev Tycoon, its developers posted a special version of the game on the trackers - in it the player’s studio sooner or later was closed due to piracy. You can come up with something worse - good. No, don't worry. F2p games are an exception, they can and should be promoted with the expectation of an audience of pirates. Pirates are converted into paying players no worse than those who buy a license, because they still have money.

    The Stanley Parable is a little indie game created by just two enthusiasts that grew out of an amateur mod. The Stanley Parable was released in the fall of 2013, before the start of sales of two new generation consoles. During this period, all expensive games with marketing budgets appeared on the market — Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. The worst time to release if you're a little indie. The Stanley Parable developers have released a special version for a number of players and game journalists. In addition, instead of an advertising campaign for which there was still no money, they made an ironic demo that ridiculed the very idea of ​​demo versions - just like The Stanley Parable ridicules games. Without showing it to journalists at exhibitions, practically without an announcement, without advertising, The Stanley Parable became a hit, as they like to say in the business press, per night. In fact, of course, the developers were preparing for this sudden success for several months. Reviews on The Stanley Parable were published almost simultaneously in all significant gaming publications, and it became the most highly rated PC game of 2013 according to Metacritic.


    Just a month after the release of the game, you should think about discounts and sales. There is nothing complicated in this mechanism - you give discounts on an increasing basis, starting from 20% (I repeat, it has no effect less).

    To organize a discount on a PC, you will need to contact your manager from the platform, whether it be Steam or GOG - after all, your task is not just to reduce the price (this can be done in the partner interface), but once again to get to the service’s main page with a sale. Very good discounts work together with a content addition, or at least a patch. They will return to the game old fans who advise friends to buy a good game while it is on sale. But this is optional.

    The effect of participating in large sales of the platform (such as, for example, the summer sale of Steam) is not too large if you did not manage to get to the main one. Yes, the number of copies sold will increase, because on such days, players buy products from their wish list. But these are the fans who would sooner or later buy your game, but the sale will not attract new users without fichering.

    Unfortunately, the discount rate for sales is constantly increasing, some time ago 33% on New Year's Eve was considered a great discount, now the audience is waiting for 80–90% for daily deal and 66–75% for regular sale. Keep this in mind when you submit your application for a sale. Another important thing is the psychological thresholds of $ 3, 5, and 10. The difference between a game for $ 5.99 and $ 4.99 is only one dollar, but sales can be doubled. This is especially noticeable on Steam, where there are special sections for games cheaper than $ 5 and cheaper than $ 10. Apple has blocked most third-party sales tracking apps, and so a discount without publishing (or featured Apple) will not give you anything. Apple makes one application a week for free, and just doesn’t advertise discounts. I repeat, they are not interested in making money on the AppStore,


    Participation alone will not do anything good for you - hundreds, if not thousands of games are sent to such events. But a victory in at least some nomination of any of the festivals is a good reason for pride in the press. And it’s just useful to listen to opinions about your game from disinterested people.

    The main advantage of greenlight is that with an interesting game you do not need to spend money on PR.
    Due to the huge incentive audience, good games get approval almost immediately. Greenlay pages have quite flexible settings. There you can embed Google analytics for example. Indies say that even considering that large publications like rocketpeipershotgan write about greenlaying their games, in reality the statistics may surprise.


    It is quite difficult to independently evaluate how much this or that game would have earned if the author had not spent money on marketing, but I was lucky and I personally know such a game. Intrusion 2 had no PR in the press, except for one topic on one of the Russian-language forums. The result is 300k per year.

    There is also a huge amount of open statistics on the Steam, in post-mortem of foreign and our developers. Usually the situation is this:

    AI War: First Four Years Postmortem (And By Extension Arcen History)

    91% of the profit from the Steam
    3% direct sales
    6% from other sources.

    Actually everything.

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