Can you live on the funds you make?

Discussion in 'Commercial Games Discussion' started by Skurge, Oct 10, 2015.

  1. Skurge

    Skurge " (GASP) What's going on!? " Veteran

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    Curious to know, does anyone here who have made and sold an RPG game make good money?

    Do you get many buyers? Do you live comfortably on the products you sell?

    I'm asking these few questions because I dream of making a new exciting rpg game like nothing before

    with the new RPG MV program but I am not sure if it is worth the effort on the commercial side?

    I don't deny that accomplishing a game and selling it even is a good thing- you MADE something

    and someone out there may play it, but do people actually pay for it? I realize that a few RPG maker games on steam sell for about $5-15 etc but I'm really curious to know.
     
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  2. Andar

    Andar Veteran Veteran

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    There are several accomplished developers on this board that have lived on the money gained from their games - but they also continue to create new games, and that is not as easy as you might think.

    And getting to that position also requires you to be known as a good game developer, which means that you need other income until you have that reputation.

    As I wrote on that point in my starting tutorial (linked below): If this is your first game, scrap all chances of going commercial. You need to know how to make a game before you can sell one - and that includes more than just having an idea, it also includes implementing that idea and bughunting and more.

    Additionally, a good free game is probably the best advertisement for your first commercial game.
     
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  3. Skurge

    Skurge " (GASP) What's going on!? " Veteran

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    Unless of course you perfected it, provided the game to a few players who aren't only saying its good to be friendly.

    I have a few people who are honest play testers who have told me various issues they found with several of my demos, I understand that first tries are very unlikely to sell well. It's good to hear that there are people out there who have made good money and can live on there funds comfortably- hell even provided they earn enough they can deposit it in there superannuation.

    Of course from what I understand achieving this luxury demands constant attention, you need to make more and more and expect a few faults.

    Quick question, does anyone happen to know for sure and can give a figure? Like how many copies they had sold?
     
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  4. Indinera

    Indinera Indie Dev Veteran

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    Yes.

    Depends what you call good money.

    I guess "many" qualifies lol

    Yep.

    I guess it's worth it. At worse it's a good experience.
     
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  5. m4uesviecr

    m4uesviecr Veteran Veteran

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    - Deleted. I know nothing, Jon Snow.
     
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  6. Skurge

    Skurge " (GASP) What's going on!? " Veteran

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    Well good money, say perhaps earning several hundred- whichever nationality and currency value.
     
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  7. cabfe

    cabfe Cool Cat Veteran

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    As I see it, there are several levels of "success", if you're talking about money only.

    Level 1: Complete failure, you've lost money in the whole process.

    Level 2: You covered your costs. Nothing lost, nothing gained either.

    Level 3: You're making a profit, in a small amount. Not enough for a living, but enough to do even better next time.

    Level 4: Big commercial success. You can actually work all day long, exclusively on making games. But that won't prevent a possible future failure, always have a plan B.

    Level 5: Enough successes to allow for a failure/break from time to time. Your business is working.

    Level 99: Minecraft.

    Only a few people reached Level 4, let alone Level 5 (in the RM business).

    That's not impossible, but you'll definitely have to work hard and for a long time. Or be lucky beyond belief, but I wouldn't count on that.
     
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  8. Kes

    Kes Global Moderators Global Mod

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    I personally wouldn't call several hundred good money. (several hundred dollars, pounds, euros).  

    I think cabfe's grades make a lot of sense, but there is probably too big a jump from 3 - 4, because you could be making more than "a small amount" of profit and yet still not be able to live full time off it - particularly in countries with a high cost of living.
     
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  9. Skurge

    Skurge " (GASP) What's going on!? " Veteran

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    Is it to be expected to earn a decent sum weekly?
     
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  10. m4uesviecr

    m4uesviecr Veteran Veteran

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    Several hundred... thousand...? If you're expecting to make income that is somewhat livable, I would hope that, in the first 1 - 2 month of sales, you would be able to clear between 5 - 10k (though I honestly feel as though you should opt for 10 - 20k), and then have breathing room to garner more sales.

    If I take into account where I am living, if I could make.. eh, roughly 1.5k - 2k a month from sales ( more or less as months progress), I'd see game dev as a viable option. I wouldn't live like a king, but I mean, I'd be making the same amount, if not a little less, than I would make as a teacher.

    I would consider that comfortable living.

    I also really like cafbe's scale: From what I have seen, most rpg makers are between Lv 0 and 2, especially the ones that rely on rpg maker's primary assets. The more originality you bring into the look and feel of the game, the higher your chances of pulling heads, thus pulling a bit more of a profit, albeit meaning you'll have to spend money, especially if you're not an artist, musician, or programmer.

    RPG Maker hopes to alleviate the extra spending thus making game dev'ing cost efficient but, by relying solely on it, I feel as though you end up wasting more time than money. 
     
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  11. Kes

    Kes Global Moderators Global Mod

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    @Skurge

    Income is more 'lumpy' than a decent weekly sum.  Generally speaking you will get the largest monthly income in the first few months, and then it tails off - how much depends on a lot of factors.  That is when you need to think about how you are going to ensure a long tail of sales so that even a couple of years after release, or more, you are still getting something in from that particular game.

    And yes, you do have to be thinking in terms of thousands.  Sadly, though, I think  m4uesviecr  is right when she says that most devs are between Lv 0 and 2.  My games are well more than 3, but not enough to maintain my present life style in the UK which has a high cost of living (Have you seen the price of a home in London?????) so I'm not full time.
     
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  12. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    One other thing to keep in mind is future hits can boost your sales of your previous games. Say for instance you release game 1, and it sells oh say 1K at $10 (I made those numbers up). Not great, but its something.

    Then, let's say you keep going and release game 2, and it sells 10K at $10. Plus, those extra that didn't play your game 1 suddenly go "Huh, maybe I should play this other game of theirs too", so you gain the sales there as well.

    So it will take time and you will have to build up a rep while doing it. Myself, I see it as a chance to (maybe) make some side money, and even if I somehow become a commercial hit I don't see that happening until at least 5 - 10 years from now when I have 3 - 6 games made (hopefully).
     
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  13. Matseb2611

    Matseb2611 Innovate, don't emulate Veteran

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    What Bgillisp says is true. Each new game you put out there will likely help with sales of your other games, providing players enjoyed it and it has gained some fans. You will start building your reputation as an indie developer. That's what it's all about. You're unlikely to make a living on just one game. If going commercial is something you're hoping to do, then it's a good idea to expect to keep making new games in the years to come in order to earn enough.
     
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  14. m4uesviecr

    m4uesviecr Veteran Veteran

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    Yeah, and riding off of making more and more games -- I would suggest saving your BIG ideas for later. The story that you have been building off of and expanding for the past 10 years would probably be the game that you end up making after about 2 or 3 games. By then you have the experience, the reputation, and quite possibly the money, to really pull out all the stops for that title.
     
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  15. Tai_MT

    Tai_MT Veteran Veteran

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    Indie game development is pretty much the same as any other "artistic" type of career.  This is going to sound rude, but I've found it an apt metaphor.  Please don't take it personally, it's just sort of the nature of any business based upon gaining money from Subjective Personal Opinion.

    "A few winners, a whole lot of losers".

    Rock Stars, Actors/Actresses, and Famous Painters have proven it can be done.  You can become absolutely rich beyond your wildest dreams.  But, if we take a look at how few there are compared to the rest of the populace, then you'd realize that these people are the exception rather than the rule.  How many failed bands exist?  Failed painters?  Failed actors/actresses?  I'd wager its about the same amount as people who have failed at making any kind of living making video games.  Even among the AAA industry, there are a lot of "flop" games that just don't even make their production costs back.

    Basically, I know what you're asking with your question, but I suspect you already know the answer to it.  You're asking "Can I live comfortably off of my funds if I work hard enough?"  Maybe.  Food expenses, bills, gas for a car, clothing, rent, taxes, etcetera all play a role in how well you could live on any given amount of money.  I live "comfortably" on $17,000 a year, which leaves a little leftover for new games or unexpected expenses (like fixing a car, replacing broken things, etcetera).  But, let's put that in perspective.  If you sell a single game for $20 a pop (I'm using what qualifies as the "Discount Game" prices here in stores...  Basically games almost nobody buys, and they're sold so cheaply just to get rid of the stock) then you would have to sell 850 copies of your game in a year to live on that "comfortably" position of $17,000.  You'd have to sell nearly two and a half copies a day, the entire year, to make that kind of money.  To put that further in perspective, there are games on Steam Greenlight that don't sell that well.  Even very good games on Steam Greenlight that don't sell that well.  Even before the return policy.

    If you're truly serious about trying to live off of the money you would make via Indie Development, then I wouldn't concentrate on the money side of things first.  The first thing you'll want to concentrate on is learning game mechanics, learning some programming (or at least some neat tricks you can do with the engines this website has as a means of making games), and getting good, but cheap, custom content for games.  Your first few games are going to want to be given away.  You are most certainly going to eat those costs and they might be more expensive than you're willing to give a game away for.  But, that's kind of how it has to go.  Most people will try any game for free.  They paid nothing for it, so any value they get out of it is a net profit for the consumer.  This is also a good marketing campaign.  If your first few games end up being at least decent and you've got at least a couple hundred players, then you've essentially cemented into their minds that you can produce at least decent content.  Plus, you can do it cheaply to the consumer.  Also, these first few games that you create and give away are learning experiences for you.  They are how you will learn to deal with feedback from players as well as how to fix all the problems that inevitably arise with the public release of a game (bugfixes, finding places to host the game for download, etcetera).  I'd say that once you reach at least a few hundred players of your free games and feel confident enough to try to charge people for your product, you should go with one of two systems.  Donations to keep you going (this is somewhat risky, but if your content is amazing, people are more than willing to toss $5 your way every so often just to keep you going) or small amounts of cash.  I'd charge $3-$5 a game at that point.  Generally, less will be better (you're still going to be eating your costs at this point, but at least you'll be making some of those costs back, and you'll have kind of an installed playerbase from your previous free games who might be willing to toss you that money just to see what you've done next), but try to avoid going over $10 and under $3.  You need to make some of your money back, especially as the quality of your game-making goes up (and your contact lists go up).  Make a few games at these low prices and make sure they're not shovelware, your goal in these priced games is to get a 50% review rating.  As in, half your customers like the game and the other half think it needs work.

    Once you hit that 50% mark, you could try making a longer, prettier, better game that you would try to sell in the $10-$15 range.  Your installed playerbase should be much larger by this point, and hopefully you've been doing some marketing and keeping players in the loop about your new project.  Hype is helpful, but try to keep your hype realistic so that players don't feel burned or lied to when they get your new project.  Your goal in this price range is simply to make back the money you spent creating it.  That means you're going to spend time budgeting and doing spreadsheets, but that is vital.  If you can create a game that earns back all the costs that were put into it in say... a year or less, then you are well on your way to making games you can charge $20 for.  Through all these first steps here, however, you will need an 8 to 5 job to keep you fed, clothed, and flush with essential items for living comfortably.

    If your $15 game makes back more than you spent on it in whatever time frame you had (I suggest six months to a year), it is now probably time to work on your $20 game.  This is a huge step and you cannot afford many, if any, mistakes.  You're now charging $20 for a game without being a "big time developer".  You're still Indie.  Somewhat more well-known by this point than most, but still an Indie.  Your first goal with your first $20 game is to make a 25% profit off of it.  That means, if production costs were $10,000 in two years, you should be making $12,500 from the sale of that game in six months or a year (the shorter the time frame the better, the longer the worse, if it takes you several years to make back what you spent, or over a single year, I suggest going back to previous steps until you've built up enough fanbase and consumer confidence to try this step again).  It will take you a lot of time to make a 100% profit from $20 games, but if you can average at least a 5% larger profit from each new $20 game after the initial 25% profit of the first game, you're well on your way to making it to the next step.

    Okay, so now you might be making that 100% or more profit on each $20 game you make.  If you're at this point, congratulations, that's quite a feat!  But, what's important about that, is now you've got most of the systems in place to at least get players into your new project.  You probably even have mechanisms in place for marketing to get even more new customers (or at least new eyes on the product).  This is the point in which you are going to aim for "live comfortably from making games".  Hopefully, you've been investing all that profit from the $20 games back into making new games (yes, you should keep that money separate and you should not spend it for personal use, because it will be invaluable for this step).  If you have, you should now have a sizable pool of cash to work with when it comes to trying to make 300% profit from your $20 game.  Yeah, you should probably still be making your $20 games.  If you're good at it, they will sell, and they will sell very well (we're going to use Minecraft as the example, since it's so well-known.  $20 game and the guy sold his company to become rich just based on how many sales he got of that game).  Generally, I don't think you want to transition into a full $50 pricetag until you can pretty much guarantee a 600%+ profit from every $20 game you produce.  I also don't suggest putting in "Micro Transactions" or other sorts of goodies like them until you're at the point where you'd make a $50 game.  Unless, of course, your games stay free forever, and the only money you would ever make would be those goodies and micro-transactions.  However, you may just want to skip the "goodies" and "micro-transactions" altogether, as very few ever do them right.

    So, if you're making 300% profit on a $20 game in a year, you should now be living "comfortably".  At least, if you live where I live.  Please adjust dollar amounts for your local currency and local cost of living expenses.  Ideally, at this point, you could probably quit your full-time job and either take on a part-time job or quit a job altogether.  However, you will have to manage your money well, because if you make a game that flops, you might not have much income for a year, and living will be rough.  This is one of the reasons you want to keep your profit separate from your "day job" funds.  You should probably also check with local tax collectors on if you owe anything on your profit (like if you're a business) and how much that could be.  This might be a bit trickier if you have your profit put into a "Business Account" instead of just your standard savings/checking accounts.  There are plenty of places out there that would give you some free advice on how to manage such money for taxes.  But, if you're asking for loopholes and how exactly it's paid...  Well, you might have to hire someone to do those taxes for you.  Just keep that in mind.  Anyway, from this point on, you should be doing everything possible to make more and more profit from each game you create, and doing it much more quickly.  You're going to be "living comfortably" for quite some time and having to micromanage your money.  Yes, even if you're making back 600% of what you put into the game in less than a year.  A single flop at that point, can rob you of the funds you need to simply live.  Save money where you can and try not to blow all the profit from each game on the next one.  Until you're pulling down what amounts to $50,000 a year in your own currency, you shouldn't be trying to make "upgrades" to your life (like moving from an apartment to a house, new car, etcetera) because a game that flops can quickly make these situations horrifying to be in.  Even more importantly, you need to be getting paid while you're developing new games.  Up until this point, you should be assuming one game every year or so.  As in, creating and completing a game every year.  Until you're pulling down good chunks of money without a job, there's no way you could turn development time into more than a year.  So, honestly, at this point, it's about getting your games to the point you can live comfortably and afford an upgrade or two to your life every so often without the threat of going broke when a game flops.

    After that, all you're shooting to do is make enough profit from your games that you can either increase their price tags and nobody bats an eye, or that you can take a few years off from game development if you need/want to.  This buffer also helps if a game or two flops.  From there, it just gets more complicated, but at least you're on your way to no longer being an Indie Developer.

    Anyway!



    I know this is really long.  So, if you just scrolled down this far and didn't read it, I understand.  I'll give you the tl;dr section right here.  I'm a very part time Indie developer guy who has never sold anything or even published a single game in the two years I've been here.  Take my advice with a grain of salt as I probably have no idea what I'm talking about.  However, all the advice I've listed is what my own plan has been for Indie Development.  It is how I planned to go about it, and how I planned to do it from the start.  Barring unforeseen circumstances (like me not knowing what I'm talking about), it would remain unchanged.  But, if you must ask someone good and proper steps for how you should go about the process, I suggest the people who are "living comfortably" on their game sales.  They could tell you better than anyone what kind of hell they went through to get to that point as well as the mistakes they made and what some of the best decisions they made.

    If you want to succeed, ask those who have succeeded.  If you want to fail, ask those who have failed.
     
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  16. Missile

    Missile Veteran Veteran

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    I wrote a bit about this and my own game's sales at: http://forums.rpgmakerweb.com/index.php?/topic/41976-the-amber-throne/?p=436208 . According to cabfe's list, it'd be a level 3. A lot of recent RM releases (You are not the Hero, Unveil, Planet Tree, etc.) seem to have roughly done similarly.

    In general, don't expect to. Particularly with indie game sales declining/leveling out as of 2014/15 . If you're willing to release more games in a shorter time frame, you might make more than you normally would, though this also might come with connotations of "flooding the market," reducing the value of individual titles and possibly further compounding things.

    You also have to consider that in general, there are stats (can't find the article, but Gamasutra should have it) that show that most games reach an "optimal" level around the mid 2-year mark, staying either undercooked before or overcooked after. I think RPG's really do need and deserve some time and care to hit a good point.

    But in the end, it's possible to reach a low-level salary! In my experience, mostly equivalent to what freelancing would've made plus or minus a small amount, so it depends whether you're enjoying it or not. :)

    (Additionally, researching more would help. http://steamspy.com/tag/RPGMaker logs are fairly accurate for non-bundle games. Arrange by release date and look at how recent games are doing, while checking to see if some were in bundles/etc (a lot of RM games will be in bundles, making sales sometimes unreliable).)
     
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  17. Indinera

    Indinera Indie Dev Veteran

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    Too many interventions here for me to answer to everything. Beside I have a rule to never disclose my sales and revenues, but one thing that is very true is that games sell for a very long time. All my games still sell something every year. Millennium 1 made about 400 times its cost over time and is still selling pretty well.

    So all in all, a good strategy is to release good games regularly. Twice a year is a good start. And release them everywhere you can (including on my website ^^).

    It includes bundle keys (worth about 0.2 dollars lol) and free keys (worth nothing) so it's not really a good indicator of revenues.
     
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  18. Tuomo L

    Tuomo L Oldbie Veteran

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    Several hundred isn't exactly good money, in fact honestly that'd be a bit poor sales to be honest. Certainly not enough to make a living off.
     
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  19. Indinera

    Indinera Indie Dev Veteran

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    It could be if you live in a country with a currency that is weak against the dollar. That's the glory of being indie lol it can really be so easy in some countries that a few sales is enough to make the average monthly income of that country.  :rock-left:  
     
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  20. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    I'd take several hundred a month. That'd at least pay my mortgage, freeing up funds for other things. And, honestly, that's not bad for a side job, here in the US.
     
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