“The ultimate goal of a writer is to be read. Money comes later.”
~ Paulo Coelho, author of ‘The Alchemist’.
I stumbled across the above remark made by Paulo Coelho on his blog where he shares his views on piracy.
“Money comes later” is what caught my attention because the biggest challenge that indie developers face is not piracy but actually having enough people taking an interest in your games, playing it and finally paying for it (hopefully).
If you’ve been struggling to build a game or working your way towards earning a full-time income, remember this… Building a sustainable game development business takes a great deal of time and effort. Overnight successes never happen overnight. The challenge in building a business is essentially about growing an audience that loves your take on what a game should be. It will probably take you several months if not a few years.
According to the latest 2014 third quarter Developer Economics survey of app developers, 57% of game developers earn less than $500 per game per month.
You can get the full report here:
If you’re considering becoming an indie developer with the mindset that your can easily earn money from making games, this report show that it’s more likely you won’t earn much if anything at all. It is very rare that a single published game will become an overnight success and earn you 5-6 figures a month.
With that mindset it’s no wonder there are so many Flappy Bird, Bejewelled and Threes clones. Success in this business requires making more than publishing a few simple games or clones.
Also in the report, it mentioned that 70% of game developers have published less than 4 titles. So if you only have 3 games published, it probably wouldn’t even be sufficient to support your 1-man indie studio.
Here is a brief look at 3 very well known games where its developers struggled with success and published numerous titles before finally making it big.
1) Angry Birds by Rovio Entertainment
Founded in 2003, Rovio started off as a mobile game development studio. Today, they are known as the creator of the Angry Birds franchise that has over 2 billion total downloads. If you don’t already know, Angry Birds is Rovio’s 52th published title. Most people (myself included) would not have known about Rovio if it weren’t for Angry Birds. Consider some of their previously released titles such as the Bounce series, Burger Rush, Cyber Blood, Darkest Fear, Mole War or even Wolf Moon. Any of these ring a bell? Probably not.
2) Fruit Ninja by HalfBrick Studios
HalfBrick Studio was founded in 2001. The studio used to develop games for the Play Station, Nintendo and XBox Live platforms before moving onto mobile development. Before the release of Fruit Ninja, there were at least 10 other games released which you may not have heard of. Some of these titles include Rocket Power: Beach Bandits, Ty: The Tasmanian Tiger 2, Avatar: The Last Airbender,Barnyard, Marvel Super Hero Squad, Aero Racer and Raskulls. Focusing on creating quality game play experiences rather than launching numerous clones eventually turned HalfBrick into a seemingly overnight success with Fruit Ninja. Despite having massive success and over 100 million downloads to date, HalfBrick continues to build and explore new game play experiences. It’s next hit Jetpack Joyride has also surpassed 100 million downloads.
3) Draw Something by OMGPop
Despite being acquired by Zynga for about $200 million and shut down a year later, OMGPop’s Draw Something hit over 1 million downloads within its first 2 weeks, 50 million downloads within 7 weeks and over 100 million downloads a year later. Prior to the success of Draw Something, OMGPop had released more than 30 games before they finally made a big hit. Some of their earlier titles which you may have heard of include Blockles, Dinglepop, Ballracer, Gemmers and Hamster Battle.
So looking at what’s common between these 3 developers, you’ll see these traits:
- focus on creating quality game play experiences rather than quantity
- more than 10 games published
- passionate about the games they make
- diversity of game play experiences
The ultimate goal of game developers is to create quality game play experiences. Money comes later. Having said that, don’t quit your job and jump right into making games. It will definitely take more time than you estimate and you’ll likely burn through your savings before making a full-time income. Make games in your spare time until it actually earns you more than what you’re earning at a full-time job. It’s what I’m currently aiming for.