The Entrepreneur Forum | Startups | Entrepreneurship | Starting a Business | Motivation | Success

Making Solo Indie Game Developer A Viable And Lucrative Business

Remove ads while supporting the Unscripted philosophy...become an INSIDER.

LordGanon

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jun 22, 2020
45
123
111
Germany
Hello everyone,

since I have put a lot of thought into this, it's probably going to become a long post. Actually, I'm writing this to sort my thoughts.

First thing you'll probably think when reading this is "Ooooh great, another gamer who has THE idea and now wants to become a video game rockstar". Hear me out. Here is the first thing you have to hear: I'm not a gamer. I do play games, indeed. But I actually thought about selling my XBOX One because it's collecting dust. Didn't play for years, although I finished Red Dead Redemption 2 during shutdown. But games always have somehow been there. I actually like older games. I don't know if it is because I grew up with them, or because games just become worse. Not in the sense of graphics, but ideas behind them. Games these days often are optimized to get you addicted and make you pull out your credit card to buy action points, assets or whatever. I'm sorry to bring ethics into this, but that's not what I'd want to create and put onto the market. I'd feel ashamed. Because of another thread on this forum, I looked into game development, which I hadn't for quite a while. I created two games a few years back.

So I'm not a gamer and want to design games? Yes. Let an addict tell you about the golden rule of the drug trade: Don't be hooked on your own product. Do you think comparing video games to drugs is unfair? Then let me tell you how many video game addicts I met in self-help groups. And it is an addiction that ruins your life just as well as other drugs. Body included. The mechanisms are quite similar. These people, often getting hooked in early childhood or adolescence, spend their whole days living a surrogate life and avoiding reality. In some cases, their surroundings look nothing better than a crack house, especially when they start to live on their own. Because they only eat junk food and all of their exercise is a walk to the supermarket, they ruin their health. They learn nothing that can be applied to real life, that's why most of these addicts have to face their addiction and its crippling impact when their parents tell them to move out after school. And then: No social skills, no work skills, no...really, you wouldn't believe it. They really CAN'T FUNCTION in real life at all. I had several of them tell me that they wanted to commit suicide at that point. Slaying a poison-spitting dragon is easy. Filing for unemployment benefits puts the fear of God into people.

So I fell into the trap of "information" binging on game development, again.

After watching loads of indie game dev videos, (while also learning Unity, btw), I realized: Huh. I'd probably be good at this. And it would tie together a lot of the things in my life I want to pursue: Programming, art, music, writing, game design, and entrepreneurship. I'm not a pro in any of these disciplines (except for writing, I'm a published comic book author, I think that makes me a pro in comparison to those who are not). But not knowing about something is not an excuse for anything, these days!

"Talent" is probably 10 percent. Except when it comes to sports, where genetics are really important, but even there, it's the training that separates you from the rest. Don't know how to program? Put in the time to learn. Don't know how to draw? Put in the time to learn. I'm at a point where I say "I'm okay at these things", so I can improve from a solid base.

Then I asked myself: Can I make money with this? Maybe even a lot?

The answer to this is: No and yes.


After watching a video about two brothers who made a living by constantly putting out new (crappy) titles by asset flipping (buying graphics, models, game elements, slightly changing the game, giving it a new title and put it on Steam again, a process that takes a n00b about 45 minutes [I'm not kidding, there are YouTube videos about that]), I thought to myself: Oh hell, if they can make a living with that...I can become an indie game developer and make it work.

Would I want to enter the industry as an employee? Oh hell no. It doesn't matter which function you fulfill. Programming, art or game design. It's excruciating work. And then, one day, you can tell your friends and family: "You see that giant walking over there? Yeah. I rigged the model." And people constantly keep lining up to work in bad conditions, because they want to "make games". While that sounds intriguing when you're a gamer, the reality is absolutely different, and I know that from (award-winning) people in the industry. You won't make games, you'll provide mini-units. A lot of people leave the industry because they are absolutely NOT working on their passion, but are cogs in a much bigger machine.

So, let's be realistic about what you can accomplish as a solo indie game developer:

1. Taking Steam as a measurement or the Google Play Store, the number of games keeps increasing steadily each year. It's a highly competitive field, but still a growing industry.
2. Making games has become much easier than it used to be.
3. There are a lot of freelance professionals you can hire for specific, time-consuming tasks (rigging, animation, for example)

There are examples of OUTSTANDING solo indie game developers. But those are the survivors. I looked up the numbers people make with in-game ads on mobile (a common source of revenue).

1. Even if you design a small hit, you'll barely make what you would make as an employee. It's a "Winner takes almost all" industry. the longtail is there, buuuut...you need a lot of titles in that tail.
2. Because of the sheer number of games, your players will often decrease at an incredible rate if it is not particularly good.
3. You want to design a game people would pay for? HAHAHAHAHA. Not on mobile. There's a reason why all these games are free-to-play/pay-to-win.

Why am I focusing on mobile, you probably ask yourself right here. Simple. A lot of people own this hardware. And mobile games, although there are a lot of elaborate examples, give you a fair shot to develop small, simple games people would play. And you can even clone a lot that has already been done. BUT...they also give you a lot of methods of input I find particularly interesting. And: You can do AR and VR for mobile, something I'm currently looking into. And this is the future. Period.

So is being a solo indie game developer a viable business on its own? No, by chances. It makes for an entertaining and probably decent side hustle.

Now...can we make a lot of money with this, anyway? The answer is: Probably.


I thought about two revenue models which I think could turn the odds in your favor. While reading up about Affiliate Marketing, I always wondered: Why the hell would you go through this painful process of SEO just to get a small percentage from Amazon? Why don't you sell this product yourself if you're already convincing people to buy it?

Same applies to in-game advertising. Why not serve ads which lead to YOUR online stores? Ads that are incredibly targeted because the products revolve around your game theme, for example? Honestly: Impressionwise, in-game advertising is great. But since you're only paid so little for the ads to be served, it doesn't amount to a lot. But it probably pays A LOT if you get a great conversion rate on your own products. I think this is where you could probably make real money.

The second idea I had was: Advergames. It isn't done a lot anymore (some might argue for a good reason), BUT: Re-Theming an existing game is easy. And I think you could convince a lot of businesses to give you some good money to create their own mobile game. There's almost nobody in this market anymore in Germany. Probably for a reason, but I really, really, really don't know. Maybe the whole idea just died off after a few fails.

Any thoughts on this are appreciated!
 

Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum. Subscribe.

Paul David

Gold Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Feb 17, 2015
511
1,052
391
40
England
"I'm sorry to bring ethics into this, but that's not what I'd want to create and put onto the market. I'd feel ashamed."

The market doesn't care about your ethics, unfortunately. When you say there's Brothers making a living from selling games on Steam, what type of living? Good money that you would be happy with?

If so, go for it.
 
OP
OP
L

LordGanon

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jun 22, 2020
45
123
111
Germany
The market doesn't care about your ethics, unfortunately.
The market doesn't, but I do. ;) The market does a lot of lucrative things I don't agree with. Promising people to get rich by trading binary options, selling vitamins that cause cancer, high-risk dieting drugs, promising lonely, unattractive men that single-moms in their neighborhood want to f*** if they just flash out their credit card for a 400€ subscription to chat with a bot...

It continues to amaze me how much BS you can shove down people's throats.

When you say there's Brothers making a living from selling games on Steam, what type of living? Good money that you would be happy with?
Eh. These guys were just an example of how easy it can be to make money with games, although it is a tough industry. I don't think they made the kind of money I was talking about. But they still made a living. And the games were incredibly bad. But they kinda tricked the mechanics of the market.

No, I really want to make great and entertaining games, not trick the customer into buying BS. I'm just considering the options to really make it work, financially.
 

loop101

Gold Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Mar 3, 2013
899
1,552
493
Why not serve ads which lead to YOUR online stores?
On mobile, it's not your store. The store belongs to Apple or Google. You pay them 30%, or they delete your store. And your app. And maybe you.
 
OP
OP
L

LordGanon

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jun 22, 2020
45
123
111
Germany
On mobile, it's not your store. The store belongs to Apple or Google. You pay them 30%, or they delete your store. And your app. And maybe you.
That wasn't what I was talking about. I thought about serving ads in my games with lead to MY physical goods store. Not selling software.
 

drahz

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Jul 24, 2019
36
39
110
That wasn't what I was talking about. I thought about serving ads in my games with lead to MY physical goods store. Not selling software.
Is it even allowed in their policy to serve your own ads (or ads from some 3rd party ad provider not approved by Google)? I didn't study about it but I just know that you cannot implement your own payment systems, so I would say they do not want to lose money from ads as well.
 

drahz

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Jul 24, 2019
36
39
110
After watching a video about two brothers who made a living by constantly putting out new (crappy) titles by asset flipping (buying graphics, models, game elements, slightly changing the game, giving it a new title and put it on Steam again, a process that takes a n00b about 45 minutes [I'm not kidding, there are YouTube videos about that]), I thought to myself: Oh hell, if they can make a living with that...I can become an indie game developer and make it work.
Can you post a link to their channel or the video? I was convinced that nowadays you just cannot push crappy titles like Flappy Bird and expect to get any success.
 
OP
OP
L

LordGanon

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jun 22, 2020
45
123
111
Germany
Can you post a link to their channel or the video? I was convinced that nowadays you just cannot push crappy titles like Flappy Bird and expect to get any success.
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llUOCrIzL6k


The video describes the whole process they used. They flipped the games for the trading cards (see, I'm so far outside of gaming these days that I didn't even know that was a thing on Steam). They also sued a prominent YouTuber for 15m.

They have been removed from Steam, but continued with the "business model". Seems like there's a lot of "studios" working like this.
 

eTox

Stupid naive kid
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
May 21, 2016
334
441
224
Toronto
Money is made with money in this industry. If you have $0 and great motivation but no team then maybe you can make couple hundred in several years. Maybe you will even get lucky and make a couple grand. Unless you have a solid background in game design, art, programming and have an interesting twist to an established game idea you won't go anywhere pretty much. You need a solid team of devs with a budget that will last a year and you need relationships with a publisher who can propel you forward.

Not to disappoint people, but this is like the 5th post in the past two weeks I see with people not doing any research on the current market state.

On the other hand, I can suggest a good resource. It's in Russian, but they do have a couple of english courses. They are free, done by leading mobile game experts. Heaven send, I'll say. Dev2Dev Education.
 
OP
OP
L

LordGanon

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jun 22, 2020
45
123
111
Germany
Not to disappoint people, but this is like the 5th post in the past two weeks I see with people not doing any research on the current market state.
But you basically said what I said. It's a "winner takes almost all" industry and at best it makes for an interesting side hustle. Did you read the rest of my post?
 

s.wirat13

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Sep 6, 2019
18
19
18
25
Thailand
Undertale and Stardew Valley are the reasons I also want to develop games.
 

sparechange

Platinum Contributor
Speedway Pass
Nov 11, 2016
2,051
2,907
685
Canada (Vancouver)
Game dev budgets can be quite high, I believe GTA 5 spent more on creating the game than most hollywood films.

The industry needs some good shooters like Half Life and a modern day La Noire, whoever makes a good game like that will be easily be selling millions of copies. Although making a game like that would require some insane amounts of money.

Also more coop games like Portal 2 / Call of Duty
 

Create an account or login to comment

You must be a member in order to leave a comment

Create account

Create an account on our community. It's easy!

Log in

Already have an account? Log in here.

Sponsored Offers

  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE Fox's Web Design Guide: Earn $100K this year (Yes, 2020!) and Go Fastlane
How do I sell to a different country with an accent? And a foreign number. Cold e-mails don't...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE Kill Bigger Incubator
Hey @Cruiser I just shot you a reply! Amazing product BTW!
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE Lex DeVille's - Advanced Freelance Udemy Courses!
Well, we made it halfway through the year. Don't know what the rest'll bring, but it's gonna be...
  • Sticky
FEATURED! Introducing... WEALTH EXPO$ED, A Short Story By MJ DeMarco
Not really a teaser but it does employ a fictional story, so that is similiar. This upcoming...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE You Are One Call Away From Living Your Dream Life - LightHouse’s Accountability Program ⚡
Dropping a quick note in here to say... if you are on TFL, you are part of an elite group of...



Forum Sponsor

sponsor

New Topics

Fastlane Insiders

View the forum AD FREE.
Private, unindexed content
Detailed process/execution threads
Monthly conference calls with doers
Ideas needing execution, more!

Join Fastlane Insiders.

Top Bottom