How much income do I think my game dev will make me? To be honest: I will be glad if 2020 makes me 1000 euro.
In comparison. As some of you know I am a Freelance software developer for a max of 32 hours a week. My projection is this will get me roughly 75k in 2020, but that’s not what I can call my own because I need to deduct costs and taxes from that. After cost and taxes that would be 44k, but I can’t spend that all at once because I have to set aside quite a few thousands to manage risks and to pay back loans. It turns out this max 32-hours Freelance work is netting me slightly more than my previous job when I was employed by a company for 3300 euro a month.
Why all this numbers? Well, here are revenue numbers from other solo game developers. Thanks to a new movement more people are sharing the numbers, so a more realistic view can be achieved.
The first one: a mobile game with ads and in-game items. The numbers date oktober 2019. Made by a developer in his spare time besides working on a fulltime job as his first game, in 8 months. To me this really resonates because his journey, circumstances and revenue looks like mine during ‘Find the Gnome’. He had 800 downloads and a total revenue of $20 gross after a month. (Yes, twenty dollars) He had invested like $265 on accounts and stuff so he is on $-244 for this one. He had build up a YouTube following of 2000 subscribers, so that also a ‘revenue’ he got.
He is hoping for the so called ‘long tail’ to build up when he releases more games in the coming years and this will eventually provide him with enough income.
Here a bigger one from a guy that is doing this 7 years now, and this is his 8th game. The numbers date december 2019. He sold 3700 units on steam giving him $27k gross revenue in the first months, and $120k in the total lifetime. But after tax cut and steam revenue cut $50k is what he can take home (but he has yet to deduct his own costs from that). This guy has a a YouTube following of 112k subscribers. He worked 17 months on this game.
Here A guy on mobile games making them for years now, he has a lot of games with numbers in this talk but I cite the two most recent ones. November 2018: a free game with ads and in app purchases, in 5 weeks it made $2150 with IAP and $4550 with Ads, and in 7 months approximately $50k. March 2019: a premium (paid) game, in 5 weeks it made roughly $7000. This guy has made some major connections over the years and has developed a feeling for the mobile promotion system over the years that give him the required exposure to get these numbers.
Another guy, married and with 1 child, doing game dev in his spare time besides his job. (But I was relieved to know his background is from withing the game industry as a technical artist, because this guy definitely has the feeling.) He made the game in 18 months (or ~1000 hours), it did costs him $10k, had a revenue of $150k in one year, and was released in September 2017. He had quite some success getting exposure on Reddit, he knew how to get the right type of attention.
And then ‘Find the Gnome’, my game. Build in 7 months (or ~500 hours). Revenue over 2 years: $250. But that is before steam cuts, so I have got only one payment of $100 so far. It did cost me to setup steam for $100 so I’m at $0 now.
Another video, but this one is the inspiration of a lot of solo game developers (a few of the above mention this speak). In this video he describes a ‘long tail’, that is the idea that you just start making games and over time people get to know you for your type of games, you get better at building games, improve previous games, and all that resulting in steadily increasing profits from your own games. At the time of the talk he was busy for 11 years already, and had needed 6 years to build up some momentum. Disclaimer from my part: his success started in the long-gone golden years of indie on steam, so I don’t know how repeatable this is in the current market.
So, to wrap it all up: I will be creating a few games myself this year. And I hope they will get me some money, 1000 euro total would be a big win for me and a head start.
I too got inspired by the ‘long tail’ video a few years ago, and even I think that’s the way to go when doing solo game dev or indie dev.
My next release will be Gearful on the Google play store, somewhere around the 15th of March this year (a month from now on). The game is the idea of the GlobalGameJam but with 40 hours into polishing, and some Ads for the revenue. I think it will net $10.