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Is Game Development Profitable?

Recently there has been so much discussion on the profitability of Game development as a whole. Consumers think devs make a ton of money from every game they make but what is the story behind all of that?
Recently there was a discussion on Reddit where game developers shared their thoughts. I know that a lot of you won’t believe this but, as it turns out, developing games isn’t as profitable as you might think. As user BawdyLotion puts it:

Making significant money for the amount of time put in is very rare. The chances of flopping or earning very little for the time involved is very likely.

Being part of a development company (small, indie, large, commercial) lets you do that and actually get paid so that’s a more reliable path.

Why is it like this? Well, it’s simple. Small developers and publishers don’t have the resources nor the money to run a marketing campaign. That’s why we have so many undiscovered games that are fantastic but never made any money.

Further, in that discussion user CyricYourGod really puts things in the right place where he explains the cruel reality of the gaming industry:

Making games is a business. This means you should be making games based on market analysis and not based on your passion. A major mistake people make is they spend countless hours making a game that no one wants to play (pay for). You should also expect to spend plenty of time and money marketing your game.

Imagine spending all that time learning all that code and once you get in the big league and think “now I can make something I really love” you get hammered down with the reality.

Will this ever change? Probably not. As in every business, you will have to adapt to the market and produce something that will sell. That’s why a stupid game like Fidget Spinner simulator can have 55 active users as we speak. If you think that number is low go check out the game, see what’s it about and then tell me why isn’t that number count stuck at 0.

So next time when you think that indie developers need one game to become millionaires think again. Most of them need a miracle to make some profit and stay in the game long enough to make a name for themselves.

The biggest problem for indie devs is that almost nothing can be achieved by one person. It’s a market where you just can’t survive alone. Here is a comment that explains that in the best possible way coming from BawdyLotion (again)

The chances of even earning minimum wage (country dependent) working as a solo indie game developer is very low.

The likelyhood of promotions, raises or future opportunities coming from working as part of an established group are much higher and you have the much higher base wage in the mean time. Contacts and community base is everything in the game dev industry.

If you want to make low effort mobile/html5/Facebook style games and do a good job then yes you can probably earn some decent money if you have the skill set but the sheer amount of time you’ll spend making any game that can expect longevity as a solo developer is pretty crazy vs potential return. Anything as a solo dev that’s less than a year of work is likely going to be pretty worthless and if you’re looking at a 1-3 year dev cycle your chances of making 20-30k/year from that dev cycle is laughably low in most cases. You’re better off then doing mini projects you can rapidly prototype, polish and hope go viral with a 2 week-2 months style dev timeline

This brings us to a sad conclusion. Game development is rarely profitable. Indie game prices simply have to go up. I personally feel that prices for some indie games are way too low and the average price for indie titles is anywhere between $8 and $10. Think about that, those guys are working their asses off to create something they love to get close to nothing in return. This is also very well explained by Daniel Doan in his article on Medium – GameDev Thoughts: Is Making Indie Games Really Worth It?

 This has to change!

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