Most games on Steam will make less than minimum wage


They did. The article specifically mentioned that he ran out of money at some point and had a bunch of unfinished art assets with no budget to get them finished. And the publisher bailed him out.

I think you’re misinterpreting the post. It’s not saying that his revenue is $0, but that he hasn’t even gotten close to covering even just the out of pocket costs.


Even then the numbers still don’t look good for a single developer working full time, which is my real point.


Ahh, OK. So he didn’t finance development on his own, then.


Random fact: When I made my own indie game (Land of Legends, published through Shrapnel Games) over a decade ago, I lost about $60k.

I was entirely self-funded (through a personal loan I later repaid). I didn’t even make enough money from my monthly royalties to pay for the interest on the loan I took out.

All ended well for me in life, but when I read the summary of the WTWTLW situation, I thought to myself “yup, sounds about right.”

I think it’s a common tale. You just don’t always see Polygon articles about it.


My reading was that he paid $140k out of his own pocket. The publisher spent some unknown amount on top of that.


Yep, but it doesn’t explain why he has seen $0 out of the sales so far. Co-financing should mean sharing the revenue from the get go. That is…

If this is not true, but it might. My reading of the post is that he has made $0, and on top of that there are $149k in expenses, but it is ambiguous, and if it’s just he’s not recouping yet, yeah it’s going to take a while, and most likely only if he goes multiplatform.


Yeah, I disagree. Most indies I know would be really, really happy with that. And that’s multi person teams. Current rule of thumb for unknown indie teams: create a financing structure (grants, tax rebates, crowdfunding, cutting corners) that puts you in the black, including (not very good) lead developer salaries, with about 10-20k sales (depending on your confidence threshold, but hitting 20k sales multiplatform -5k per platform- is still doable in a year for relatively unknown titles). Next year these numbers could be very different, though.

Look at the original article and the $30k median in the first year. This is at least 4 times that (with the added focus of the postmortem it can be more), and it’s a gamepad optimized game with easy porting (no online) that can double that again when it launches on consoles (hard to tell because of the nature of the game, but that’s the rule of thumb). And first year revenues are not total revenues by a wide margin. For a niche title it’s a (mild) success.

Now, as others have pointed out, the discussion of whether the game was too expensive to make/took too long/expectations were too high and unrealistic is a valid one. But under current market conditions for a niche indie title, it’s doing pretty well.


I can’t see this game selling on consoles, which also have a fee just to get in. Maybe on the golden age of the iPad, but that’s long gone.

Most investors went their money back+profit before you see a cent.


I disagree. I think it would sell as well as on PC,
given a same-size marketing campaign (not very well but certainly making some sales). Maybe half as well if we are pessimistic.

Also, what fee are you talking about???

If they take on the full financing, otherwise they are normally fine with shared revenues.


I was never much of a console fan, so it could more appealing to those users than I think.
As to the fee, I might’ve read too much into something I’ve read in the past. I thought there was a fee for adding a product or providing a new patch - Steams charges $100 per game and patches were pretty expensive on XBox and were abandoned by… err, someone.


I think the reality is that if you’re indie in 2018, you should be making your games as cheaply as you can. Make it look expensive, sure, but don’t have it really be expensive, otherwise…


This has been linked to elsewhere on the forum, but this article accurately reflects the indie market in 2018 as far as I can tell:


By his own admission, the guy had no clue what he was doing when he started. Not sure how much he learned along the way. The far smarter thing to do would have been to start with a much smaller and much less expensive project to learn the ropes and make a name for the developer, then go for something bigger. But this was clearly a passion project for him. I can only hope that he is proud of the work they did.

I say this as someone who more or less followed the exact same path once upon a time.



I didn’t see a dictator?


This has been a fascinating thread to follow, and it makes me wonder if there is a strong community of indie game developers that talk about the business of games. I mention this because I’m a full time author, and I release about 4 books per year on Amazon. There is a huge distinction between writing the book, which is the easy part, and getting books into reader’s hands. I see indie games being very similar, however, the development time for games is a hell of a lot longer than writing a book. But the business side of indie game development may be somewhat similar. I can crank out a novel in a month if my muse (aka my mortgage) is kicked into high gear. Then it’s just a matter of getting a cover made, and waiting on my beta readers, and editor to get the book into shape.

I make a comfortable living from books, but I am deeply indebted to the indie author community for my success. Authors are pretty cool, and they help each other out. I suspect indie game developers are more insular, but I have no real data to back that up.

Steam is a great platform, but it is hard to find new games. I don’t know how many new games are released on Steam per day, but I believe there are 500 new indie books on Amazon every day. Someone mentioned in this thread the idea of doing a monthly fee where you pay, and have unlimited access to indie games. Amazon offers the same thing in the form of Kindle Unlimited. That’s where I make about 60% of my income.

Anyway, just a few random thoughts on how I think the indie book business may compare to the indie game business.


That’s interesting. So you get enough from Unlimited to make it worthwhile? I was wondering about that.

I am not sure, and apologies if someone already said, how the bundling sites work but I get some of my indie’s from there and Kickstarter. The thing is… once I enjoy a game from an indie I am a lot more likely to follow them and buy it individually.


It is worth it for me. Amazon pays roughly half a penny per page read, but they add up especially over 20 or so books.


The forums at used to have a core of ppl developing casual games for either the flash market or publishers like Big Fish. @Cliffski used to post there I think. They had a change of ownership a while back, don’t know if the community survived.


There is pretty active indie dev reddit & fb group as well, not to mention some very good and active private email lists.