Do you have a passion? If so, that's awesome.
Is your passion revolves around game development? That's even better because today we will be discussing ways to make it big in a world of game dev
...or big enough to sustain a comfortable life without worrying about money.
So the question is: How to make money as an indie game developer?
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Generally there are 2 types of developers: those who prefer to move quickly from project to project (ex. making simple mobile games) and those who prefer to invest time into each project (building a community around the game). In this post we will be focusing on the second approach.
Think Long Term
Whether you want to make a mobile, desktop or even a browser game, aim for the idea of creating a community around your game, which in turn will benefit the earning potential.
Multiplayer games usually perform better in terms of revenue and they're easier to develop, especially for a solo developer or a small team.
Pick a Platform
Once you have a general idea on what type of game you want to develop, it's time to pick a platform (at the beginning it's best to focus just on one platform, then expand if needed).
When it comes to monetization, different paltforms have different options.
In this post we will be reviewing 3 platforms: WebGL, Standalone and Mobile.
Monetizing Web/WebGL Games
Gaming on the Web was quite popular just a few years ago, it was largely powered by Unity 3D's Web Player. But things changed when Chrome decided to deprecate NPAPI plugins back in 2015 (WebPlayer was based on it). As a result web gaming took a major hit, but fortunately there's a replacement currently being worked on, called WebGL - a pluginless way to play games in browser.
With each update it's becoming more and more a viable option. (Click here to learn more about WebGL).
The main advantage of this platform is that there's many ways you can monetize it. For example - Ads. With Ads alone you can potentially make 500-1K$ per month or more depending on your game and how well you promote it (promoting browser game is much easier, as users can just click the link and play the game directly in browser).
Monetizing Standalone Mac/PC Games
This is a go-to platform for most developers and rightly so, it's been around for the longest. But when it comes to distribution, you are somewhat limited. Sure there are services like Steam that let you distribute your game to millions of gamers, but in this case you'll have to do a bit more work, like learning their API, to be able implement in-game transactions (As it's the only way to monetize the game, besides selling the game for set price ofcourse).
But generally making a game free and then monetizing through microtransactions is the better way.
Monetizing Mobile Games
This platform seem to be the most popular among indie developers as the games are usually less complex, thus requiring less time to finish. And also because of the hype, which was mostly fueled by success of FlappyBird, CandyCrush etc. But let's not forget that gaming experience on mobile is still pretty frustrating (for any type of games that are not a clickers or temple runners) plus the retention rate is as low as it can be.
All in all this platform is still a viable option, if you want to practice game development, but the chances of making it big on this platform is by far the lowest. The best way to monetize Mobile games is through ads and/or in-app purchases.
Pick a platform, focus on multiplayer experience, build a community around the game, implement monetization early on, release as soon as possible and then improve the game based on player feedback and lastly be persistent, you won't see the results right away but with time the reward will come.