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The Realities of Selling Independently Developed PC Games

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the working-for-a-living dept.

PC Games (Games) 120

Not long ago, we discussed the realities of selling a game on the iPhone App Store. Now, spidweb sends in his experiences with a realistic level of success as an independent PC game developer. He writes "There is a lot of excitement about casual gaming and Indie game development these days, but there's also very little public information about how many games actually get sold, or the sort of income one can reasonably expect in this line of work. We've released full sales figures for a recent product to illustrate what sort of earnings can be generated by a quality niche product that isn't a massive hit. From the post: 'I am not the first Indie developer to reveal this sort of information. However, most public sales figures come from projects that were either blockbusters or disasters. Our games have never landed in either pool. I have been doing this for a living for almost fifteen years.'"

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120 comments

Can we drop the pretension here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27238107)

and just call it "indie games"?

Can we drop the trend-speak here (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238307)

and just call it independently developed PC games?

Re:Can we drop the trend-speak here (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238467)

What ever happend to the term 'bedroom coder'

Re:Can we drop the trend-speak here (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 5 years ago | (#27239711)

What ever happend to the term 'bedroom coder'

"Bedroom coder" are not the words a banker wants to hear when you hit him for a loan.

Re:Can we drop the trend-speak here (1)

ClassMyAss (976281) | more than 5 years ago | (#27246695)

"Bedroom coder" are not the words a banker wants to hear when you hit him for a loan.

These days, "loan" is the only word a banker needs to hear to know that you're not qualified to receive one.

After all, if you were financially sound enough to pay back a loan, why would you need one in the first place? [/sarcasm]

Methinks perhaps the pendulum has swung a bit too far, hmm?

Re:Can we drop the trend-speak here (1)

Konster (252488) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238635)

That works, but for the sake of brevity, we can shorten the term to...hmm, let me think.

Indies. ;)

Re:Can we drop the pretension here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27239227)

The word "indie" is a whole other level of pretension.

Re:Can we drop the pretension here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27242245)

You call him Dr. Jones!!

Re:Can we drop the pretension here (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244339)

and just call it "indie games"?

Isn't that what they're doing?

I'm not really sure what you're talking about.

Interesting/Disappointing (2, Interesting)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238129)

Would like to see more indie developers be more open about their business model in this way. A very interseting read. But disappointing the developer takes a snipe at pirates (Can't blame him for being bitter of course)but doesn't really discuss/acknowledge the role of non-paying customers nor provides detail of actual piracy rates and how it has actually effected the business. That's what we really want to see.

It's been cracked aplenty

Says he. Of course, Indie games have a lower piracy rate than big titles.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (4, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238313)

Says he. Of course, Indie games have a lower piracy rate than big titles.

Citation needed.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27244005)

It's true. Just look at any piracy statistics and the top most pirated are always the same as the top sellers. In other words, marketing and word of mouth begets awareness of a game, and in turn begets sales AND piracy.

The reasons to pirate are the same as the reasons to buy: "I want this game". So the outcome is the top sellers are also the top pirated.
 

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (2, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238601)

I'm skeptical also, and I'm a big fan of indie games (that and retro games are almost exclusively what I play), and am acquainted with a number of developers. The number one biggest problem for an indie developer is getting noticed at all. Most people will not know you exist, and if they vaguely know you exist, will not remember to check back to see you released a game.

From that perspective, if your game is good enough to be betting pirated, you might actually benefit. It's hard to say what the net effect is, but there's been a bit more study of it done in music, and it seems small/underground/indie musicians come out ahead from piracy relatively often, compared to the big-studio types, because they get some publicity out of it which leads to additional sales (while the big-name kinds don't need the publicity, so just lose sales).

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (2, Interesting)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 5 years ago | (#27241761)

Yes, but musicians also get revenue from playing shows (which can't be pirated). A musician could make a living just from playing shows while all of his music is being pirated or given away for free.

This isn't true of software. Indie developers have one source of income - their game. If people pirate that game, that dev is not getting paid. I'm not going to get into a pissing match about whether piracy on a small scale actually ends up helping game sales. I am, however, willing to contend that music and games are completely different in this area.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (4, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238755)

Yes I've seen it here before. Some indie developers aren't fussed but others seem to believe they have a god given right for their product to be immune from piracy.

I had a look at the article and saw he's selling the game for $28. When you bear in mind it's a game that looks around 15 years old in quality and style (something that's effectively admitted in the article albeit not quite so explicitly) one has to wonder why he thinks people would pay that amount for this:

http://www.spiderwebsoftware.com/images/geneforge4/Geneforge4SSThumb1large.gif [spiderwebsoftware.com]

When you could pay the same, or in fact, probably even less nowadays, and get a few year old yet far superior game such as say Neverwinter Nights or Oblivion?

Sometimes I believe indie developers become a little deluded as to how good their product is and for every good indie title out there there's 100 crap ones. Still, the guy made just short of $112,000 from it (spread across 3 people) and didn't even push it out to 3rd party sales channels (Xbox live, RealArcade, MSN Games, Instant Action). Frankly, for what he's peddling and the amount he's peddling it for I think he should be happy and bitching about pirates is laughable when you consider how much he's asking for something so awful looking and compared to what you could get instead. It doesn't strike me as suprising that people would pirate something like that rather than pay $28 for it. He claims including salaries the cost to make the game was $120k (but doesn't reveal individual salaries- the two staff other than him are only part time) so is implying he's only broken even, but if he's taking a $100k salary out of that for example then of course he's doing much better than makes out. As he doesn't give any break down of figures we can't be sure whether his costs really are as high as he infers (I really can't see how they could be) or if he's actually making a fairly decent wage which seems more likely.

What should really be taken from this article is that even if you make a shite unoriginal game and sell it for much more than it's worth, don't bother marketing and selling through important channels, despite piracy, you can still make a decent buck off of it.

There's a lot of good indie titles out there, Popcap was always the prime example of how good titles sell (they made millions) but indies that are failing and blaming piracy need to look at why- if even this guy with such a poor product can make a decent amount then chances are, if your product is failing, you really do have a severely crap product. Even this guy seems to believe he deserved to make more even though it's amazing the amount he did make for what he's selling.

Perhaps another piece of advice to take from this article is that indie developers need to have realistic expectations and that whilst they'll still make a decent buck, they wont necessarily become the next Popcap. If they don't make much at all then they need to have a long hard look at whether they really have the skills to be making indie games that people want for the price it's offered at.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (1)

neiltrodden (981196) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238791)

Some indie developers aren't fussed but others seem to believe they have a god given right for their product to be immune from piracy

Well they aren't ever going to be immune from it, but they certainly don't deserve to be pirated which you allude to with your comments on the price and the quality.

If it's good enough to seek out a pirate copy, then it's good enough to buy. $28 is NOT a lot to pay for something, I doubt anyone is out there aspiring to be able to one day afford $28 apart from people who think they have a sense of entitlement to own everything they want, despite not owning the conviction to go out spend honest money on it.

He deserves poor sales if he has wrongly priced the product but that price is not making pirates out of otherwise decent people who *really want* to pay/play.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (1)

Clovis42 (1229086) | more than 5 years ago | (#27239009)

If it's good enough to seek out a pirate copy, then it's good enough to buy. $28 is NOT a lot to pay for something

No. It IS a lot to pay for a indie computer game that has been out for a year or more. I recently picked up King's Bounty for like $10. That game has nice graphics, fun combat, and a terrible (although sometimes funny) storyline. I just got Left 4 Dead for $25 from Steam. Looking at the game, I can't imagine paying for than $10 for it, unless playing the demo reveals it to be something extremely special.

CAN I pay $28 to support an indie developer? I guess, but I don't care about this guy. My first impression is that he wants way too much for his game. So, I just forget about it and play one of the many other games I already own. If I was a loyal fan, I would pay the $28, probably in the first month or so. So, why doesn't he drop the price after a few months to get generate some new interest?

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27239013)

As I've said elsewhere on Slashdot in the past, people have limited pools of money to spend on entertainment, some have bigger pools than others, some have a pool that is possibly even 0 or close to - i.e. kids.

Entertainment items from DVDs to games to music have to compete for each persons' pool. People have to choose what to pay for and what not to, once their pool is spent for x period then that doesn't mean they stop wanting entertainment, it means they'll just pirate it instead.

What this guy is effectively saying is that his game deserves to be someone's purchase, rather than someone's pirate even if his product doesn't have more merit than other products that he is competing with. I think that's false, if his product doesn't have the merit of other products then I think it's unrealistic to expect that his game would be purchased rather than pirated by many people.

I do not buy into the idea that if it's worth playing then it's worth paying for anymore, I do not believe our culture follows that path anymore which is why piracy is so rampant. I believe that products compete with each other for purchase within the finite bounds of people's pool of money for entertainment. It is up to the producer of the product to work to ensure their product is the one people pay for and if they don't do that then yes I expect that they are the one's whose product should be pirated, because at a point where piracy isn't just going to vanish someone's product is going to get pirated and why should it be the one that has put the effort in to make it more attractive for purchase (i.e. sensible price, quality product) than the one that hasn't?

I think we're past the point where piracy is something that's just morally wrong because it's something so many people do. It's a fact of life that has to be accepted as part of doing business and dealt with, if it's not then yes, expect people to pirate your product instead of paying for it. Lots of industries have to deal with things that are out of their control and piracy is one that effects the software industry, being out of their control doesn't mean they can't work to minimise the problem though and doesn't give them the right to complain if they don't do anything to minimise it. Only once they've done all they can to minimise the problem and it still persists as a major issue should they start to complain- this guy hasn't done all he can, in fact, he's done things that would encourage piracy such as having a price tag too high for the quality of product yet blames them when he is at least partially to blame. He cannot be absolved of blame when he is aware the problem exists and pursues a route that would only make it worse.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27239891)

Only once they've done all they can to minimise the problem and it still persists as a major issue should they start to complain

You mean like DRM?

I think we're past the point where piracy is something that's just morally wrong because it's something so many people do

Morality has nothing to do with how many people partake in the activity. This is what we call a stra wman argument.

What this guy is effectively saying is that his game deserves to be someone's purchase, rather than someone's pirate

No, what he's saying is that if you want to play his game you owe him $28. It's clear that he doesn't support piracy.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27240179)

"You mean like DRM?"

Nope not at all, I mean producing a decent product at a sensible price.

"Morality has nothing to do with how many people partake in the activity."

Well, yes, it does actually. Morals are defined by the masses, and if the masses support something as being an acceptable activity (which judging by the scale of piracy it is) then it cannot be defined as morally wrong except on a personal level.

"No, what he's saying is that if you want to play his game you owe him $28. It's clear that he doesn't support piracy."

It's possible to unintentionally encourage something when performing actions that contradict your statements, which is what he's doing by setting an unreasonably high price for his game.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (1)

LargeWu (766266) | more than 5 years ago | (#27241021)

"Nope not at all, I mean producing a decent product at a sensible price."

Your point is moot, because it would still get pirated. You can't tell me $10 is not an acceptable price for many good music albums, however you define good, yet they still get pirated like crazy.

"Morals are defined by the masses, and if the masses support something as being an acceptable activity (which judging by the scale of piracy it is) then it cannot be defined as morally wrong except on a personal level."

So until slavery became illegal in the US, it was morally correct?

I'm so sick of all these straw-man arguments that get thrown around all the time, like those who pirate games and music are engaged in some noble fight. If you would all just be honest with yourselves and admit that you're just a bunch of cheapskates who don't want to pay, I'd have a lot more respect for your argument.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27242053)

"Your point is moot, because it would still get pirated. You can't tell me $10 is not an acceptable price for many good music albums, however you define good, yet they still get pirated like crazy."

I'm not sure you read my previous post where I explained that yes, some things will always be pirated, the key is to make your product good enough to be not pirated so that it's the other guy's product that gets pirated. So whilst $10 might be good enough for the album, is it good enough for a teenager who only has a total of $10 to spend on it, or will they spend it on the other, better album or game that sells for only $9 and pirate the $10 one? As I mentioned previously also, there are people who will only pirate because they do not even have a single $10 spare. The key though is to rack in as many customers as you can by offering a better deal than the other guy, if you don't then it'll be your product that is consistently pirated whilst the other guy gets all the sales. People don't have enough money to buy every piece of entertainment they want, but whilst there's a risk free method of getting it they wont let that stop them getting it.

"So until slavery became illegal in the US, it was morally correct?"

Well yes actually, at the time it was in fact seen as morally correct. The problem is you're applying modern standards to an old situation when morals were defined very differently. This is exactly what you and many others are doing to the piracy problem too but in reverse - applying old principles to a new situation. Using your own example, this is effectively the same as slavers of the time suggesting it's stupid to treat black people equally when people suggested abolishing slavery. That is clearly wrong, and similarly to the piracy situation it's arguable that existing views on copyright are also completely wrong. Morals aren't static through time and they change, attitudes are now changing to piracy and it's becoming morally acceptable if it's not so already.

"I'm so sick of all these straw-man arguments that get thrown around all the time, like those who pirate games and music are engaged in some noble fight."

Well as pointed out above it is to an extent, it's about mordernising views and getting those stuck in the past to realise millions upon millions of people have a completely different view on piracy nowadays.

"If you would all just be honest with yourselves and admit that you're just a bunch of cheapskates who don't want to pay, I'd have a lot more respect for your argument."

But that isn't the case, most people are happy to spend money on entertainment - I do, I spend thousands a year on gaming (mostly XBox 360 games), having only had the console just over 2 years and owning over 150 titles. The problem is what to do when the months money is out, there's a fair argument that people should go without, but they don't have to if they can pirate. You see, people haven't stopped spending money and started pirating, they're pirating as well as spending what they always did (some people may not spend anything, but never did anyway). This is how the music, movie and games can announce record profits year on year - because the amount of money people spend isn't shrinking, it's in fact growing. The only thing that's changed is that people are pirating as well as buying.

If we stopped piracy worldwide right this minute, products that were failing and blaming piracy would still be failing, that wouldn't change, no one would buy the products still, they'd still spend it on the superior offerings. The only difference is people would have to find other things to do that didn't involve spending money because they'd still have no more to spend than they were already spending.

There are however advantages to piracy, it leads to a better educated, better cultured population as they can consume more media than ever from anywhere in the world. It helps push technology, particularly internet connectivity but also storage technology. In some cases, it also acts as advertising for other services.

To suggest piracy is outright wrong, no questions asked, is as ignorant as it was of slavers to suggest slavery was right. It's just not that simple.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (1)

Schmorgluck (1293264) | more than 5 years ago | (#27242753)

Well, yes, it does actually. Morals are defined by the masses, and if the masses support something as being an acceptable activity (which judging by the scale of piracy it is) then it cannot be defined as morally wrong except on a personal level.

As has been pointed, this particular argument doesn't work and can be disproved easily.

What can be stated, however, is that "intellectual property" (in its various forms) is not a "natural" right, but one that has been designed as a compromise between the interests of various actors, in order to favor a greater social benefit.

On this basis, it can be argued that the terms of the compromise have changed and that it doesn't work as intended anymore, providing less social benefits than it could. Which supports your point but is very, very different from stating that morals are defined by the masses.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (1)

Applekid (993327) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244445)

It's possible to unintentionally encourage something when performing actions that contradict your statements, which is what he's doing by setting an unreasonably high price for his game.

What's reasonable is in the eye of the consumer. After playing the demo, what might be worth $28 to one person may not be to another. Games, like most entertainment media, have substitution value only before you consume it. "I want a D&B CD" demonstrates substitution value. "I want a Pendulum CD" does not.

You mentioned before you can get King's Bounty for $10. Obviously if you're just looking for a game to play on the cheap and they had similar game genres it would work out. But if you take price out of it, played honest demos* of both, you'll prefer one or the other and then when price comes back in it may either be a deal or a question of just how MUCH you preference is worth.

* Some demos are disingenuous with cherry-picked gameplay and unrealistic situations. I've purchased a few XBox Live Arcade games that, past the demo play levels, were garbage.

On pricing too high, well, piracy is going to happen and eliminating it isn't going to make people pay that weren't already prepared to do so. Since the cost of making a game is the same no matter how many people actually play it (legally or otherwise), I'd say if the game is in the black despite rampant piracy then the price was set appropriately.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27240155)

Wow. You are an amazing douche.

If you can't afford something, or choose not to pay for something, you don't then magically get the right to have it anyway.

Make more money or do without, any other option is just passing the buck and lazy.

Re:Piracy because indie product is too low value? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27242039)

Your argumentation doesn't make sense. You basically say the game deserves to be pirated because 1) it's a low value game 2) people have little money to spend on entertainment instead of food. yet, somehow it's good enough that it should be pirated?

This is a game that is sold in the 'long tail', i.e. it has a small enthusiast audience, that's willing to pay that price. It's not a 2$ iPhone game for casual gamers. Also, it's not something that people struggling to pay for food are going to buy.

There is no point in pirating this game. It has a long demo, and you don't have to pay 28$ to see how it is, no one is fooling you into it.

If it's not your type, move on, don't pirate it with that sense of "must have everything free" entitlement you have. if it's your type of game, it'll probablly cost you less than 1$ an hour of game play!

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (4, Interesting)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238797)

I think the article has a double reality check:
  1. He only sold around 4000 copies. At first glance that seems incredibly low with a big margin for improvement with a bit of advertising, a more reasonable price and some more polish in the game. Of course, the market works in mysterious ways so maybe this really is 100% of what he can expect to sell.
  2. Those 4000 copies were enough to break even on the costs of a year of development. I.e. he's sustaining himself and two others (part-time at least) on this kind of stuff! That's pretty cool considering it was a adolescent dream of mine to be in professional game development and I'm sure it was for many programmers.

This "reality check" tells me that developing games for an average living is possible. Don't expect to be a millionaire, but you could be doing what you like for a living for a long time.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27239133)

That's pretty cool considering it was a adolescent dream of mine to be in professional game development and I'm sure it was for many programmers.

Indeed. As a soon-to-be indie game developer, these kind of stories really give me hope.

That said, I can't help but see massive room for improvement in this guy's case.

Seems like most people that have commented so far here are really falling over the dated-looking graphics though. I wonder how much better he could do financially if he would put together a bit more modern game engine.

It seems that the outdated graphics, plus the relatively high price (most indie games go for between $5 and $20), are the main things holding him back. People that have commented on his site seem to actually really like the gameplay and extensive branching story lines, so that doesn't seem to be the issue. But if you simply ignore what the market wants or expects nowadays, I suppose you should be happy to even be able to recoup your costs.

It's really not all that difficult to NOT make your graphics look like ass. Just use something like Torque or Gamebryo or what not... there's a lot of cheap, pre-existing game engines out there that are very good quality. That would do the job just fine for indies like this guy.

I guess the dated 2d graphics are kind of like a "statement" though. It says: "This game is not about graphics! So please don't judge me on them!". But people WILL do that. On the other hand, I suppose if you would make things 3d and "modern" looking, people's expectations might rise. People will compare it to the latest high-budget commercial games' looks and will almost inevitably find it wanting.

Still, even keeping all that in mind, going for an outdated look on purpose is a bit cynical, IMHO. You can always compensate for lack of high budget or developement time with a stylized and original look (some form of cartoon-filter, or something along the lines of Defcon or Darwinia). That way, you can have nice graphics AND nice gameplay, and you might get more impulse buyers. But it his choice...

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 5 years ago | (#27239581)

It's really not all that difficult to NOT make your graphics look like ass. Just use something like Torque or Gamebryo or what not... there's a lot of cheap, pre-existing game engines out there that are very good quality. That would do the job just fine for indies like this guy.

Those are just engines though, you still need to either buy the content (models, textures) or have artists that can create content that doesn't suck. In the case of an indie, I think the first option is better than the second, unless you can do the art yourself.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#27239787)

A problem with better graphics is that graphics are more than just a better engine. You have to give that engine data to display and the more complex and intricate that data has to be the more time (and thus money) it takes to make.

Also his game has the number 4 in the title. 2D graphics are obsolete by default so you can reuse them without being called out for it, 3d tends to feel more obsolete as time passes so keeping most assets from earlier games would result in the game being perceived as more and more dated.

Hell, if he had the means to make prettier art he could start with prettier tiles, there's a lot of room for prettier 2D graphics before you even have to bring 3D into it.

The biggest step in making your graphics not look like ass is having someone with the skill to make stuff that does not look like ass. The technology is rarely the limit for indies, it's usually the amount of available time and skill.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27243439)

I guess the dated 2d graphics are kind of like a "statement" though. It says: "This game is not about graphics! So please don't judge me on them!". But people WILL do that. On the other hand, I suppose if you would make things 3d and "modern" looking, people's expectations might rise.

Ummm, there is nothing "dated" about 2D graphics. You don't need 3D graphics to look "modern".

The problem is that the graphics suck, even for 2D graphics. I know plenty of artists who could do the graphics for the whole game in about a month, and would be happy for a couple grand, total, for the work. And they'd look a whole lot better.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (1)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 5 years ago | (#27241863)

I think pricing is a big one. I rarely buy games as soon as they come out. I'm just not going to spend $50 on a game. I'll usually wait until they come down to $35 or less - and that's for a title from a big developer with AAA quality. For an indie game, I wouldn't expect to pay more than $20. I've seen some great indie games but very rarely do they even begin to have the depth and polish of a big name title. You just can't charge the same price for a Geo as you do an Aston Martin. People aren't dumb.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (1)

bradley13 (1118935) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238887)

The parent post disses the game for looking 15 years old. It does, of course, but that does not mean that it is a poor game. If the storyline is good and the game-play is fun, shiny graphics are pretty irrelevant.

It goes both ways, of course. Take Mass Effect as an example: it looks good, but the game-play could be better and the storyline outside the four main quests is shallow. I'd rather have had crappy graphics with better game-play and a more detailed storyline.

I've just downloaded his demo - if the game looks worth $28, I'll buy it, old-fashioned graphics or no...

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238931)

I figured someone would make this point but my thinking was that something like NWN costs less and has great gameplay AND graphics. My thoughts were that even if the gameplay of his game can match that of NWN then it's still a worse product at a higher price because the graphics can't.

I do agree graphics aren't everything and gameplay matters most. For what it's worth though, I actually really enjoyed Mass Effect, and even that is cheaper now than this game. For me it wouldn't be a hard choice - Mass effect, or this game?

I have an old PC, you insensitive clod (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27239091)

My thoughts were that even if the gameplay of his game can match that of NWN then it's still a worse product at a higher price because the graphics can't.

Some people would find a product with lower-detail graphics more valuable because it would not require the purchase of new hardware. You mention Mass Effect, but my current PC's motherboard can't even take the CPU and RAM that Mass Effect requires [bioware.com].

Re:I have an old PC, you insensitive clod (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27240083)

Mass Effect was only brought up because of the parent I was responding to. I'd be suprised if many people couldn't run something like NWN now or even the likes of Baldur's gate would be a cheap, superior option for example.

The point is that even for low end systems there are much better, much more professional, and still cheaper alternatives.

Re:I have an old PC, you insensitive clod (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 5 years ago | (#27240151)

Unless you've already played NWN and Baldur's Gate, still have an old machine, and want more games.

Re:I have an old PC, you insensitive clod (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27240323)

I'd be amazed if everyone has played every old game their system can run worth playing that is still both better and cheaper than the product listed here. There's a hell of a lot out there, and let's face it even if anyone has, the market is so small we're talking about maybe 1 or 2 potential customers.

Re:I have an old PC, you insensitive clod (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 5 years ago | (#27241401)

Apparently, we're talking about 4000 ACTUAL customers before the publication of this /. article.

Re:I have an old PC, you insensitive clod (0)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27242657)

You're concluding that those 4000 customers was a result of those customers having played all existing superior games, which is a conclusion that you simply cannot back up.

Realistically it's more likely that the people who bought it, bought it because they were not aware of the superior alternatives or that they really did prefer his product.

If it's the latter then that's a good example of what I was suggesting, but I think it's more likely the former. Effectively, had these people been given the choice of say, NWN or this they'd almost certainly have gone with NWN. His sales are likely based on people who are not much in to gaming accidently stumbling across his site, not realising there is anything better out there or previous customers who found his products in this manner etc.

Also, 4000 is still an extremely small userbase. When I used to work on Quake and Half-Life mods it wasn't unusual to be able to get around the region of 50,000 unique users downloading the mod on release day.

Re:I have an old PC, you insensitive clod (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 5 years ago | (#27243269)

Of course not all of those 4000 customers will have played all of the versions of NWN, Baldur's Gate, Diablo, Dragon Wars, the TSR games, etc., but many probably have. I'm not a super-prolific gamer, and I have.

Re:I have an old PC, you insensitive clod (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 5 years ago | (#27243357)

Basically, what I'm trying to say in this context and in some other points: the total sum of actual fans (some or perhaps even many of which will have played nearly all older AAA games in the genre) and impulse buyers seems really low, but this guy is still breaking even even though the price point appears to err on the side of madness and at first glance the game is not really anything special.
BTW, which mods did you work on? I might have played a few ;-). If they were free that would have been a big contribution to the number of downloads - the article didn't say how many demo downloads they'd had.

Re:I have an old PC, you insensitive clod (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245137)

I don't think we're in particular disagreement then, I agree he's done well despite the odds, and this is why I'm rather suprised he's under some expectation that if it weren't for piracy he deserves even more sales that seems an odd stance when on the face of it, for what he produced and how much he's selling it for, he's made a decent amount.

Quake 1:
TF Bots

Quake 2:
Assault Troopers
Airquake 2

Quake 3:
Q3F (aka Q3Fortress)

Half-Life:
Aliens Half-Life mod (didn't make it to release though, got Foxed ;))

I've done bits and pieces for other mod teams, but not as a "full time" team member as with these. Not all of those hit 50,000 (Assault Troopers didn't and TF Bots didn't although it hit around 30,000 first week, which at the time, for the size of the audience back then wasn't bad). Airquake 2 did (although I wasn't on the team at that point, Bjoern did the majority of the work up to that point) and Q3F did.

Certainly being free helps with downloads, but also that has to be balanced against the fact people have to buy the actual game, and also that that leaves you with a smaller audience (only a few million people), whereas this guy's audience is potentially nearly the entire internet (a billion people).

Re:I have an old PC, you insensitive clod (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27244149)

How silly. The internet market is massive and it is not surprising (or should not be surprising) that 4000 people out of however many million people are on the internet would like retro-styled RPGs and be willing to pay for them.

Re:I have an old PC, you insensitive clod (1)

jwilloug (6402) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245861)

If it's the latter then that's a good example of what I was suggesting, but I think it's more likely the former. Effectively, had these people been given the choice of say, NWN or this they'd almost certainly have gone with NWN. His sales are likely based on people who are not much in to gaming accidently stumbling across his site, not realising there is anything better out there or previous customers who found his products in this manner etc.

I think you're entirely wrong in this characterization of Spidweb's audience. They've been around a long time and has cultivated a devoted following that actually wants tile- and turn-based RPGs. I'd be very surprised if they didn't make up the majority of Geneforge 4's paying customers. I doubt he gets very many first-time buyers on any particular title. Perhaps he'll provide these numbers in the followup he mentioned in the blog.

That audience includes me, by the way. I lost interest in Baldur's Gate 2 very early, and have never played Neverwinter Nights, but I have bought half a dozen Spiderweb games going back many years.

Re:I have an old PC, you insensitive clod (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27246341)

His sales are likely based on people who are not much in to gaming accidently stumbling across his site, not realising there is anything better out there or previous customers who found his products in this manner etc.

This is partially bullshit.

Accidentally stumbling across the site? Not bullshit. Previous customers. Not bullshit.

Not realizing there is anything better out there? This is bullshit. Unless the person is like a time traveler from the early 80's and has been here for less than a day.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (2, Informative)

Clover_Kicker (20761) | more than 5 years ago | (#27239023)

Spiderweb games have a plot. People buy them for the plot, not the graphics.

The people who buy the latest Geneforge game have already played NWN and Oblivion.

PC games support mods (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27239119)

Spiderweb games have a plot. People buy them for the plot, not the graphics.

The people who buy the latest Geneforge game have already played NWN and Oblivion.

Unlike console games, PC games support mods. If people who buy Geneforge own a copy of NWN, they can download and play an NWN campaign.

Re:PC games support mods (1)

Clover_Kicker (20761) | more than 5 years ago | (#27239281)

It's not mutually exclusive. The people who buy Geneforge are hardcore RPG nerds, like me, who have already played a bunch of NWN modules, like me.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (1)

paazin (719486) | more than 5 years ago | (#27239653)

Indeed, I've purchased a few games from spidweb over the years; they're unique in that they tend to be much more rewarding to play than your average mass marketed games - they have a high fun factor, not too complicated, yet still complex and intricate enough to keep you interested.

Not to mention they have low hardware requirements - they run quite well on older PCs, laptops, netbooks etc. whereas most current games with full 3d engines barely will chug along (if install at all).

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (1)

sw155kn1f3 (600118) | more than 5 years ago | (#27239369)

This game isn't for "looks". What I learned from RTFA so far that his game has good RPG/quest/weapon system, which is faaar more important for these types of games.
Geez, I still know guys who play text-only MUD.
And no, Oblivion is not a good RPG game. NWN is OK, but nothing special really, although YMMV.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (2, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 5 years ago | (#27240025)

Economies of scale are the major issue in game development that indies need to take into consideration to temper their 'furor' at piracy or whatever else they think causes their 'lack of success', lets face it, you should be doing proper market research and targetting your markets appropriately, like Stardock did with Sins of a solar empire (500K+ units sold, for what is mostly a very "indie" game).

Make stuff a paying populace of people want and they will buy it. Many oldschool PC game developers got trapped in listening to internet fans when developing games (descent 3 and Planescape torment come to mind) and when they sold poorly some team members blamed the fans for not buying their product that they thought was "so awesome", lets face it here. This was a painful lesson in lack of market research for those PC developers who moved onto other games with wider appeal.

To develop a game up to "AAA" expectations one needs a hell of a lot of development talent and money in terms of art, programming and everyone else on the team. Not only that, real game development talent is scarce. Then add in the fact that games depreciate in value awful fast because they are competing against games both old and new, as well as piracy, and also because most games don't have any kind of solid replayability where you keep coming back to it.

To be honest it's a bloody miracle anyone pays for software at all, since it isn't a scarce and it is easily duplicated. Developers need to learn to live in reality and develop games people want to buy, or move to consoles to publish their crapware, most games aren't anything special now-a-days if you've been gaming since the NES or pre-NES era.

The problem with indie development is that we've moved past the era where expectations were lower in some respects, I could see indie's thriving in the time before 3D acceeleration, in fact many "indie" games were shareware lets not forget.

Doom and duke nukem were both SHAREWARE if anyone old enough here remembers. I first came into contact with doom through BBS's in 'yeee old days' and there was piracy back then through BBS's, lets not say that piracy has not been there all along. The "warez scene" started out on BBS's. Many popular games shareware games (like doom, doom 2, duke nukem) were pirated.

Developers should focus on making games that make money, and either fund their personal pet projects on their own dime and stop complaining when no body but them and a small cultish group of people likes it.

This is exactly why certain genre's died out on the PC and console, certain developers didn't know where to take a genre or the market for that kind of game was shrinking and they ended up dying.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (2, Insightful)

Draek (916851) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244849)

Your post, in a nutshell: "More Madden and less Ico, you lazy fuck!".

And as a gamer, allow me to say "Fuck you". The day indie devs start worrying about making marketable, "sellable" games instead of developing various, innovative ideas and see what sticks, is the day I stop buying indie games altogether.

It's not a "shite unoriginal game" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27241069)

But that kind of statement does sum up your attitude. Oh, look, a game with old graphics! It must suck!

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27242183)

As he doesn't give any break down of figures we can't be sure whether his costs really are as high as he infers (I really can't see how they could be) or if he's actually making a fairly decent wage which seems more likely.

I generally think about indie game developers along the same lines as indie music/movie, etc.

Specifically, look at what artists, musicians, etc. do when they are just starting out. They work long hours with little or no pay just to get name recognition. I know plenty of musicians that put in an easy 60 hours a week between writing, practice, and concerts, not to mention studio time, promoting, events, etc. and don't make a single penny in salary. They consider themselves lucky if the band itself breaks even after applying all revenue to band costs.

The same is true of programmers. Sure, you can do it all yourself from your apartment, but you have to be realistic about what you're going to get from it. Be prepared to spend long hours with no pay, and to constantly scrape to even break even for business costs.
If you can afford to pay anyone you're doing good, if you can afford to pay yourself you're doing even better.

His employees might be worth that much on paper, but working for an indie or startup they should not expect to make nearly as much as they did. And if they really were worth that salary, then the game should have looked a whole lot better. In short, he overpaid his staff for what they delivered.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (1)

spidweb (134146) | more than 5 years ago | (#27242989)

A note from the author.

Wow, dude. You sound pretty angry. I don't have much to say, except that, if my games were "shite" or "unoriginal", believe me. They wouldn't sell. Fortunately for me, Geneforge 4 is neither.

I only really posters to correct one misconception. Spiderweb's employees are not part-time. We have three full-time employees.

And we're not 15 years out of date. Do you know what games looked like in 1994? We're ten years, at most! :-)

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27244341)

I'm part of your target audience. I started playing tile RPGS with Ultima 3. I still like them and I long for adventure. With that said, I just can't get into your games.

IMO your tiles are unappealing and not very colorful or memorable. Flat tiles don't have to be ugly (see any Mac icons). The switch from overhead to isometric made it worse. Couple that with a $28 price tag and I never seem to bite.

Sorry.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245205)

"I don't have much to say, except that, if my games were "shite" or "unoriginal", believe me. They wouldn't sell."

What is original about them exactly? isometric RPG with features that exist in most RPGs ever?

"Fortunately for me, Geneforge 4 is neither."

But at 4000 units, it seems that your opinion isn't widely shared. It's great you're building games (honestly, I wish I still had time to do that but I spend my time on further study nowadays) that you like, but you sound like you're building games you like rather than that a wider audience would like, then blaming piracy for not having higher sales figures. Furthermore, why do you feel at $28 people would buy your product rather than say, Neverwinter nights or another AAA title that has plummeted in price to be cheaper than your product? What exactly does it offer over such titles?

"And we're not 15 years out of date. Do you know what games looked like in 1994? We're ten years, at most! :-)"

I know by the smiley you were almost certainly joking, but 15 years ago Doom 2 came out as well as Warcraft 1, Jazz Jack Rabbit and a few others. The graphics of your games aren't beyond that of these games. The problem is we're talking about a game that uses 2D sprites and we don't exactly have a colour shortage so there's no real excuse for low quality tiles and sprites, performance isn't an argument for something like this.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (1)

JMandingo (325160) | more than 5 years ago | (#27246301)

NWN has tremendous graphics, but the game play is not all that great. I found myself yearning for a larger party so that I could round things out.

I completed Avernum 4 but did not finish the NWN single-player campaign. Avernum 4 has a better storyline, IMHO.

You don't know anything about Jeff Vogel, do you? (1)

Pluvius (734915) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244893)

Try reading his View from the Bottom articles on RPG Vault and you might realize how stupid and off-base your post is. Hell, it doesn't even look like you did more than skim over the blog article that this Slashdot discussion is about, where he makes clear that he's reasonably satisfied with Geneforge 4's performance despite the high price, low-budget graphics, long demo, piracy, and lack of third-party distribution.

Even this guy seems to believe he deserved to make more even though it's amazing the amount he did make for what he's selling.

Well, considering the fact that his games are relatively popular among pirates, it's pretty obvious that he did deserve to make more. Deserving to make more and expecting to make more are two different things, and Vogel isn't doing the latter.

Rob

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (1)

Clover_Kicker (20761) | more than 5 years ago | (#27239059)

How exactly is the author to know details of actual piracy rates and how it has actually affected his business?

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27239393)

I've played most of the demos from spiderweb, and I loved most of the games, a few years ago I really couldn't afford to spend anything (im young-ish) and I admit to having cracked 2 of his games (its just serial key locked). But... when I started working and began to have a reasonable disposable income I purchased one of the older games and I am planning on purchasing his newest release soon (about an hour into the demo at the moment)

to those others citing the old school look, graphics isn't the point, its plot plot plot all the way, multiple paths (I think there are 5 endings in the latest game), and huge replayability.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244129)

Simple. In the install "registration" screen, add a checkbox for "I have pirated this game" and a disclaimer that all info is kept private.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27240365)

Anecdotal, but the first crack I wrote was a keygen for Exile II by spidersoft. I never released it or anything, it was more to explore IDA than play the game. I played all the exile series this way, getting the shareware version and cracking the keygen, and I would have expected a shareware author to be more open minded about such activity. If he didn't want his game being easily copied, he shouldn't have released the entire game as a demo with only a key to unlock the entire content.

Re:Interesting/Disappointing (2, Insightful)

osgeek (239988) | more than 5 years ago | (#27240867)

takes a snipe at pirates

Defensive much?
 

but doesn't really discuss/acknowledge the role of non-paying customers

Puhlease. Their role is to fuck up his shit. Oh, do they show their friends the title, thus garnering sales? Or do they show their friends the title and say, "here download the cracked version from this link".

Play your cracked games that some small developer barely eeks out a living on, download your free music from some schmuck who eats ramen because he doesn't have rockstar money, and copy indie movies whose publisher went out of business despite the quality of their films... but don't even get a glimmer in your eye that you're doing the world some sort of good by doing so. Have the sense of decency to just quietly stay in your hole and feel a little bad about ripping someone off.

The invisible game!. (2, Interesting)

Tei (520358) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238193)

I have never read about this game, and I watch obseivelly indie sites. Maybe has been posted on these sites, but I failed to see it. I think this guy has poorly advertised this game. Other than here on slashdot, of course.

QQ more, please.

Re:The invisible game!. (1)

DarkGreenNight (647707) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238815)

I you followed hard-core CRPG sites (like rpgcodex) you'd have learned about this series of games long ago. They considered them little gems (long time since I last went there).

And I don't think he's crying, he makes a living of it and has been doing so for some years.

Re:The invisible game!. (1)

montyzooooma (853414) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238917)

The OP has a point though. If the games were on Steam as a $5 sale he'd probably make more in one weekend than he has in the last five years.

Re:The invisible game!. (1)

syrinx (106469) | more than 5 years ago | (#27240421)

I heard about one of this guy's games well over a decade ago when it was reviewed in Computer Gaming World (remember magazines? They used to make them out of dead trees).

I guess I missed the part where a game only counts if Slashdot user #520358 has heard of it.

Indie $ vs big name $ (2, Interesting)

Mad Merlin (837387) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238225)

It's amazing to compare the cost to produce an indie game like the one in the article to a big name game, such as most games you can find in a brick and mortar store. Cost figures aren't usually released, but you can bet that EA probably spent 10-100x more on Madden n+1 than the ~$120k quoted in the article. Now, Madden n+1 probably also sold more copies, but it's definitely not 10-100x better of a game (some would argue it's worse, but I won't go there). So, where does all that extra cash go? Sure, diminishing returns (big company inefficiency, time creating flashier graphics, etc) accounts for some of it, but more likely is that advertising takes the cake. Advertising is incredibly expensive, so much so that only big companies can afford to do it, presumably it usually results in a net profit, but those numbers aren't generally available. It's an unfortunate situation, as there's definitely more to fun games than flashy graphics, and as it stands, most indie games are doomed to a relatively tiny audience, far smaller than they deserve.

So what can be done? Most people that play Game! [wittyrpg.com] seem to enjoy it a lot, but word of mouth only goes so far. How do we get indie games to a larger audience? I think that's a question a lot of people are trying to answer, but the Internet certainly helps, without it, we'd be unlikely to see indie games that get exposure outside of the town or possibly country that they were made in.

Re:Indie $ vs big name $ (2, Insightful)

ClassMyAss (976281) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238309)

I think the big publishers correctly realize that they need to make games look attractive at a glance - the problem, IMO, with this game (in TFA), is that it's just not something that grabs you immediately. And even if Madden N+1 is not 10-100x better as a game, it has ultimately brought more pleasure (==> utility or wealth) to the world because it properly marketed itself and looked good enough to get anyone that might enjoy it to buy it. I don't think the game in the article has maximized its own potential, and that's a problem...

I'd personally rather see figures for indie games more along the lines of Droid Assault [puppygames.net] or Robokill [rocksolidarcade.com] (check these out if you haven't - maybe a shameless plug, but I'm not involved with either, just a fan!), both of which have the kind of immediate traction with a player that an RPG with graphics that were getting stale a decade ago just can't pull off.

I'm not saying you can't have quality without graphical flair, but come on - you've got to look like your making an effort if you really want to move product!

Re:Indie $ vs big name $ (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27238533)

I'm not saying you can't have quality without graphical flair, but come on - you've got to look like your making an effort if you really want to move product!

The only indie game I've ever heard of is Dwarf Fortress. It has no graphics, is pre-alpha, has a crappy UI, has zero investment in promotion, is given away for free yet its authors still manage to make a living off it.

If you don't make money from something it's because it is not good enough or you are not trying at all. Period.

Re:Indie $ vs big name $ (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27238403)

So what can be done?

Indies need to get together and organize.

Mainstream marketing only "works" because games companies are willing to spend a lot of money marketing games that aren't total trash. So people buy mainstream marketed games knowing they're not wasting their time. Indies can't afford to do that so they need to figure an alternative.

I think I'm fairly typical of the Indy target market; likes games, has disposable income and spare time and will buy cheap things on impulse but:

Simply, reliably finding a new game to play that I will probably enjoy is a boring time waster (finding, not playing) that I and I suspect most people can't be bothered with when TV, slashdot or a book is just a click away. Indies are not competing with mainstream games, they're not competing with other indies, they're competing with the entire world of impulse entertainment.

The indies need to get together to create a highly organized and complete sourceforge-like index website that catalogs the vast majority of indy games in a way that allows a casual browser to find and buy a game they like with a minimum of fuss. I can't stress this enough; it is a major pain to quickly finding a decent game while avoiding the trash. The web site needs to be well organized with detailed game categories, detailed information about each game including license category and price, sample screen shots, a highly consistent user interface (so it's fast to use). Leave the creativity to the game, not to the index web site. Note: most current games sites are not well organized and just have a mess of untrustworthy, disorganized reviews, cataloging by release date only, no details and limited selections. A waste of time.

Make this index web site valuable enough (i.e. usable) so everybody wants to use it. Such a web site would not be too difficult to create if each indy adds their own entries. You would need a web master to enforce user interface consistency however.

Then you'll get the impulse buys from people like me.

Re:Indie $ vs big name $ (2, Funny)

Bastard of Subhumani (827601) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238969)

Advertising is incredibly expensive, so much so that only big companies can afford to do it, presumably it usually results in a net profit, but those numbers aren't generally available.

As Winston Churchill said: "Half of what I spend on advertising is wasted. I wish I knew which half."

Or maybe it was Henry Ford.

Well after reading the article (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 5 years ago | (#27239209)

It doesn't look like a profitable enterprise.

So the big companies are probably getting a better return on their investment. They have the money to let you know they have a game to sell. They have a track record, they have the names, and they really do put forward good quality games with a lot of content.

The cost of breaking into the big time, and most indie games I try would get lambasted for lack of content if a major released them - let alone some of the damn buggy ones I bought, is money. The problem I see is for them getting themselves picked up by a big enough distributor to get their name out there without attracting the attention of one of the big time developers who either tries to buy them outright or squash them with similar products.

Re:Well after reading the article (1)

rochrist (844809) | more than 5 years ago | (#27243605)

Did you miss the part of the article where he pointed out that it WAS...you know, a profitable enterprise?

Re:Indie $ vs big name $ (2, Insightful)

Shrubber (552857) | more than 5 years ago | (#27243787)

IAdvertising is incredibly expensive, so much so that only big companies can afford to do it

Why pay for advertising when you can get your game on slashdot and watch the hits come rolling in? He's certainly going to get some sales out of it which is not bad for a game that's a couple of years old and arguably vastly overpriced.

Representative? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27238235)

I can't help but think that this is perhaps not a representative example of what a typical indie can expect, for a couple reasons: first, the market for these games appears to be previous fans, so without ten years of people playing your games, it might be tougher. On the other hand, I feel like the design decisions in this company's games are driven more by what they've done before than what would be truly good for business, so I seriously question whether they are thinking much, if at all, about how to improve sales to people who don't already know the games. An indie that cared to could do a lot better on that front.

A first-impression of the title based on a quick play of the demo would not lead me to think the game should have taken as long as it did to complete, and while I trust that there probably is real depth to it and it's probably a very well thought out game with a lot of content, it's the first few minutes of play that grab someone. And this just feels like a typical mid 90s isometric D&D game with some annoying UI characteristics (click on everything? Yeesh...if you're going to play in the same genre as WoW, learn from the massive UI improvements that they made, they really make a difference!) and way too much text per minute (if I want to read a book, that's what I'll do)...

If you were putting $120,000 (or the equivalent in time) into a project, why would you not throw some of that into making the game attractive at a glance? 2D art is extremely cheap these days if you take a bit of time to find an artist you like, and while I can respect (to some extent) a retro aesthetic, in this case I think it's seriously hurting sales.

Re:Representative? (1)

montyzooooma (853414) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238933)

Eschalon (Book 1!) is a modern take on the pseudo 3d isometric/actually 2d RPG and it looks so much better. And it's on Steam. Not much difference in the price though.

additional data (3, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238249)

A few indie game studios have been forthcoming with data, although as he points out not a lot apart from the real blockbusters or bankrupt ones. One I'm familiar with, though, Chronic Logic [chroniclogic.com], has released some numbers.

One of their more high-profile games was the platformer Gish [chroniclogic.com], since it won the 2005 IGF grand prize (an indie-game award); it sold 4,500 copies [gameproducer.net] at $20 apiece, netting about $121,000 after expenses. Slightly under half of those were in the first year out, a bit over a quarter the second year, and the rest trailing in in subsequent years. The puzzle game Triptych [chroniclogic.com] (2002), sold 1,000 copies [gameproducer.net] at $15 apiece, netting about $25,000 after expenses. Again about half were in the first year out, but sales straggled in more slowly but consistently after that, with about 15% of the total in each of the following 3 years.

I haven't been able to find sales stats for probably their best-known game, Bridge Builder [bridgebuilder-game.com], though; pointers would be interesting.

Re:additional data (2, Interesting)

ClassMyAss (976281) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238357)

Wow, that's incredibly low for Gish, given the publicity it recieved - though I probably shouldn't be surprised, since I didn't buy a copy either.

I can't help but feel that $20 is a bit high for most indie games. Maybe there's some logic to the price point, but personally, I find it a bit high, and I'd be a lot more likely (i.e. more than twice as likely) to buy if the price was halved. $10 seems like something I'm willing to purchase on impulse because I'm curious to spend a couple hours playing it; $20 and I really have to love the idea or demo before I'll shell out.

Re:additional data (2, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238565)

Seems like they might almost agree with you, since their most recent game [zatikon.com] is $14, so getting closer to that price point.

As far as demos, they do actually have free demos for all their games; that's one thing I think Chronic Logic does right versus a lot of other indie game publishers.

(Perhaps I'm sounding like a shill here, but I spent a good portion of my youth hooked on Bridge Builder, despite the relatively small size of the game.)

Re:additional data (2, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238617)

Oh, I forgot the other, rather important reason I'm a fan besides Bridge Builder: all their games are available for Linux.

Re:additional data (2, Funny)

telso (924323) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238469)

it sold 4,500 copies at $20 apiece, netting about $121,000 after expenses.

sold 1,000 copies at $15 apiece, netting about $25,000 after expenses.

It may be 5 a.m. here, but that's the best business model I've seen in ages:

  1. Sell x units at $y apiece, creating $xy in revenue
  2. Factor in negative expenses to increase income
  3. ...
  4. Profit!

Re:additional data (2, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238553)

Haha yeah, I should've explained that better; the linked post has more detailed numbers. They made a more numerically accurate $81,176 on those 4,500 direct sales, after credit-card/paypal fees. The additional income was $16,000 from the IGF prize money, $6,200 from other sites that resold the game and gave a cut, and $17,500 from small retail publishers who licensed the game to sell in Europe and Asia brick&mortar.

Some games just don't make a profit. (2, Insightful)

SpazmodeusG (1334705) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238271)

Not every game makes a profit, we'd all be game developers if that were true. So is it fair to say piracy is to blame in this case? Or is this simply just one of the many games that don't make a profit regardless or there being piracy or not?

Re:Some games just don't make a profit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27238817)

Not every game makes a profit, we'd all be game developers if that were true. So is it fair to say piracy is to blame in this case? Or is this simply just one of the many games that don't make a profit regardless or there being piracy or not?

Easier to say its pirates than to say your game is too lame to sell.

Re:Some games just don't make a profit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27239467)

Too lame to buy, but not too lame to pirate... nice.

Re:Some games just don't make a profit. (3, Informative)

montyzooooma (853414) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238959)

That's such a flamebait of a post. Nowhere in the article/blog post does Jeff BLAME piracy for his games not selling. In fact he quite clearly says he's made a living at it for the past 15 years. He mentions piracy, yes, but it's a tiny part of the overall article.

Hmm.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27238511)

When it comes down to "little guy" (indie game developer) vs. "big guy" (large corporate monster), big guy will almost always win. If you're making games for fun, and not for profit, why not help destroy "big guy" by making the games open source (most open source games aren't exactly the greatest) and asking for donations?

If you want to make money, go be an insurance salesman and do this stuff on the side.

Re:Hmm.. (2, Insightful)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#27246733)

When you make money with it you can spend more time on it rather than squeezing it in the gaps left by your day job.

Angband (2, Interesting)

janwedekind (778872) | more than 5 years ago | (#27238745)

I used to play Moria [wikipedia.org] and later Angband [thangorodrim.net]. Although it is text-based, the source code is several hundred thousand lines! On the other side there are the old proprietary games which you can now get for a low price. I think it may be easier to differentiate your product by developing for J2ME mobiles. Event then competition will be very hard.

Very intresting. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27239351)

Despite what a lot of people has said in as reply to this guys blog. I think it's very interesting, if I had the time to actually start developing Indy quality software I would. Cause to those that complain about something or the other, it takes a lot of time, more then you think to develop even a game that looks like his. I'm happy that he has made the small amount of money that he has, it gives hope to an otherwise very hard businesses. Not many people make a dime out of Indy sales.

*cough* advertisement *cough* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27239619)

I know how to get people to buy my games! I will post my sales figures on slashdot like that guy last week! I even put it here too! http://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/search.php?do=finduser&userid=4&searchthreadid=6720
and here!
http://www.insidemacgames.com/forum/index.php?act=Print&client=printer&f=1&t=36029

Somewhat invalidated through non-disclosure. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27239683)

Although the data about income from game sales welcome, his failure to give even ballpark figures with respect to salary somewhat invalidate any information you could get from this.

For example.

He's said "I pay myself a salary"

So if his Salary is $75k and he has costs of $120k then he's personally doing just fine even though he's supposedly "making a small loss" as a company.

Now I understand the privacy issues of not wanting to disclose what others earn.... but saying that the "salary costs were XYZ" across 3 people while I was able to pay myself a salary of "XYZ2"

As it stands, somewhat interesting, but still unhelpful.

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