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More than 20,000 developers will bring in over US $100,000

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RyanB Polycount Sponsor
Interesting article with data showing lots of indies are making a decent living or better.

I've gone through the app stores and yes there is a ton of shit, but if you make a quality game then it has a very good chance of bringing in some revenue.  Maybe you won't become a millionaire, but you have an excellent opportunity to be successful.

Doom and gloom for indies?  Nah...


  • MrHobo
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    MrHobo polycounter lvl 9
    Interesting read but this data seems a little skewed.
    Considering that Pollen VC is a company that "enables you to directly fund UA campaigns", this may be more of a marketing thing for them. Im not saying they're lying, just that it feels like they are only showing one side of the numbers.

    Specifically the data in that study looks like its not based on what they are taking home paywise. I dont think its accounting for expenses, which depending on the team could be a substantial chunk of revenue. The numbers there are for BOTH Apps and Games making the pool of indie devs (games) that are actually making sustainable livings off of the app/play store is smaller than what we are being shown in those charts but to their credit they do show that a large percentage of the apps are games, but I would have liked to see a more of a breakdown. 

    Also I dont think they are talking about individuals here, when they say devs I think they mean the teams themselves. So whatever funds are left after expenses still needs to be split up some more. So $100,000 in a year may be great but split among 10 (10k a year) people or even 5 (20k), its hardly sustainable income, if its money on the side that doesnt sound too bad but its not exactly solid gold toilet money. And thats assuming that the 100k is what is left after taxes and expenses. 

    It's not that there is not an opportunity to strike it rich as an indie... its just its not an excellent opportunity. That ship sailed 5 or 6 years ago. Its a gamble. Some will hit it big and others (a lot) will go bust or ride the razors edge.
  • ambershee
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    ambershee polycounter lvl 13
    It's funny, because I look at the numbers they're giving and I'm thinking 'fuck mobile apps' - their spin is just horrible and deliberately misleading. Just fill in the details with a little extra research or extrapolation:

    Based on their app store revenue estimates for Q2 2015, Priori Data predicted 1887 unique app developers would each earn over US $1 million from either the iTunes App Store and Google Play.

    There are approximately 14 million registered app developers on iOS alone*. These millionaire developers account for a tiny, tiny fraction of a percent of all developers. In fact, if the average app costs $23,000 to develop, your money may be better spent buying lottery tickets. Oh, and 22% of that number aren't making games, don't forget, so your chances are actually even smaller.

    *Less than one in ten have actually released an app, but even taking this into account you're still better off buying lottery tickets.

    While it’s undeniable that just over half (55%) of revenues (from iTunes App Store and Google Play combined) are generated by Top 100 ranked publishers, 45% of revenue – which will total US $2.3 Billion in 2015 from paid and IAP alone – will be made by apps ranked outside the Top 100.

    There are 3.1 million apps on the App Store and Google Play. If the top 100 players are hoovering up 55% of revenue ($2.8 billion), leaving 45% ($2.3 billion) for the remaining 3.1 million apps, that leaves just $740 per app on average.

    We found that in total, more than 20,000 developers will bring in over US $100,000. Of course, the significance of this revenue entirely depends on each individual app publisher; as this doesn’t take into account their overheads.

    That's still 20,000 out of millions, and $100k per year is really not that much, even if you're a solo developer. If you're not a solo developer you're probably not breaking even.

    the common assumption amongst industry commentators is that outside of the top 50 studios, the majority of indie app developers make practically nothing, hardly surviving below the “App Poverty Line”

    Surely this data just PROVES that commentary.
  • blankslatejoe
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    blankslatejoe polycounter lvl 14
    I can't speak to mobile at all, which is what that article focused on, but speaking from my own experience on PC and console, the 100k year is certainly doable..and like Ambershee says, it's not very much

    ....especially after the stores take their percentages and any licenses take their cuts
    ...especially when divided across a team of 3 or 4 devs
    ...especially when you consider it may need to recoup for many months (if not a couple of years) of low-to-zero income (and possibly a draw down of savings)
    ...especially when you consider that's PRE tax.

    A 100k game in that scenario would result in an in-the-wallet amount of closer to 6-11k per developer. It's awesome to say your game has generated 100k+ in revenue, but that's still a dont-quit-your-dayjob number.

    I watched this EXACT scenario play out with many of my indie developer friends ...over and over, even with some truly incredible, visually awesome, games, and it's rough every time. Their games DO get exposure, they ARE solid, they DO get hype and DO generate revenue...just not enough to support themselves, their team, their need for security/stability after 2 years of promising their family it was coming, etc.... And, the climate on PC/Console has only gotten tougher as more and more people enter the scene. Some of that's due to democratization of tools, which I think is awesome. The part I don't think is awesome is the flood of mobile devs fleeing mobile because they think that's now a no-win landscape and that PC is now where it's at. PC is very noisy now too because of that.

    Wow..this is a very doom and gloom post. I should mention that, on the contrary to this, I've been very, very, very lucky with Tower of Guns. It's not made me insta-retire-rich, but it's done pretty well for a post 2014 PC indie game. Part of that was because of logistical, business, choices I made along the way to avoid the above scenario.
  • low odor
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    low odor polycounter lvl 13
    @blankslatejoe : Would you- or have you,  done a post mortem of Tower of Guns. I think it would be interesting to see what  your  strategy was..What you thought worked..what didnt
  • RyanB
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    RyanB Polycount Sponsor
    @MrHobo "Interesting read but this data seems a little skewed.
    Considering that Pollen VC is a company that "enables you to directly fund UA campaigns", this may be more of a marketing thing for them. Im not saying they're lying, just that it feels like they are only showing one side of the numbers."

    I agree the data is one-sided.  It doesn't compare the number of successful developers to total developers.

    But, when we look at the total number of developers we are including re-skinners, people making flappy bird clones and the 100's of thousands of bedroom programmers who refuse to spend more than $20 on art.   I'm sick of seeing so many "no money in games, too many developers" posts on forums and then when I click on the posters signature I see their "game" looks like dogsqueeze.  

    It would be difficult to measure developers who put in a honest effort.  Everybody's definition of "honest effort" would be totally different.  But if we could, I think we would be able to have a more accurate picture.  A game with quality design, programming and art has a much better chance of being successful than some indiepocalypse doom-and-gloomers believe.

  • blankslatejoe
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    blankslatejoe polycounter lvl 14
    Low Odor: I haven't done a *business* post mortem on ToG, but I did do ones on the design and some of the development process.

    Here's a talk I gave last year at GDC about design stuff: https://archive.org/details/GDC2015Mirabello .The most relevant bit to this conversation was my conscious decision to aim low on the art--which was something I've always been bummed out by, given my art roots, but even looking back was probably a very smart decision.

    And here's an article I wrote for Gamasutra about, well, my timetracking obsession: http://gamasutra.com/blogs/JosephMirabello/20140407/214931/How_Long_Does_It_Take_to_Make_an_Indie_Game.php , which puts the time commitment of indie dev into perspective a bit. (I've probably put an additional 1000 hours into ToG in updates, support, biz dev, and port work over the last year).

    RyanB-- I *mostly* agree, but I do think you should amend your statement to say " a game with quality design, programming and art AND smart business-savvy has a much better chance at being successful". There will always be break out successes, but given that the landscape IS crowded, word of mouth is not really effective without a critical event to start a large enough ball rolling. Having chops in the first three fields will only matter if a team's business savvy can take them beyond obscurity with marketing, with press interactions, and with their relationships with console providers and storefronts.

  • Hito
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    Hito interpolator
    Excellent talk Joe. Thanks for sharing!
  • RyanB
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    RyanB Polycount Sponsor
    @blankslatejoe Absolutely marketing and other business skills are a part of it.  Every aspect of development and support requires effort and I don't think having great art guarantees success. 

    I listened to your GDC talk at work today.  Good stuff.  I enjoyed the part about Mousetrap vs. chess.
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