More on game profitability

Various follow-ups to my article from a couple days ago about the profitability (or lack thereof) of many/most casual and indie games, and another article I wrote on converting web traffic to sales.

First, I forgot to link to an excellent article by Jeff Tunnell, head honcho at GarageGames, on game profitability written shortly before mine.

Thomas Warfield blogs about my web sales article, critiquing my high-level approach to marketing Bonnie’s Bookstore on the web. I agree with him that Bonnie’s Bookstore is not conceptually a great title for selling from my own site (due to various design decisions, which he enumerates well). But I made a conscious choice with BB to go primarily for web sales. Changing aspects of BB to, say, triple sales from my own site, at the expense of portal sales, wouldn’t have been good decision, as sales from my own site are only <1% of total sales anyways.

On the Rampant Games blog there’s a bit of discussion of the issue. Their game, Void War is a nice, polished looking indie game (not casual), that only just broke even, after having been released a year and a half ago and winning a number of indie-game awards.

4 Responses to “More on game profitability”

  1. Allen Varney Says:

    Eighteen months to breakeven is a pretty good rate for a shareware indie game! A successful shareware game follows a different sales curve from retail or portal titles: a long, slow buildup over years, sometimes five or ten years, with frequent iteration and expansion all the way along. Thomas Warfield made, like, $100 in his first year of Pretty Good Solitaire. You have to plan for the long haul.

  2. Jon Trainer Says:

    It seems like there are two different, but valid approaches to publishing an indie game.

    1. Portal – Make a majority of your money in a short period of time while your game is still prominantly listed.


    2. Developer’s Website – Slow organic growth of sales over many years.

    My question is why can’t both approaches be used together? Does going the Portal approach preclude option #2? It seems like using both approaches together would net the best results over time.

  3. Phil Steinmeyer Says:

    I think you really have to pick one and target – the middle is sort of dead ground.

    Stuff that works best on a developer’s website are niche titles – things that people will seek out and find you for, or that a developer can find a way to reach the customer for and draw that customer to their web site. But portals want mass market titles, with a limited range of gameplay styles. Niche titles do poorly on portals.

  4. Jon Trainer Says:

    I guess that makes sense. It really depends on who your target audience is.

    Are you targeting a casual gamer that is going to browse the portals, but never really search out any games? Or are you going to target an audience with players that regularly search out new games (RPG and Strategy War Game players for example)?

    It’s probably possible to design a game that would appeal to both audiences, but very unlikely.

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