How indie game developers make a living

By Telegiz , | October 06, 2017

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Making Your Dream Game
(Photo : Youtube)Making Your Dream Game

Independent game developers make up a crucial part of the gaming industry, in that some of the most innovative and influential titles come from this sector. Oftentimes you will find that it is the indie developers who are forging a path where mainstream developers will follow. Of course not all independent games developers will experience huge success, and for some it is a case of turning a labour of love into a sustainable career. Whether you are designing video games or gambling titles, working as an independent requires passion and determination in order to fulfil your ambitions.

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There are plenty of examples out there of independent game designers who have hit the big time. Equally, there are cautionary tales of those who tried and failed, though as with all things, we hear about the successes more often than the failures. One example of the former is the team behind the Rocket League game. This was a game of 'vehicular soccer' developed by the team at Psyonix. Their servers were adequate for the task of handling 10,000 players, but when 180,000 started to play at the same time, those servers just about melted. In the end, the team of around 20  created a game which generated in excess of $100 million, which is no mean feat. 

One of the most difficult aspects of creating a new game as an independent developer, is being able to stand out from the crowd. We've seen some creative endeavours set up through crowd funding sites like Kickstarter, such as the banner saga RPG series. On the other hand, you've got smaller creative 'indie' firms like Yggdrasil Gaming who develop ever exotic slot games and license them to big casino companies. Hundreds of games are launched every year, the vast majority of which disappear without trace. Even if you are releasing a video game that has been ten years in the making, letting the wider world know about your game launch is key. With many independent developers operating in small teams, that means that people will need to be able to wear more than one hat. The software engineer may also need to be in charge of social media marketing, as this aspect of the business is every bit as important. There is no point in creating the greatest game in the world if nobody ever hears about it.

One way in which indie game developers ensure that their game sells is by creating an audience prior to launching the game. With media outlets such as Twitch available, it is possible to test drive a new game before it is even finished. This gives developers the chance to react to audience feedback and alter the game as they go. In turn, the players feel a sense of ownership with regard to the game even before it is released, and are more likely to get on board with the finished product. Again, canny use of social media is crucial in this respect. It is an aspect often neglected by new developers, but one which is really important if you hope to make any ripples with the launch of a new title.

Knowing which area of gaming you wish to become involved in is also important. Having a scattergun approach will dilute focus and reduce the chances of success. A company such as Leander Gaming identified the online gambling market as the area they wished to specialise in. Their mission statement is 'to deliver innovative game content to market more quickly than current solutions'. In other words, they identified a gap in the market where there was the opportunity to offer an alternative solution, and have prospered as a result. Leander has delivered on their promise for over a decade now, and the company is a much garlanded award winner with a proud record of achievement. They produce both real money slot games and also social games, and they have not lost their unique sense of style as well as a commitment to delivering quality products.

Those who decide to become independent game developers do so because they have a vision, and a desire to create something which is not available from other developers. Indie game developers need to love what they do, and to believe in what they produce, as the gaming world can be an unforgiving business. Expect to encounter failure before success, and disappointment before joy, if you plan on mounting an assault on this highly competitive industry. However, for those who do make a living as independent game developers, there is arguably a greater feeling of contentment than that available to those working for larger game providers. While succeeding as an independent developer is certainly challenging, the rewards are great. 

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