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How do people make money self-publishing games?

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I was breaking things down and I've read all about how much to expect after the retailers, distributors, marketing, and shipping costs all take their cut. That leaves such a small slice of the pie and then there are all of these things to pay for out of that little chunk:

graphic designers
website designers
production costs

Is there really any way to make a decent game (with quality components - not cutting every corner) and make some money or is this industry only for the passion of making a game? Seems kinda sad you cant really make anything for the amount of work it takes...

Emphyrio's picture
Joined: 02/10/2010
Re: How do people make money self-publishing games?

Nehalem wrote:
Is there really any way to make a decent game (with quality components - not cutting every corner) and make some money?

Yes, get a lot of people to buy it. :-)

Certainly quite a few game companies are doing well enough to get by, and some seem to be expanding. But as in most industries, only a handful of people actually get rich from it. And for every success, there are probably a dozen failures that you don't hear about.

How do people make money self-publishing games?

So, from what you're saying there really is no good way to make money other than to sell a lot. A lot of $1 bills can add up I guess... Hrmm its tough how many "middle men" there are in this industry. Let me make sure I have my facts right -

50% of retail goes to the retail store
10% of retail to the distributor

That leaves us with 40% of retail.
10% of retail is the physical production cost.
So a $50 game sits at $15.

For a self-publisher you have to pay for marketing, shipping, website design, artwork, graphic design, and storage while trying to stay under that $15 per game?

That sound about right?

Joined: 12/31/1969
How do people make money self-publishing games?

Im in that situation now... and its pretty sad :)

Joined: 04/23/2013
How do people make money self-publishing games?

Well it depends on how far you really want to take it. If you want to stick with your day job and just sell your game 'on the side', promoting it at major cons and the like, then no there probably isn't really a lot of money to be made. You'd be lucky to break even or even luckier if it pays for your trips to cons and such. From what I've gleaned from people's experiences here, you're only going to make part time money if you self publish part time.

Now if you want to take the leap and publish full time, you might make enough money to actually live on but you have to be shrewd and frugal. If you publish full time, then probably you'll need to start publishing other titles, whether it be your own, or other designers. At that point you go from becoming self published to actually becoming a publisher.

Probably your best opportunity to make money desiging games is to self publish your game and sell all of the available copies leaving the public wanting more, crying out for a reprint. At that point, you can take your game and documented sales and submit it to major publisher. If a major publisher picks it up and it starts selling well, THEN you can start shopping around some of your other designs to other publishers. The best way to make decent money is to have a lot of your games in circulation at any given time obtaining royalties from a varied number of sources.

Just my $.02.

Joined: 12/31/1969
How do people make money self-publishing games?

Indeed, expect that sales to a distributor will be at 40% of MSRP. As for production costs, if you can get it to 10% of MSRP, that'll be good, but don't hold your breath. Production costs will be all over the board depending on number of units and actual specifications. Even "shooting" for 10% of MSRP may not be realistic for your first game if you are not doing a huge print run. And you have to figure out what a competitive MSRP will be, whether it is $50 or $15, and go from there.

In my case, my production costs were about 20% of MSRP ($29.95). Now, can I make any money? Well, certainly not much.

But in my case, I did graphics, website, and just about everything else myself. So I saved the expense of having someone else do it. If I didn't do those things, I would almost certainly lose money on the game, rather than break even or make a small profit.

So why do it? Hopefully seeling out of our first run will make doing a second run (of more copies for less per unit cost) possible. Or make licensing to another company feasible. In this regard, you view it as just the first step in a longer-term process. And learning all I have about the process of going from idea to actual product is worth something to me too.

In the end, everyone's numbers will work out differently. You just have to be sure you actually do them (and be realistic) and see what you have to do to get the return you want. Unless the fulfillment of making a game has intrinsic value to you, you're probably going to be far better off just investing that money in a decent mutual fund. :-)

But on their death bed, anyone can say they invested in a mutual fund. How many can say they took an idea for something they were passionate about and turned it into an actual product?

(Hopefully the death bed isn't made from unsold inventory of games stacked on top of one another.)


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