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Game Design: as a hobby.

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questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011

While I have tried to make "Game Design" my primary focus in earning an income to pay bills, rent, utilities and food, I have found that in doing so it is very difficult to "survive" while trying to make "games". I have done this for about 9 months and have been through Publisher negotiations, a successful Kickstater and to end it off a bomb of an IndieGoGo.

After all of that, I see "Game Design" as a "Hobby". An extra-curricular activity that could allow you to make a few bucks if you have an awesome design. But not a source of steady income.

In the next coming month, I will be switching activities to "perhaps" more lucrative use of my time. December will be a fresh start on yet another venture... Not "Game-related" at all. I figure if I'm going to try to do ventures with the hopes of having a success, now is the best time to do so... Otherwise I may regret not "trying".

I will continue to invest time in "Game Design" because I truly enjoy it. But again as a "Hobby". I really wish that I could make sufficient income to pay for my expenses... but to date that has been far from the case.

My advice to any "Game Designer" or would-be designers ... do it because you enjoy it but be aware that it is a very difficult industry to make any form of recurrent income... To me it has been shown to be more of a "exploratory" type of activity than a way of making sufficient income.

Best of luck(?!) to all of you and your designs.

Aka QuestCCG
"Indie" Game Designer
BGDF Moderator - Publisher List

JohnBrieger's picture
Joined: 11/04/2016
hobby vs career

My understanding is that the most stable way to earn a living in game design is to work for a medium to large size publisher e.g. being in house at Hasbro, FFG, etc. Another option is to become a publisher yourself, but that is also pretty volatile.

From talking with designers who do design full-time at conventions etc, it seems like if you are on the "license to publishers" plan (like me) – to make game design your full time job, you need to be licensing around 6 games per year. If you have a hit then maybe that # goes down a bit.

Unfortunately, the margins are so thin on games that designers have a hard time making a living full-time unless you either can design lots of games or move a really high volume (aka have a hit).

I'm currently trying to do this as "second job/hobby" and am trying to license around 3 games per year. Maybe in 2-3 years if I think the jump is worth it I might try to go full-time for a bit – but then hopefully there will be royalties coming in while licensing new designs.

We'll see what happens when my first games release next year, as of course they could all flop and then maybe I'll stick to my day job.

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
Better to regret that what

Better to regret that what you have tried. Then to regret that you have not tried.

For me. It was clear very soon. This is a hobby of mine. I have a steady job etc. Which slows down progress. But i can pay my house with ease. And i don't have to design with commercial purposes in mind. I can do whaterever i want. Seeking out extremes and experiment.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Designing takes time...

JohnBrieger wrote:
... to make game design your full time job, you need to be licensing around 6 games per year. If you have a hit then maybe that # goes down a bit.

I don't think my design skills are such that they allow me to design 6 games let alone per year. To be real honest, I was hoping ONE (1) design could make the difference... At let me be frank here, I do have an "Excellent" game that earn $42.5k on Kickstarter. The problem is that about $10k is paying the illustrator for artwork. So whatever we make, the publisher will absorb any monies left over because they invested in more artwork. And for me in 7+ months, people start GETTING their games.

What this means is a slow period between now and June/July.

August will be the litmus test... We will see gamers reaction to the game. While I have done both coached and blind playtesting and know that the "core" is a solid product... Not many people (relatively) have played the game. We have a few blind playtest groups and I demo at Cons too...

But 900+ backers getting a copy of the game and then RANKING the game on BGG is the next step for the game. We need to hear what gamers think about the game.

So maybe by next September we will have a better picture about how much of a HIT the game is... And then that will of course determine if we put out another KS for another "Expansion".

I can't picture "pumping-out" six (6) games a year. "TradeWorlds" has taken already like three (3) years and the public still don't have copies of the game - YET. So I don't think I have the capacity to pump out GREAT games at a volume of several games per year. One perhaps every 2-3 years MAYBE.

But thanks for your opinion and advice ... it was very informative!

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Having a steady income is key

X3M wrote:
For me. It was clear very soon. This is a hobby of mine. I have a steady job etc...

I think unless you are "working" for a game Publisher... Most other designers are "Hobby-ists". They may not feel like that. But in the long term, they will realize that game design is a "part-time" activity.

The odds of designing ONE (1) Super-badass game - is highly unlikely and even IF your game is amazing ... it may take a while before you get any recognition.


lewpuls's picture
Joined: 04/04/2009
Very Few

Few game designers make a living at it. Even Alan R. Moon, who already had a Spiel Des Jahres, said he'd has to have gotten a part-time job if Ticket to Ride hadn't won his second SDJ.

Reiner Knizia was making over a million dollars a year, several years ago. But he'd licensed over 200 games at the time and was designing DS3 games (video).

Bruno Faidutti teaches part time, but doesn't HAVE TO. Citadels makes quite a lot.

We face the same problem as the book industry: the number of games being sold rises, but each one averages less because SO MANY games are being published. A publisher's reaction is to publish more games, which adds to the problem.

One of my games (Britannia) was in the book "Hobby Games: the 100 Best", but I never have come close to making a living.

You might want to listen to "8 Awful Truths About Game Marketing."

(You'd think that, say, lots of science fiction/fantasy writers make a living at it. But most have full-time jobs. One SFWA official estimated 50-100 only are making a living.)

Many small publishers have full-time other jobs. That's the established ones, not the ones who publish a few games through Kickstarter.

From what I've seen, beginning designers at the few companies who hire them, aren't paid much compared with many other jobs. But a full-time job at one of those companies is the best way to make a living designing games.

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