Tale Tuesday #19 – Is it.. expensive to be a game dev?

Hello everyone in yet another ‘Tale Tuesday’!
In the third part of our development mini series, we’ll cover another important topic for the new developers. That is, a question: is it expensive to be a game dev? Read more to find out!

So what real costs are hidden behind a development of an indie game?

First of all, we have to account for work done during the development. If you’re working alone, you’re entirely skipping that section, however you have to think about it once you start getting teammates. Depending on the qualifications and division of roles, you might need to spend some more money. This section is very individual and we cannot give an approximate value it’ll be worth in your particular case. Some people might pay in hourly wages, however a good solution is also giving a revenue share if your teammate is interested in it. Whatever the solution is, that will definitely be your main expense. Remember you have to do everything lawfully!
If you’re working alone, you might be interested in some outside help. You might not be convinced by free for use assets and you’re looking for something more fancy. I’d still recommend looking through OpenGameArt in details. If you made up your decision, you’ll most likely find yourself looking for some artists that create graphical assets and music. Depending on what you need and the quantities of work, as well as the personal pricing of an artist, you might end up spending up to a couple hundred dollars. You might also look through already created but paid assets from artists – in such case, they can be found pretty cheap and you probably won’t go over $50. Either way – the more you’ll rely on purchases of assets, the more you’ll have to pay for the development process.
If you’re brave and skillful enough, the two previous points can go without any costs. Some people spend hundreds and thousands on said parts, but you can do it cheaply easily! But what about some other things you have to think about? For example – what about fees for publication of your game?

Steam Developer Tool (Steamworks) Overview

It depends on a platform you intend to release onto! Most common solution and a first thought would probably be posting on Steam. In the past, Steam had a Greenlight programme, that allowed voting for a given game to go through. If it was popular enough, it got onto Steam store – free of charge! Nowadays, the system changed. Currently, Steam uses Steam Direct programme. It gives much more freedom to the creators, but for a price. If you want to publish your game on this platform, you can do it easily – you just have to go through a check of your application and store page, to ensure quality. You can post any game you want! The catch is, that to be able to post a game, you have to pay $100 fee. This fee is per app posting, so it isn’t the cheapest. You can get your fee back however! To get it back, you have to earn above $1000. If you reach that milestone, Valve will give you back your fee for that app.
Another popular option, this time for mobile games would be Google Store. Google Store also allows for posting of any game, but with different pricing. If you want to post games on this popular store, you have to pay $25 fee one time. Afterwards you’re free to post as many games as you wish free of charge.
It doesn’t mean there are no free alternatives! The most popular would probably be itch.io, which allows for free posting of your video games. It’s pretty good for indie developers that have just started their journey. It might have way smaller traffic than the previously mentioned platforms, but it has its charm (and it is free, which might be important for some)!

So far we can still go free of any fees, but there might be some other expenses that more people will be interested to try!
We’re talking about more miscellaneous expenses, like marketing, personal website and other services (like translation). Again, everyone has their own methods. Some might not care and skip that alltogether, keeping the cost low, but some might want to invest into it.
Marketing costs depend on the form. Nowadays, proper marketing can reach thousands of dollars, which indie developers most likely don’t have. Cheaper equivalents and solutions would be self-promotion wherever it’s possible and from paid options – Instagram and Facebook ads, which are relatively cheap and effective, as well as simple to figure out. The prices depending on the coverage and duration you need, might be anywhere from $5 to even $100! Whatever suits the needs of a developer.
Websites are a good way to promote your activity. Depending on the services you’ll choose and the service abilities you’ll purchase, the prices will vary. If you need minimum services to simply promote and share what you’re doing, your cost can probably be kept low, for around $40/year. Registering your own domain (to bring up effectiveness) will also help and cost additional ~$15/year.
Other services can be kept cheap as well. However, everyone’s needs vary and exact value cannot be estimated. This is the most unstable expense that cannot be fully predicted.

Shortly speaking, you can spend thousands and tens of thousands of dollars on development, but with some good strategies, you can keep that expense very close, if not equal to zero! It all takes some effort, but it is possible. Whatever option you’ll go with, remember that you can start a funding program like Kickstarter, to find people that will be interested to help fund your project. You can always give it a try!

That’s it for this ‘Tale Tuesday’ – next time we’ll already leave the logistics and talk about some designing tips!

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