Your Time is Valuable

I’m back! If you’re a regular iDevBlogADay reader, you may have noticed that I was off the last two weeks. My wife and I had our first baby almost three weeks ago, and the other members of iDBAD were nice enough to let me have some “paternity leave” to get used to life with a new member of the family.

Now that I’m starting to learn to cope with very little sleep, and our new son is starting to find what might be described as the beginnings of a routine, I thought it was time to get back into the saddle and write up a post. Since I haven’t done any work in the last two weeks, a technical post seemed out of the question. And given that my life has been turned upside down, and I’m learning what it means to have no free time, I thought I’d talk about the value of our time as indie developers.

There seem to be three kinds of indie developers: those who treat games as a creative endeavour first and business second; those who treat games as a business first and a creative endeavour second; and those who think about both the art and the business carefully when building games. I’ll admit, I’m one who thinks about the creative aspect first and the business second, but I do think of this as a business. I’m not a hobbyist. I need to make money to be able to keep making games.

A year and half ago I wrote up a controversial blog post that talked about the relatively slow start that my first game, Dapple, got off to in a post called “The Numbers Post (aka Brutal Honesty)“. The post was meant to show another side to all the Instant Millionaire stories that were running about the App Store at the time. However, one thing that surprised me was that I received a lot of angry mail (some of it extremely angry) in response to the post. One of the things that people got most upset about was my calculation of the budget for the game.

In my breakdown I had called out my own time as part of the budget for the game. This upset a lot of people. But let’s consider this first. How many times have you been at a conference or an iPhone dev meetup and heard a conversation like this:

Dev 1: “So how much did your game cost to make?”
Dev 2: “Well, I paid $200 for sound effects from WebsiteX, but I did the art and programming myself, so that was free.”

I know I’ve heard that a lot. Hell, I think I’ve even said that at one point or another. What bothers is me is that so many of us have this attitude that our time isn’t worth anything. Why are the two months you spent programming and drawing “free”? It’s not. Your time is valuable. Your time is money.

Let’s think about it this way. If you had hired a programmer and an artist to build the game for you, how much would it have cost you? Would it have been free? If you had taken on a two month contract instead of building your own game, would you have done it for free? No. We are professional developers. Yes, we’re indie. Yes, we work for ourselves. But our time is not free. We need to start thinking about the cost of our time when we’re considering the cost of making a game.

Now, I’m not advocating avoiding a game you desperately want to make because you know it will lose money. What I’m trying to get at is that you should at least be aware that it’s going to lose money. If you still need to make the game, make it. We’re professionals. Our time is valuable. Let’s make informed decisions. Let’s take ourselves seriously.


P.S. Happy Halloween, everyone!