Archive for the ‘Business’ Category
Friday, July 8th, 2011
Well would you look at that: today is my three-year anniversary of starting Streaming Colour Studios. It has been an amazing three years, full of crazy ups and downs. I wanted to write a longer, more detailed blog post looking back at the last three years, but I’m excitedly working on a new game. Maybe I’ll get to that post when I’m a little less excited about coding.
In three years, I’ve released four games to the App Store:
And I’ve done some major client work:
I’ve also recently submitted an app to the store that I created for my eight-month-old son:
I wrote a chapter in a book:
And I’ve spoken at several conferences:
I have had a lot of fun, I have struggled at times, and I have met the most incredible people in the indie games community. Thank you all for making this such a great experience, and thank you so much to everyone who has bought my games. Here’s to many more years of indie development!
Sunday, November 14th, 2010
Several weeks ago I wrote up a post called “I’m Indie, and I’m Proud” about the things I love about being an indie game developer. The post was full of all the positive things I love about indie life. A few people pointed out that I wasn’t representing the whole picture, so I thought I’d write up a companion post about some of the biggest challenges I have encountered being indie. This is not meant to dissuade anyone from becoming indie, but merely to show both sides of the issue. Going indie is still one of the best decisions I’ve made.
Note: This article refers to being “indie” in the sense of running your own business. If you’re working a salaried position at a small indie studio, much of this won’t apply.
1. Lack of Stable Income
Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat, because it’s the biggie. As an indie developer, you will most likely not have a steady income. Your income will fluctuate greatly from day to day. Until you launch that first game, your income will be $0. Even after you launch that first game, your income may very well still be close to $0. You need to be ready for that.
Game Developer Magazine does an annual survey of game developer salaries around the world (but mostly centred in the US). This past year they did the first indie salary survey . The survey found that the average annual income for a solo indie developer (i.e. a dev working by his or herself) is about $11,000 USD. The average increases to about $20,000 if the developer works as part of a team of two or more people. This is why so many indie developers do contract work on the side. Making your own game is a risk, but being paid to develop someone else’s game is less risky.
But there’s an upside: if you’re one of the few lucky ones to release a really killer game that takes off and becomes a hit, the potential to make a lot of money is there. Just don’t rely on it as your plan for sustaining the business.
What does this mean? It’s going to be an adjustment. If you’re used to working a job with a regular salary, working for yourself will take some time to get used to. You’ll start thinking about your time differently, and also start thinking about money differently. Instead of thinking “This DVD is only $20, I’ll take it!” You’ll start thinking “Wow, $20…that’s like selling 29 copies of my game at $0.99…that’s like…three days of sales.”
2. Work/Life Balance
In my other post I talked about the freedom we have as indie developers to work the hours we want to work. However, the flip side of that is that the line between home life and work life can easily become blurred. If you’re working for a larger indie studio you may have office space and this isn’t as much of a problem. But if you’re working from home, it’s easy to “just work one more hour” after dinner, or “just write a few more emails before bed”. Next thing you know it’s 2:00 AM and you’re introducing three bugs every 15 minutes into your rendering system. When your work computer is in your home, it can be difficult to force yourself to stop working, or sometimes to start working.
I’m a guy who likes his routine (boy is that changing now that I have a one-month-old baby). My routine helps me to work during “working hours” and not work when I want to spend time with my family. Even though I work from home, (before the baby) I got up every day at 7:30, showered, ate breakfast, got dressed, and “went to work”. It helps me to delineate the difference between being at home, and being at work. A friend of mine told me about his friend who used to walk around the block and return home to force himself to think about being “at work” differently. Where I still struggle the most is at the end of the day. 5:30 or 6:00 rolls around and I need to start cooking dinner, but it’s easy to “just write a couple more lines of code” and get lost in it.
However, it can be done. You can find a really nice balance between work and life outside of work. It’s just going to take more discipline than if you worked for someone else.
3. Oh So Much Paperwork
All you want to do is make great games, but if you’re reading this, you’re probably pretty serious about it. You’re running a business. Running a business comes with a lot of work that isn’t much fun: filling out international tax treaty forms, doing your monthly bookkeeping (did I say monthly? er…yearly?), filing your taxes, dealing with copyright or trademark infringement, figuring out how to make money, etc, etc. But it all needs to be done. Your brain will want to say to you “hey man, you could be logging your business receipts in your accounting software right now…but wouldn’t you much rather be implementing that new animation system you’ve been dying to try??” Sometimes you need to tell that little voice to shut up and take care of the business.
4. Feeling Like a Failure
Ok, this is starting to get kind of personal…and I really hope I’m not the only one who feels this sometimes. As much as you’ll have days where you absolutely LOVE being indie and making your own games, you will probably have days where it just sucks. You’ll get your daily sales report (if you’re selling on the App Store) and have a day where you made $1.43 the previous day and you’ll start to wonder what you’re doing with your life. You’ll hit a roadblock with your game and wonder if you’ll ever be able to solve it. You’ll get to an alpha build with your game and realize all the fun work is done and now you just have to hunker down and finish the boring parts of making a game. You’ll have a day where all your ideas feel like they’re the worst idea you’ve ever had.
I’m here to tell you: that’s ok. But this is why it’s so important that you LOVE making games. Because not all parts of the process are fun. Some parts suck. Some parts will make you want to quit. But if you really love it, if you can’t think of anything else you’d rather be doing with your life, then you’ll push through the bad days and you’ll get back to loving it again.
But…It’s Worth It
So yes, there are parts of being an indie developer that aren’t all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows (you really should click that link). But you know what? I still love it! Because for all the annoyances and hard days, they all pale in comparison to the fact that I get to make the games I want to make every day!
Sunday, October 31st, 2010
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!
Thursday, July 8th, 2010
I was just talking to someone about when I started Streaming Colour and suddenly realized that today is my two year anniversary since embarking on this indie adventure! It has been an exciting two years with lots of highs and lows, but one thing has remained clear: I have the best job in the world. I love making games, and I love that I’m alive during a time when that is possible to do as “work”.
Thank you to everyone who bought one of my games over the last two years; you’re awesome. And a big thank you to the indie iPhone and indie games community for all the inspiration and support. I’m honoured to be part of this community, and I look forward to being a part of it for years to come.