Okay, just a quick intro for this post – it’s for an assignment for Uni.
Basically we’ve been given topics to give a presentation on, and for the final part, we are to pick a topic which we didn’t speak on and write it up as some form of medium (I’ve opted for blog, obviously).
On a side note, I’ve been meaning to finish my website design whilst at Uni (it’s been three years now), and I have a nice little design in mind in order to manage my images :-/
Anyway, just to make it all official, here is the topic brief:
How can indie game developers make money from their customers?
You are about to launch an indie game. Pick a game style and audience. Present a strategy for how your game will make money. Give some examples of how other indie developers have best persuaded their customers to support them, and the technical options to collect money
So I’m going to switch it up a bit, and basically write up the different methods in how to make money by being publishing games (not designing, or developing; actually publishing them)… and also how to collect money (it’s rather straight forward really that part).
via: Geek Champ
To begin with, I’m going to quickly highlight the three main methods of making money through game publishing, through two ‘forms’ of game.
When publishing a game, you can publish it as a Paid game, or as a Free game; you can earn money by people buying your game, buying things inside your game, and through advertising.
Okay, with paid games, it is pretty straight forward – you publish your game, and people pay you in order to download and play your game (remember, it is Indie games, so they are designed to be downloadable).
But how do you get people to buy your game? You can display reviews and examples of gameplay, and generally just market your game as best as you can, but why would someone pay for a game they may not even like? With Indie Games, there are no refunds and it’s probably not so straight forward to sell them on (if at all possible).
So publishing paid games isn’t the best way forward, right?
Well, no – I’m pretty sure it’s the highest earning ways to make money with publishing games, but it doesn’t really mean it is the best.
For instance, when Final Fantasy came out for Windows Phone, I immediately bought it (told a lie, I actually downloaded the Trial first), but I didn’t think twice about buying it (then again, I did – it was like £5, and I wasn’t too sure if it would go down in price). Anyway, completely side-tracked.
Final Fantasy came out for WP, and I jumped at the chance to download it and play it – this is because it is a game that I’ve played in the past, and one of my favourite games series (if not the favourite). Now, I am sure Square Enix knew that people would buy the game to play the full version without really considering the price, although they wouldn’t want to make it too ridiculous. They knew that there was a massive fan-base out there, and considering that WP was the last platform not to have a FF port, people would be even more eager to get the game.
But Square Enix is not Indie
No, they’re not, but it doesn’t stop Indie Developers from doing the same – making a spectacular game, creating a massive (or decent) fan base, and then releasing sequels or re-releases (such as the Anniversary Edition of Final Fantasy). Though that requires a lot of time and energy – what about making money now, what about making the first set of games?
Free games are essentially your best option for starting out as an Indie Developer – people always play free games; I even download them and never get round to playing them, but I do still have them, in case I am caught with a few free hours (yea, I’m a serious gamer).
As previously mentioned, I played Final Fantasy as a Trial, then paid for it to unlock the full game – you can do this as Indie, but there are many options to consider with it. With Final Fantasy, you only could play up to the bridge north of Cornelia; so you save Princess Sarah from Garland and then the bridge is repaired for you so you can cross. You approach it, a cut scene is played just an image with some vertical scrolling text), and then the trial ends. In order to continue with the story, you need to buy the full game.
However, rather than have games which stop you from progressing in the story with a trial, there are games which have level-caps or restricted access. Two examples of this is Galactic Reign and Robotek.
In Galactic Reign, you play against other players in galactic conquest
There isn’t much to the game (I suggest playing it for yourself), but you can purchase the full game which gives you access to the other two races in the game and the Battle Academy lessons with it. This essentially unlocks the full game to you, but your gameplay prior is only restricted to one race (and you can spend plenty of hours playing the game with just one race – I know I did).
Robotek is different
With Robotek, you have full access to the game, par one level. With Robotek, you take on AI enemies in the different levels; no multiplayer, no customisation, no unlocking special features. What you can do however, is buy boost packs which give you extra energy to play for longer, and when you make a purchase in game, you also unlock an extra level, which allows you to earn more energy by battling the AI, without spending any in the process; this is a one-time purchase, and stays unlocked forever (and for £0.79, it’s not bad).
Okay, oddly, I don’t seem to have downloaded any games on to my phone which have banner advertising in them (which is so annoying), but another method of making money from your published Indie game is through advertising banners within your game.
Like I’ve just said, they are extremely annoying (I’m sure I’ve played one recently), as they banner covers up the game’s screen, meaning you cannot fully see all of the gameplay.
Basically, in-game advertising is very similar to website advertising. You make an impression on people when an ad is displayed, and you earn commission when the link is clicked and followed through; you can have advertising in the traditional sense (“Hey, look at this thing which I’ve made”) for your other games, etc., but you wouldn’t be making any money from that.
However, you don’t have to use the dreaded banner ads in order to benefit from advertising
A few years ago, I played a game called MechQuest (or one of the games from Artix Entertainment; man, I love those games… played them all, apart from WarpForce; AE is what spurred on my passion into Games Design), and in that game you could go to the cinema and watch a video. By watching this sponsored video, you earned some in-game bonuses (usually credits). Now this is a quick and cheap way to earn some money from in-game advertising, as you will get players to go and activate your advert (in a sense), and in return, give them something to be used in game (after all, it doesn’t have any real monetary value… or does it?); you’ll be earning real money, and thanking your players with game money!
It’s all about Virtual Economy!
Now I don’t have much knowledge about how to actually get paid when publishing games, but I do know that the Windows Phone Dev Center do have a section on being paid in games (if you want to publish to Windows Phone, you have to go through the Dev Center – luckily, you can get a year’s free license if you’re a student). So, that I think it is pretty straight forward – it probably has some options for in-game sales rather than just buying the game full-out, and there will be more information on the internet somewhere (every time I looked, it kept showing me results for actual sports!).
Another thing I have noticed when I’ve made the purchases, I’ve always been able to pick how I want to pay – either through PayPal (my personal favourite), through my Network (added to my bill), or indeed via Debit/Credit Card.
I don’t know what affect this has, but by going through PayPal (I assume that PayPal also sends the money to the publisher), you get a neat little invoice, and also one for refunds (which I have been before – just happened randomly; not complaining). It’s a good way to keep track of how many purchases are made and for when.
With my brief experience with online advertising (I don’t like it TBH), my advertising partner, for a lack of a better term, paid me from the adverts which earned, and put that into an account for me to transfer over whenever I wanted to, or could (some may hold limits). Again, I draw on my experience with PayPal for this – you have a virtual account with PayPal to withdraw/deposit funds, which is separate from your actual bank account (though PayPal is linked to your bank account).
Well, there are several ways you can earn money with games, and it doesn’t have to be just one way. You can mix and match, and do anything you want really – the important thing is that you make a game that people will enjoy playing… and get it out there!
I’ve included a flowchart which helped me understand this topic a bit better, and hopefully you to.
If it was me, in an ideal world, I’d have a mixture of all aspects.
I’d make a free game, if it was a MMORPG, or something like that (a single player, offline game would need to be paid for – like with console games). The player can do what they want, as they want. If they want to use real money to get perks and bonuses, they can. I’d also have the sponsored advertising as well – just because it will help profits and players are more likely to do something if they are rewarded for it.
As for payments, I’d leave that up to the Dev Center and PayPal.
Okay, so I’ve got to relate this somehow with the group project we are doing.
Rather easy, TBH, it doesn’t.
Our game is designed for the PC, which doesn’t have the banner ads. Nor does it have sponsored ads – I guess it could have some advertising on the start screen, but considering it is a horror game, the idea is to immerse the player in a scary atmosphere – advertisements would detract from that – although there could be subtle ads within the game, like a TV playing an advert by itself on a loop, flickering between them, and maybe finding an old torn up newspaper ad for something (could be linked to outside the game) – I guess it would just have to fit with the stylisation (so no bright bold flashing images for Demens then).
And in-game purchases wouldn’t really work, as there are no perks to really buy – clues could be bought, and answers to riddles, but that wouldn’t be too profitable as once the answer is known, it can be found out rather easily on the internet (plus, you could just figure it out by yourself).
Alternatively, we have been producing a merchandise store, which consists of items branded with the game (things like mouse mats and travel mugs). Again, these things could be added into the game itself by accessing a computer in the game and filling out a form (which would be completed in real life – eStore-ception), or indeed have it for in-game perks like clothing, etc. We could have a real merchandise store, or a virtual one – one for physical things for the player, one for virtual things for the character.
But overall, this game would benefit the most from Trial-Full; people will be able to play the game, and if they like it and want to continue on, buy the full version.