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The costs of development - an experiment in carefully controlled development

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by fivearchers, Apr 2, 2015.

  1. fivearchers

    fivearchers

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    Hey all, just thought I'd share my development project, Zombie Market Trip. It's a decent little demo so far, but perhaps more important is that i've carefully tracked where all the time went and have shared the spreadsheet here. I also posted a dev blog today.

    To build the demo, it took 34 hours. To make $20 an hour I need to recover around $800 (there were a few other costs). I'd have to sell 170 or so units @$4.99 to reach this goal - which is a bit high, and the game isn't done yet. I expect it to go to at least 50 or 60 hours of dev. But the important takeaway here is that I have these numbers, I know where i stand.

    This is the second game i've tried this for, the first being the very quick Trader's Road; I know I was around $700 in and it wasn't generating interest, so I shelved it. It's a tough call when you need to just put in more work, and when you need to look else where. But IMO tracking info at this detail is quite helpful in making this decision!

    Other benefits:
    - built in dev notes
    - handy spot to keep on top of TODO list
    - FOCUS - I found if I was getting stuck on something stupid, you know how it goes "is this pixel better in red or yellow" - but since I was tracking my hours, I'd snap out of this much more quickly. "Oh crap it's been half an hour, time to move on higher priority items"
    - budgeting for future projects, personal, or even for bidding on contract work
     
  2. TonyLi

    TonyLi

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    Thanks for sharing this. I hope you'll post updates as you progress!
     
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  3. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    I think your hourly rate is too low. For as risky endeavour as indie game development the reward has to be much greater for the business case to make sense.

    Its one thing to take 20 dollars an hour when paid by a business that takes on all of the risk. But when you are taking on the risk yourself I would double or triple this.
     
  4. fivearchers

    fivearchers

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    Yup I agree with that, $20 is more of a starter, like to at least assign some value to the time developed. $60 would be a much nicer figure, but this is a smaller goal as I haven't had much luck making any return yet.
     
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  5. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    Marketing time would be interesting as well. From experience I can tell you an unmarketed game is likely to gross in terms of cents rather then dollars.
     
  6. fivearchers

    fivearchers

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    Yup there's going to be a whole lot of hours on Marketing :/
     
  7. I am da bawss

    I am da bawss

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    Thanks for sharing! :)
    I think your pricing model is a bit off - its too high at $4.99 - when there is a sea of $0.99 or even free-to-play. In this post App Store world where F2P (Free-to-Play) is now the norm, $4.99 just seems unrealistically high.

    What you need to aim for is lower pricing ($0.99) but more sales. Either that or F2P with IAP (In-App-Purchase) and iAd.
     
    jtsmith1287 likes this.
  8. fivearchers

    fivearchers

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    $4.99 (on sale for less) would be for the PC version. Any mobile version will definitely be F2P - probably using Unity ads! Possibly with a few IAP if there's anything compelling enough to sell!
     
  9. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    What's the basis for selling a game built in 34 hours for $4.99? It's probably presumptuous to assume any downloads at all, even if it were free. In lieu of tracking hours to determine the return on investment, you may enjoy this article.

    Good luck,
    Gigi
     
  10. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    Excellent article and couldn't agree more. There was a time when Indie / Hobbyist devs released their first games for free in the Public Domain. It became a sort of "proving grounds" and let developers get their games out to the world with no expectation of any monetary reward only feedback. Occasionally one would get a great review in the mags of the day. As the devs learned how to make a GOOD game and improved their development skills some ventured into shareware and started making money. But not from their very first games. These days it seems like everyone wants to make their very first game load it with ads or charge for it up front and make money. And then people wonder why people like me say most people seem to be coming into this just for the money.
     
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  11. JamesLeeNZ

    JamesLeeNZ

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    There was a thread on Reddit a while back about how much you spent on game dev... here was my summary..

    Here's a rundown of my last several years of hardware/software/asset expenditure (note: not all of it is technically for game dev, but ill list it anyhoo). Mostly in NZ dollars.

    Unity Pro 3: 1500 (2000~ NZD)

    Unity Pro 4: 750 (1000~ NZD)

    3D Models: 2000~ (USD)

    PC: 2500

    MacPro: 4500

    Webdomain/hosting: $200

    S4: $800

    Cheap Android: $100

    Cheap Windows Phone: $200

    Handful of Unity Assets: $250

    iOS Developers/Android: $225

    Approx: $13,750~ for that lot

    Also brought a handful of iDevices over the years (iphone3, iphone4, iphone5, iPad mini, iPad1,2,3). Some have been upgrades for me, some for the wife. That's another 3-5K ez.

    Then if we really wanna get into it... Time. Hard one to judge time, but I guess Ive spent on average 10-15 hrs/week over the last 3/4 years.

    If I was to bill my time at a contracting rate of say $60, that's another $120,000 (10/hrs * 50 weeks * 4 years * rate)

    I know there are 52 weeks in a year, but I figure ill trim it a bit to be more realistic.
     
  12. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    I'm beginning to come around. My first game suffered from too much emphasis on monetisation and not enough emphasis on distribution. Since I made less then a dollar off of it I would not have lost anything to remove the monetisation altogether and just distribute it free to a good home. After reading the article I think that is exactly what I will do.

    The reason for this culture change is simple. We are constantly spammed with advertisements on how to make money through monetisation. There are constant reminders that flappy birds make 50 k a day with ads. That clash of clans brings in millions through microtransactions. The logic behind this spamming is also simple, the providers of these monetisation services make money from every transaction, and it costs them almost nothing to add an additional user to the system. 100,000 developers making .50 cents each in advertising revenue ads up. Sure none of the developers win. But the advertising network wins big.
     
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  13. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    That makes a lot of sense and I definitely agree with you. But still at the heart of it all is the goal to make money not necessarily to make a game for the experience or "just for fun" because the person has a strong passion and interest in gaming. I get what you are saying though. The focus on money more than learning and building a great game is because of all of the focus on how much money a few games are pulling in. I agree with that and have said the same before. It seems like every time some dev makes some big money headlines appear around the web ranting and raving about it. "Kim Kardashian game makes $700k per day!", "Flappy Bird Earning $50k per day!", "Minecraft makes $250k per day!" and so forth. In the grand scheme of things it is a very tiny percentage of games making this kind of money but it seems to be what most people are focused on. It'd be cool to see a headline "1/2 Million Indie Devs Making Less than $1 Per Month!" But of course they wouldn't want to cover that side. ;)
     
  14. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    That article does a great job of articulating advice I've tried (less effectively) to give in the past. The most important thing for a new developer is to learn their craft. How to make money from a game doesn't matter until you're making good games, and that takes loads of practice.
     
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  15. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    An interesting note on pricing. Old school business models ran this way, producing a product costs me x, therefore I must sell y units at cost z to make a profit.

    Modern business thought often runs the other way. I can sell x units at price y. Therefore I must produce the product at cost z to make a profit.

    It's a small difference in phrasing, but has lead to some major shifts in business thinking.
     
  16. fivearchers

    fivearchers

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    Just passed $1000 cost (44 hrs), about halfway there for primary dev, then double that in marketing - it is showing well so far, but it's going to be tough to make it back. But fortunately my contract work is picking up again :)
     
  17. fivearchers

    fivearchers

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    Read thru the article - I guess if you're just starting out, or it's a pure hobby you can just ignore monetization - but eventually one does have to be paid. I can see the point though, interesting.
     
  18. ensiferum888

    ensiferum888

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    In June it will be 2 years that I've started this project. (about 120 days of work) I've never even once thought about making money. Of course seeing the interest in this genre the thought has crossed my mind. So far 2 established game makers/publishers have offered to partner up with me and one wanted to straight up buy my project. So of course I'd love for the game to become popular and make money, but that is not what I think about.

    Even in it's current state I can easily sit down and play my own game for 2 hours straight. I'm having so much fun learning as I go and if I have what it takes to finish it I think it will be a great game to make myself known. I have tons of other ideas I want to make.

    I think the article Gigiwoo linked definitely applies more to the mobile game designer than desktop world. But OP making a demo in 34 hours that's damn impressive :)
     
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  19. fivearchers

    fivearchers

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    Heh up to 57 Hours/$1200 now and it'll be at least 100 hours - but the game is really coming together - I replaced the map menu with a world map, that will be full of unlockables and secrets. I think i'm finally at the point of just adding content (which i said a week or so ago heh).