Surviving the Indieapocalypse

As you might have guessed, I’m writing Lakadema romance in these days

A practical guide on how to – TRY – to survive the Indieapocalypse!

Jokes apart, I thought to write a post about what’s happening in the indie world, it will be mostly focused on business so if you’re here to read news about my games, I’m sorry, probably this post won’t be much interesting!

But I can tell you that Planet Stronghold 2 will feature 4 different endings and many great plot twists so you should definitely be looking out for it, coming out soon!

Also before I get to the topic of this blog, a short reminder that there’s an Halloween sale on itch.io and my games are in it:

The older games are discounted more:
https://itch.io/s/21765/halloween-sale-2019
while the more recent games less:
https://itch.io/s/21766/halloween-sale-2019

If you’re following any indie you’d probably have heard of the latest Steam algorithm change, which lowered even more the revenues of small/medium indies. Of course, there will always be that 1% of top indies that won’t have any problem (or maybe for them the sales are even increased!) but here I’m talking about the other 99%.

First of all let’s do a simple math: let’s say in one day I sell $100 gross on Steam. Their cut is 30% but after expenses,taxes,etc. So the real net amount is more close to the 65%. OK, so we have $65 left, pretty good. Now, unless you evade taxes or live in a tax heaven country, you need to take into account that. Let’s say that is another 30% (but in most modern countries will be more like 40-50%!) and you’re left with about $40 (this is best-case scenario!). Last but not least, there’s currency conversions. Right now from USD to EUR I “lose” only another 10%, but there have been times where I was losing another 30-40% on top of that (crazy, I know).

So depending on external factors, outside my control (exchange rate, govern taxes) from $100 gross I could end up with an amount between 20-35 eur net. Even if was 35 eur x 30 days of a month, would be barely minimum wage here!! It’s not easy to make a living out of this, especially considering that nowadays making $100 gross / day on Steam is … an achievement.

The biggest impact for sure is the 30% Steam cut, which nowadays is barely justified. I think the biggest mistake was Steam direct, but this would require a separate, long discussion. Anyway, what can you do as indie? Nothing, really. If you want to make indie games, you need to use Steam. There are though a couple of extra things you can do.

  1. Sell direct. Yeah I know that “nobody sells direct anymore”. But I do. And I know a few other indies that do. Often people underestimate how much fans can go to support their favorite creators. Since I use itchio, I set a custom percentage (in my case what I was paying before, so 8% of the amount). As you can imagine, from 30% of Steam cut to 8%, on each copy sold on itchio I get MUCH more money. In the end, Steam total amount is always going to be way higher, but if I can get a few sales at fullprice why shouldn’t I?
  2. Use crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter. Since they take 5% only, as you can imagine getting $10,000-20,000 there instead of Steam means already gaining several thousands dollar more. It’s not easy to run a KS (I have never done it) but if you’re successful, it’s definitely worth doing. I know currently there are some issues with KS itself but I won’t go into those details, you can take as example any other crowdfunding site.
  3. Use patronage systems like Patreon. In this case, to be successful, you need to provide unique stuff, keep it updated, and so on. You can also do something like funding the development of a complete game through it, providing updates for patrons. It’s very popular, especially with adult games. Of course, you must not make the mistake to look at the top sellers and think you can make that amount! But even in this case, the lower fee makes it an attractive option and even only a few bucks each month help.
  4. Last but not least, cross-platform development. Just be sure to check the super-restrictive rules of other platforms like Google Play (lol you know what happened to me) but diversifying risks is a good idea in general, even if recently seems to be less worth it than was in the past.

Just remember one thing: all those systems require extra efforts. Especially if you’re just starting out. It’s not like because I make some sales on itchio, everyone else will make same amount too. I’ve in business since 15 years… you can’t expect to have same number of followers in a year or less (unless you make a hit of course, but that’s hard).

So all those things require time investment. But if you do them, you’re somewhat less dependant on just one platform (Steam) and hopefully reduce the risks of an algorithm making you go out of business!

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8 Responses to Surviving the Indieapocalypse

  1. Jonah says:

    Steam’s business is slowly getting more and more threatened by the competition (microsoft store, epic, gog, itch, discord, stadia, even chromeOS with the possibility to run android apps) and despite the threat, they insist in practices that may push developers and games away from their store, it’s hard to believe.

    Well, people always bashed me for criticizing steam but I think it’s about time for steam to fall.

    • admin says:

      Which practices? So far the only real problem is the algorithm and flood of bad games (so lack of exposure).

      • Jonah says:

        They have been doing things like preventing new indie games from having trading cards at launch, attempting to ban erotic games (they backed off but still, something worrisome), making it harder to change the release date and maintaining their high cuts in the face of increasing competition.

        Different developers may be affected in different ways, some may even be benefited, but steam has been acting like they’re untouchable.

        • admin says:

          Ah yes all direct consequences of allowing everyone in (so including cheaters).
          For the erotic games though, I think Steam is the safest place right now for that. Not like mobile platforms… 🙁

  2. Jaeger says:

    Crowdfunding isn’t what it use to be. Disappointing results in past have made people more wary about crowdfunding. To make matters worse, there are no real safeguards (from Kickstarter and Indiegogo at least) in the event the project creator doesn’t do what is promised.

    For those that do manage to secure funds, the creators need to communicate to their backers regularly. Bad news more likely to be forgiven than long periods of silence.

    • admin says:

      Yes I think I read somewhere that 1 out of 3 game KS actually gets finished! (I might be wrong though, but I remember when I saw the number I was very surprised).

      • Jaeger says:

        Yeah, most games miss their estimated completion date by a wide margin. The Banner Saga was about 2 years late, if I recall correctly.

        Even for the games that do get released, Steam is a first priority platform (if not exclusive) from many Kickstarter devs. As someone that avoids Steam, I felt screwed when no alternatives are offered. Nowadays, it’s safer to wait for releases outside of Steam.

        • admin says:

          I see. Well I’d be lying if I said that Steam isn’t my priority too, but I am grateful for having the possibility to use itch.io and I would always want to try offering a DRM-Free solution if possible 🙂

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