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  Can independent Java game developers make a buck (or two)?  (Read 30700 times)
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Offline GDX

Senior Newbie





« Posted 2007-10-21 19:12:53 »

My question concerns whether an independent developer creating Java games can make enough income to sustain themselves (and a family) in an age where there are millions of dollars spent on console and computer games, with huge teams of developers, artists, musicians, and others...

I'm starting on a path to write Java games and (hopefully) either sell them on the web or host a site that offers them for free at the expense of users having to deal with advertisements. Pretty standard stuff, I think.

It's been my dream to write games for a long time, and I'm very excited to finally start. However, how realistic is my vision?

For any indy developers out there, please let me/us know your experiences in this department...
Offline cylab

JGO Ninja


Medals: 49



« Reply #1 - Posted 2007-10-22 07:17:51 »

I am actually just doing the same. I discussed with some people from the gaming industry and some of them said, doing independent stuff on the PC is nonsense and one should better target XBox arcade or something similar on other consoles. I also got the advice not to quit my day job, since I can't expect to earn enought (at first) to make a living from games. A common opinion seems to be, that you need more than one game to make a buck.

After pondering the options, I ignored the advice to target consoles to benefit from my java experience. I quit my job and became a J2EE freelancer to feed me and my family and will work on my game starting in january next year when the financial aid from the German Federal Employment Office begins, which one can apply for nine month once when you get self-employed. You should try to find out if something similar is available from your government.

Since I just started this I can't answer your question, if you can make enough income as independent java game developer, but at least you know you are not alone Wink

Mathias - I Know What [you] Did Last Summer!
Offline CommanderKeith
« Reply #2 - Posted 2007-10-22 09:33:04 »


Congratulations cylab, that's very admirable.  It's also very clever how you are being realistic about it with the freelance work and the govt aid.

Games published by our own members! Check 'em out!
Legends of Yore - The Casual Retro Roguelike
Offline princec

JGO Kernel


Medals: 376
Projects: 3
Exp: 16 years


Eh? Who? What? ... Me?


« Reply #3 - Posted 2007-10-22 12:24:21 »

Been doing it part-time since 2003. Income is currently a take-home of about £100 a month. To make a proper living I'd need to shift at least 10x as many units as I do currently. So we're not a great example :/ Maybe if we:

1. Wrote games that looked and played more like everyone else's
2. Sold our customer base in return for money and put our games on portals
3. Got a retail deal or two sorted
4. Had any money to spend on marketing
5. Wrote more games, more quickly

we'll get there.

Cas Smiley

Offline DzzD
« Reply #4 - Posted 2007-10-22 12:43:39 »

Maybe a good target nowadays could be mobile device as mobile phone/PDA ... and others.

Offline cylab

JGO Ninja


Medals: 49



« Reply #5 - Posted 2007-10-22 13:49:03 »

Don't know. Mobile games are IMHO overrated (at least I don't play them Wink). I am currently pondering if STEAM publishing could be an option to reach a broader audience (>10million Shocked), but I haven't looked into details yet. Anyone experience/knowledge in this area?

Mathias - I Know What [you] Did Last Summer!
Offline thijs

Junior Member




Lava games rock!


« Reply #6 - Posted 2007-10-22 15:27:01 »

A way to make money from webgames is advertising + offering them through well established portals (like shockwave, miniclip, addictinggames etc). An example from a Java game that did this was Milpa done by Brackeen, he mentioned sometime ago he earned some more than 10.000$ using that approach. Doing on your own (without a gameportal) is very difficult and will require more than good development skills (its all about marketing).

Also when choosing Java for development and gameportals for distribution you'll have a hard time convincing them... Nowadays most portals are a bit sceptic when it comes down to Java, and prefer flash or even shockwave :/ You'll really have to present something polished.

<a href="http://www.dzzd.net">3DzzD!</a>
<a href="http://www.arcazoid.com">Arcazoid!</a>
Offline noblemaster

JGO Ninja


Medals: 20
Projects: 10


Age of Conquest makes your day!


« Reply #7 - Posted 2007-10-22 19:13:23 »

Ditto princec, I make around $100-200 per month from membership fees, but $150 go back out to pay for server costs. The rest is used towards self-sponsored tournaments. It's all about the numbers... more players would mean more money...

Offline brackeen

Junior Member





« Reply #8 - Posted 2007-10-22 19:59:54 »

Quote
An example from a Java game that did this was Milpa done by Brackeen, he mentioned sometime ago he earned some more than 10.000$ using that approach.

$10,000? I wish!

It's been pretty steady income, but it's nothing to live off of, and the total (since April 2007) is less than half of that amount.

My contract work pays the bills.
Offline princec

JGO Kernel


Medals: 376
Projects: 3
Exp: 16 years


Eh? Who? What? ... Me?


« Reply #9 - Posted 2007-10-22 20:06:53 »

Since Puppygames started in 2003, we've made a total of something like $30,000 (and spent about $5,000 on hosting, tools, advertising, press releases, and other nicknacks). So Chaz and I have had to share about $25,000 between us over 4 years, less than we'd make sitting on the social. But then, we've been doing it part-time really - only 1 game a year, with 2 total failures amongst them. That's another thing to factor in. A good game in your own humble opinion doesn't necessarily sell.

Since we went fulltime this summer we've made a ton of progress on Treasure Tomb but now I'm so broke I'm having to return to work to get a bit of cash, so it'll be delayed until Easter now. Bah. So critical mass is always going to be a carrot dangling just out of reach.

Cas Smiley

Games published by our own members! Check 'em out!
Legends of Yore - The Casual Retro Roguelike
Offline brackeen

Junior Member





« Reply #10 - Posted 2007-10-22 20:09:54 »

princec - are any Puppygames on big distribution sites like RealArcade? Why or why not?
Offline thijs

Junior Member




Lava games rock!


« Reply #11 - Posted 2007-10-22 21:29:21 »

$10,000? I wish!

It's been pretty steady income, but it's nothing to live off of, and the total (since April 2007) is less than half of that amount.

My contract work pays the bills.

Ah my bad  Lips Sealed
I was sure remembering this, so I looked it up and it turns out you mentioned it turned in a revenue with 4 digits, my volatile memory turned this into 10K Smiley
http://www.java-gaming.org/forums/index.php?topic=12361.msg132264#msg132264

So it seems there are no "true" success stories with a Java webgame yet (at least that I know off)

As a side note, I launched my own gameportal some years ago and had skillgames be an alternate source of income besides ads. But it turned out ads where way more profitable. If I'd give it another serious go I'd probably license my games to some big portals instead, maintaining my own gameportal (marketing, contracts, deals etc) and developing my own games at the same time proved too difficult, it involved too many tasks and patience.

EDIT:

To correct myself:
Quote
So it seems there are no "true" success stories with a Java webgame yet (at least that I know off)

That is if you leave out Runescape, Pirates! and Bang Howdy  and Tribal Trouble Cheesy

<a href="http://www.dzzd.net">3DzzD!</a>
<a href="http://www.arcazoid.com">Arcazoid!</a>
Offline princec

JGO Kernel


Medals: 376
Projects: 3
Exp: 16 years


Eh? Who? What? ... Me?


« Reply #12 - Posted 2007-10-22 22:17:54 »

princec - are any Puppygames on big distribution sites like RealArcade? Why or why not?

No - we tried Arcadetown as a taster but the experiment failed for four reasons:

1. We had to produce special builds just for Arcadetown which was irritating as they wanted them to work slightly differently to our own versions. And Arcadetown are absolutely the least hassle and friendliest portal to work with there is.

2. At the end of the day we realised that we weren't growing our customer base, just making a little bit of cash. An internet business survives on its ability to remarket new products to existing customers; anyone writing games for portals will eventually come to realise this and be out of business and back to database work soon enough. Having said that our route is very slow...

3. And a little bit of cash is all we made - literally under $100, despite spending several days working on making Titan Attacks builds for them. Sales were pitiful. And inexplicably so, as they sell just fine from our own site. The whole point of portals was for them to do the marketing and advertising, and it just didn't work out that way. If you're not in the top ten, you're nothing.

4. We don't really write portal-friendly games. We do shooters for a start, which are the least popular genre.

I'm sure there are other reasons too but it all added up to one big Don't Bother for us.

Cas Smiley

Offline JonathanC

Senior Newbie





« Reply #13 - Posted 2007-10-23 00:20:52 »

Not specific to Java, but does mention a few Java games in there.

http://www.gameproducer.net/2007/07/25/how-much-money-can-you-make-selling-video-games-online/

- Jon
Offline Markus_Persson

JGO Wizard


Medals: 15
Projects: 19


Mojang Specifications


« Reply #14 - Posted 2007-10-26 12:35:44 »

Mojang currently has one person working full time just on money made from Wurm players. We're EXTREMELY independent.

We're not filthy rich (yet), but there's money coming in!

Play Minecraft!
Offline c_lilian

Senior Member


Projects: 1


Java games will probably rock someday...


« Reply #15 - Posted 2007-10-26 16:35:45 »

Well I've made a few bucks (more than $5000 actually) with Jack Flowers, from a gametrust contest last year but the game hasn't been released yet (GT having been bought by a larger company).

Definitely not enough to live but a nice income nonetheless...

Lilian Smiley

Offline mmcp

Junior Newbie





« Reply #16 - Posted 2008-07-07 16:01:24 »

Runescape must make a small fortune.  Wink
Offline erikd

JGO Ninja


Medals: 16
Projects: 4
Exp: 14 years


Maximumisness


« Reply #17 - Posted 2008-07-07 16:25:12 »

Gagaplay.com made about $8000 from advertisements since august 2005, so nowhere near enough to make a living. Admittedly, it hosts only 2 of my own games that are both not finished, salesworthy products (even though one of them, Hyper Blazer, is actually still quite popular).

Offline Markus_Persson

JGO Wizard


Medals: 15
Projects: 19


Mojang Specifications


« Reply #18 - Posted 2008-07-08 07:05:28 »

Wurm Online has about 1100 paying customers, each paying €5/month. After various taxes and expenses, this is enough to sustain one full time developer.

I'm very happy for him, he's doing a great job =)

Play Minecraft!
Offline blahblahblahh

JGO Coder


Medals: 1


http://t-machine.org


« Reply #19 - Posted 2008-07-08 13:51:36 »

No - we tried Arcadetown as a taster but the experiment failed for four reasons:

1. We had to produce special builds just for Arcadetown which was irritating as they wanted them to work slightly differently to our own versions. And Arcadetown are absolutely the least hassle and friendliest portal to work with there is.
...
4. We don't really write portal-friendly games. We do shooters for a start, which are the least popular genre.

Sorry to be blunt, but: if you're not bothering with portals, then you're shooting yourself in the head when it comes to making money. People who make reasonable money from indie casual games tend to aim to get their games on a minimum of 10-20 portals initially, more if the game does well.

I know it can be easier to get Flash onto some portals, but even with flash you routinely have to hack in/out features to satisfy each individual portal. Most people suck that down, whilst sticking another pin in the "I-hate-portals" voodoo doll on their desk.

malloc will be first against the wall when the revolution comes...
Offline princec

JGO Kernel


Medals: 376
Projects: 3
Exp: 16 years


Eh? Who? What? ... Me?


« Reply #20 - Posted 2008-07-08 18:08:52 »

Much discussion on the merits of portals occurs over on the Indiegamer forums... basically we fall into two camps:

1) Those of us who want to write our own games, build our own self-sustainable business, and therefore remain independent in every sense of the word;

2) and those of us who want to earn a crust by essentially working for The Man but under considerably worse (and worsening) conditions.

The portal "market" is soon to close for indies anyway. Glad we've worked on 1) all this time. That being the point of 1).

And Markus - bloody well done you!! That's just excellent. And not coincidentally the model that most indies are thinking of pursuing now. It limits the kinds of games you can write (arcade games are sadly not much longer on the Puppygames menu) but at least you get to remain steadfastly independent and financially viable.

Cas Smiley

Offline Orangy Tang

JGO Kernel


Medals: 56
Projects: 11


Monkey for a head


« Reply #21 - Posted 2008-07-08 22:48:12 »

Yeah, I can never understand most of the attitude around the indiegamer forums - most people seem to have ditched "proper" programming jobs at either a major company or an established game dev studio because they don't want to work for "the man" and want more independance and control. Yet then they go on and throw that all away by working on generic match-3/bejeweled/flavour-of-the-month clones in a vain attempt to chase whatever the portals want. The constant drive to pay their morgage means that actual innovation is much lower than the actual games industry (despite the constant claims that's it's where all the innovation is because they're "independant").

I keep looking at going solo but everytime I do I realise I'm much better off at a regular game studio (where my employer takes the risks) and doing side projects at home (where I'm free to do whatever I want, without constantly thinking if it's "financially viable" and other such bullshit).

[ TriangularPixels.com - Play Growth Spurt, Rescue Squad and Snowman Village ] [ Rebirth - game resource library ]
Offline Eli Delventhal

JGO Kernel


Medals: 42
Projects: 11
Exp: 10 years


Game Engineer


« Reply #22 - Posted 2008-07-09 00:12:30 »

I'm personally very excited for Greenhouse Games by Penny Arcade.

http://www.playgreenhouse.com/

Basically because I think the PA guys are passionate about the fact that games that are good are games that should be successful. Therefore if your game is good, they'll link to it. And if they link to it, you'll get thousands of hits.

And speaking of Puzzle Pirates and Bang Howdy, I just applied for that company and got denied. Makes me think I should just try things on my own.

See my work:
OTC Software
Offline SunshineKiller

Junior Member





« Reply #23 - Posted 2008-08-24 18:39:55 »

I want to add to this post. I really believe you can do it. The gaming market is incredibly big and is getting bigger everyday. Java gets better every release. I am one of those that believe java will take over C++ as the language of choice and game language of choice hehe. As a way of getting it out to the public, right now for java its fairly hard.

1 - Xbox arcade - this is a great way but unfortunately its not java, you have to program i believe in C#. But if your good in java i dont see why this would be hard to pick up.

2 - Steam (Valves Gaming Client) - I have been researching how a game can get on their service to sell. It seems like they are very picky and they do have every right to be since im sure they get alot of crappy games, plus its their service and they want to keep it as good as they can. They also I believe prefer the programmer to use this, https://partner.steamgames.com/documentation/running_on_steam I am not sure though.

3 - Java game portals seems to be a good place but not to make that living.

4 - A kick butt game that gets people addicted but has a in game store to enhance gameplay such as new levels, weapons, basically a subscription or a buy as u play seems to be the best bet besides java game portals.

5 - You could also pick up a ps3 game dev kit for i think less then 500 bucks and learn how to make a psn game. There are millions of gamers that buy the 5 dollar psn game just to have it and same with xbox.

6 - We could join together on javagaming and make our own steam type client that are for indie game makers? that loads the demos and offers the players to buy.

Other then that I hope this somewhat helps or gives an idea, i really do believe though any one with a polished game can make it, its just hard work getting it out there to the public and getting the gamers to talk about it to their friends to buy it also. Its just like publishing a book, no one is going to read your book unless a friend mentions how rad it is, and thats why harry potter became so popular for no reason.

<b>Check out my Development Blog:</b> <a href="http://www.scottscreations.com">Scotts Creations</a> | <b>Games in Development: </b> <a href="http://mechwarfare.scottscreations.com">Mech Warfare</a> | Mech Warfare: Facebook Edition | Game Master
Offline Eli Delventhal

JGO Kernel


Medals: 42
Projects: 11
Exp: 10 years


Game Engineer


« Reply #24 - Posted 2008-08-24 22:31:37 »

I don't know if Java will ever become the language of choice. I suspect that C#'s already very large momentum will take it to the #1 position. This is fine for Java developers, though, because the languages are almost identical.

See my work:
OTC Software
Offline kevglass

JGO Kernel


Medals: 163
Projects: 23
Exp: 18 years


Coder, Trainee Pixel Artist, Game Reviewer


« Reply #25 - Posted 2008-08-25 07:31:06 »

Maybe it doesn't apply to games, but in general C# is losing ground usage wise:

http://www.tiobe.com/index.php/content/paperinfo/tpci/index.html

Thought games wise XNA makes a bit of an impact. Still not seeing much about C# in gamedevelop mag or others. Most still seem to be sticking to C++.

In my opinion, it's possible to make a "buck or two" being an indie developer with Java. However, it's not going to make you money comparable to a corporate whoring job (see me) unless the business grow much larger at which point you're likely to have to sell your soul at least partially.

The main thing to accept if you want to go indie is how much more work it will be than a regular job. Admittedly, work in this case, that is doing something you love.

Kev

Offline Eli Delventhal

JGO Kernel


Medals: 42
Projects: 11
Exp: 10 years


Game Engineer


« Reply #26 - Posted 2008-08-25 07:52:09 »

Well that list also says that Pascal and Lisp are ahead of Lua, which seems insane to me.

See my work:
OTC Software
Offline kevglass

JGO Kernel


Medals: 163
Projects: 23
Exp: 18 years


Coder, Trainee Pixel Artist, Game Reviewer


« Reply #27 - Posted 2008-08-25 07:56:53 »

You can read on the page how the statistics are generated. Seems more valid that my own gut feeling.

Kev

Offline appel

JGO Wizard


Medals: 50
Projects: 4


I always win!


« Reply #28 - Posted 2009-01-14 01:47:33 »

Since Puppygames started in 2003, we've made a total of something like $30,000 (and spent about $5,000 on hosting, tools, advertising, press releases, and other nicknacks). So Chaz and I have had to share about $25,000 between us over 4 years, less than we'd make sitting on the social. But then, we've been doing it part-time really - only 1 game a year, with 2 total failures amongst them. That's another thing to factor in. A good game in your own humble opinion doesn't necessarily sell.

Since we went fulltime this summer we've made a ton of progress on Treasure Tomb but now I'm so broke I'm having to return to work to get a bit of cash, so it'll be delayed until Easter now. Bah. So critical mass is always going to be a carrot dangling just out of reach.

Cas Smiley

prince, it would be interesting to know how the financial crisis in the world has affected sales of indy games, in late 2008.

Check out the 4K competition @ www.java4k.com
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Offline OverKill

Junior Member




Java games rock!


« Reply #29 - Posted 2009-01-14 08:02:09 »

Maybe a good target nowadays could be mobile device as mobile phone/PDA ... and others.
One word of advice from a 5 year pro: Don't!

While making a game for a handful of devices might be plausible for one person, if you really want to see revenue, you will have to produce at levels you cannot possibly cope alone.

Mobile game comps survive because they already have the infrastructure and the contacts to portals to get their games sold.
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