Hey! Love your games on the xbox
First, about how much money does it take to make one of your Indie titles? I've read around in this forums and apparently the answer is "about six months", but I'm more interested in how many people, contractors, manhours, etc that takes, and how many dollars have been spent by the time it's all said and done.
It depends on the game. We spent a lot more on Band of Bugs and AKFK than we spent on Outpost Kaloki, for instance. I've heard numbers from other Live Arcade developers and publishers - anything from $100K to $2million. We're somewhere in the low-to-middle part of that range, depending on the project.
Second, about how long does it take to make a profit on these games, and once you do, about how much do you guys make? Not nearly enough, obviously, but have you guys noticed any correlation between bigger budgets and bigger earnings?
No specific correlation between budget and earnings, as Band of Bugs was pretty expensive for us to make and has not gotten a lot of attention.
Again it depends on the game, and each developer's contract with Microsoft is unique (and under NDA) and has all kinds of factors that affect when the developer gets money back, but let's make up some numbers. If a developer spends $1million on a game and gets about 2/3 of the money from sales of game (again, these are not our deal terms with Microsoft, I'm kinda making stuff up - actual numbers vary greatly), then they'd have to sell 150,000 copies to make a profit. Many games haven't sold that many copies ever, and some take more than a year to do it. Some take a few months.
I'm also ignoring a bunch of factors like the cost of doing title updates and downloadable content, special promotions, and additional fees that get paid at different times.
Also note that I'm talking specifically about downloadable console games. PC downloadable games are different, and retail games on any platform are vastly different, and a whole lot more copies are required for profitability.
Third, do you guys enjoy what you do making indie games? I mean, work is work and not really meant to be fun, but being able to take pride at least, or be satisfied is important. (At the very least, I love what you guys do here.)
Absolutely! I would rather be doing this than anything else, and it's the best job I've ever had. Of course, I can't speak for everyone officially, but I think most everyone here is pretty dang happy. Sometimes there's a lot of pain involved - late hours, broken expectations, struggles with other companies, the sound of NinjaGirl constantly
singing to herself... It's an ordeal! But I wouldn't trade the whole experience for anything.
In particular, I really enjoy working on the short-scale projects rather than being caught up in a 3-year epic development schedule.
And finally, any advice for people wanting to get a game-related job?
OK, here's my rant:
Sometimes I'll be interviewing somebody (let's say, a programmer) who says he wants to make video games more than anything else in his life. So I'll say "Great! What have you done with that passion? What have you done outside of school, in your spare time? Full game projects? Cool demos? Technology experiments?" And he says "oh, nothing, just my school projects". And I want to CRY!
If you want to be an artist, draw stuff, all the time, starting right now, and work at getting better. Take classes. Go to life-drawing sessions. Learn to draw the human figure. Stop drawing robots and anime characters.
If you want to be a programmer, write code, all the time, starting right now, and work at getting better. Go to school and take game-related classes. Work on some technology experiments and demos. Write a simple game on your own. Get an internship at a game company. Work your way up.
If you want to be a designer, learn to write. Write stuff, all the time, starting right now, and work at getting better. Write designs, write stories, write reviews of other games. Read books about design, and play other games as much as possible, including games that are not normally your cup of tea. Figure out why they're good or bad. Figure out why other people think they're good or bad. Pay attention to popular culture, and figure out what people like. Make a game (pen and paper table-top game, card game, first-person shooter mod, flash game, anything to show an actual product, not just documentation).
Collect all these things you've created into a portfolio, and when you get a chance to interview at a game company, show it to them and say "This
is what I want to do!" If they don't hire you, find out why, and fix it. If you brought me all the stuff I just listed for designers, and it was good
, I'd have to have a pretty crazy reason not to make you an offer right there.
And if you really want to do this more than anything else, then be willing to work your way up. Get in the door with a smaller job and start proving yourself. That's how I started, and that's how most of the people here got started.
[Thanks to marmosetofdeath for suggestions on designer portfolio items]