Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

20 Ways to Make Money Making Games (part 3)

Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 11, 2014

A continuation from my talk at BYU. You can read part 1 here, and part 2 here.

So… throughout our relatively short history, video games have been treated by the industry as an analog to toys, books, movies, magazines (subscriptions, you know?), services, drugs (first one’s free…), widgets, television shows (advertising-supported), as a benefit of club membership, as add-ons to sell hardware, and just about everything else.

So how should one really make money and make a living making games?

By any or all of the above means, IMO.

The industry keeps changing. The way that games are made and sold (if “sold” is even the correct term… but I don’t like the term “monetized” as much) constantly changes. What seems obvious and natural today will seem weird and ridiculous twenty years from now. The next generation of gamers may look at the fact that we used to sell games individually on physical media like a cartridge or CD-ROM with a mixture of awe and horror.

Right now, if you want to make income of any kind making games, there’s two basic approaches: Indirectly, by getting paid to make a game (via employment or contract), or directly by your audience. I don’t want to talk about the former too much because it’s pretty straightforward. As someone trying to make income from games, how many ways are there?

A lot:

  1. Get a job – the old standby
  2. Contract work / Commissions – the work of the independent (not indie) studio or contractor
  3. Direct Sales – the classic approach. Sell the game to the end customer directly
  4. Portal Sales – Like direct sales, only go through a middleman, like Big Fish Games or Steam
  5. Get Published – Which ultimately means you sell or license rights to profit from your game to a third party. All terms are negotiable from there.
  6. Contests – Yes, there are game-making contests with cash and other prizes.
  7. Ad-based revenue (Kongregate, etc.)
  8. Patronage – an old idea for sponsoring the arts.
  9. Sponsorships – Sort of the inverse of ad-based revenue. A sponsor licenses your game to help advertise a product.
  10. Freemium” – Offer the game for free, but sell virtual goods & unlocks through it.
  11. Licensing – You license some aspects / rights to your game to a third party. If a game or brand is successful enough, there are all kinds of IP rights that become valuable.
  12. Subscription – The classic (but now old-school) approach to MMOs.
  13. Crowd-funding – A popular, recent approach. Get paid in advance to make the game. I consider this a subset of patronage.
  14. Donationware – another old idea from the early shareware age. Sometimes it works.
  15. Bundles – It massively devalues games, but it’s a bargain for budget-conscious consumers and can get new customers to your game
  16. Customization – Create special, custom builds (for a price) to a particular customer to match their needs. First done (to my knowledge) with a special military version of Battlezone.
  17. OEM – Bundle your game with hardware as a “free” (to the customer) bonus. Similar idea to software bundle, above.
  18. Affiliates – An old (but still viable) concept that predates shareware. Other people sell your game, and get a cut.
  19. Merchandising – Make money from other products related to the IP
  20. Sell IP / Company – Cash In and Be done With It

These aren’t even all the possible ideas, and variations on these ideas abound. If there’s one thing the history of the games industry should teach you, it is that there is no one, true way for game-making to pay or itself.

Filed Under: Game Development - Comments: Read the First Comment

  • Cuthalion said,

    There’s also retail, which is being supplanted by portal sales: sell your game to a reseller.