I'll get straight to the point. If your game is good enough to attract a professional
publisher, and you sell it worldwide, you should sell at least four thousand
copies over two years. Gross profit should be between £5 and £15
per game (UK sterling or equivalent). Most people can live off this. Sounds
This essay is about adventure games, the classic point-and-click style. In
this essay I will look at the adventure games market in general, then look at
some amateur games that tried to go commercial, and then see what we can learn.
But first, some blue skies thinking. Adventure games deal in stories and human
interaction. So adventure games have the potential to reach more people than
any other genre. The established games market, outside of adventure games, is
narrowly focused on fighting, racing and building. So it only appeals to a few
people, mainly teenagers. In contrast, adventure games deal with stories and
conversations. One day someone will make a game that reaches beyond the games
ghetto and into the mass market. That person will become very, very wealthy.
But until then, this essay is just about selling to the established adventure
The economics of the video games market
As an independent games creator, you should know the competition. A major video
game (such as the adventure game Syberia, or any of a thousand games in other
genres) takes around 2 years and 40 people to develop. A typical small developer
will have 10 people in the team, much less than $500k marketing. A major adventure
game, if made in the USA, would run between $2M and $2.5M. In Poland, half that
or less. However, 50% of game development time isn't game development, but meetings
with lawyers, tax men etc.
Big name video games are priced at $40 (in the US) or £40 (in the UK).
This typically falls to £10 on the bargain rail after a few months or
years, depending on sales. Small independent games can expect to go for up to
£30, but most sell online for around £10. For most other genres,
most sales take place in the first month. So a game is classed as a hit or a
failure based on the first month's sales. Adventure games tend to sell over
a longer period, which means that even successful adventure games are often
classed as failures because their first month's sales were modest.
For the biggest sales you need to get your game into a physical shop, which
means getting a reputable publisher to distribute it. Retailers get around forty
percent of the cover price. Production costs are typically around one pound
per game, to cover printing and transport. But what about online sales? You
will need an established outlet - reputation counts for a lot when you ask for
people's money. And the bad news is that some download sites charge just as
much as regular retailers, even though their costs are far lower.
Based on the above figures, you can expect to make between £5 and £15
gross profit per game (that is, after manufacturing and retail costs, but before
any additional publishers' costs such as overheads and promotions.) So if you
live in a small apartment in the cheap end of town, and your partner has a job,
and if you can make a new game every two years, you can earn enough to live
from selling less than four thousand copies of each game. Less than four thousand
copies! Remember that number. But if you want to be a millionaire, you will
need to sell around a hundred thousand copies.