Is Indie Game Development Worth It?

Whether you’re planning to start your new indie game development journey, or whether you’re already in the middle of building the next Minecraft, you’ve probably asked yourself a million times: 

Is this all worth it? Is indie game development worth it?

I would say there is no right or wrong answer to such a question. After all, it all depends on what you value, and what your goal is.

However, what I can do is just state my opinion on the subject based on my years of experience as a game developer, and then it is all up to you to either keep pushing forward, or maybe find a new path.

Is indie game development worth it?

Indie game development is totally worth it when it is all about bringing your stories, your ideas and your art to life for the world to see. However, indie game development might not be worth it if your only goal is gaining a lot of money and fame.

If what you’re aiming for is a combination of all of the above, then the indie game development journey can definitely be worth it.

After all, not everyone is willing to make indie games just for fun. In most cases, you will still be hoping that the game will become a hit and make a lot of money, and that is actually a great thing to aim for if you decide to start your indie game dev journey.

However, I would suggest that money should not be the only goal behind the game. Working on an indie game for the sole purpose of making money is definitely not a good idea in my opinion, and the whole journey of building the game will probably just feel like torture and it won’t be worth it. In general, the chance of an indie game succeeding is much less than the chance of failure.

You might be tempted to make indie games when you learn about all the huge sums of money that some indie developers make.

While these indie games success stories are great and all, the thousands of failure stories get buried and are rarely talked about, so always keep both sides in mind when you’re deciding whether you should pursue your indie game dev dream or not.

The rest of this article will be discussing the profitability of indie game development, the experience that you go through as an indie game developer, and finally some tips to make your indie game development journey worth it.

Is indie game development profitable?

First, let’s start by examining the numbers. According to this video games insights infographic, more than ⅔ of the games didn’t cross the $10k mark over their whole lifetime in 2020. That’s hundreds or thousands of hours of sweat and hard work reaching a dead end for each project.

Before we move on, I would like to state that the numbers are probably not extremely accurate as the authors probably don’t have all the data that they need.

However, the data available can still give you a decent idea about what’s going on in the indie game development world when it comes to profitability.

The infographic shows that around 18% of the games are making more than $50K. That’s great and all. An 18% chance is a decent one. 

However, when you factor in the time and effort it takes to build a proper indie game, the numbers start to get less exciting and you’ll learn that it might not be worth it at all.

Most indie games remain for years in development. I would say most of them need a minimum of 1 ~ 2 years of hard work.

If you live in a first world country where the living expenses are high, and the expenses of hiring people to complement your skills is also high, $50K in sales might sound like nothing compared to what you might make as an employed game developer by one of the large game development studios.

I am not trying to scare you off here. After all, this blog is all about indie game development, and if I didn’t believe in the indie dev dream, I wouldn’t have launched this blog in the first place.

In fact, I am planning my next indie game as I write this article, however, it is usually a good idea to set the right expectations so that you can plan better, and have some backup plans in case your game falls apart. 

To sum this whole thing up, I personally believe that indie game development is not worth it if the only goal behind it is to generate revenue. 

If the goal is only making money, then you will probably lose the motivation needed at some point and you might not even finish the game when you realize how difficult the journey of making an indie game is.

However, if you are one of those people who is doing it for the love of making games, and generating money is a secondary goal for your project, then I would say that indie game development is totally worth it, especially if you approach it in the right way.

At least I know that it is going to be worth it for me, as I am more excited about the journey, and about getting my ideas and stories to the world than anything else.

But what is the “Right way”? Well, I don’t have a perfect answer, but I can suggest a few things that I think can make the indie game development journey better.

How to make your indie game development journey worth it.

1- Have a backup plan

I can’t stress this enough. A back up plan is extremely important when you decide that you want to start your game development journey.

What does this have to do with indie game development being “worth it”? Well, having a backup plan can reduce the stress and the anxiety that keeps kicking in whenever the thought of failure gets into your head.

A stressful game development journey is not worth it at all. If the success or failure of your indie game is what decides your future, then there is going to be a lot of stress involved when you are making the game, and that is something that needs to be avoided.

A backup plan can help you rest assured that you’ll be fine even if the game fails.

For example, you could keep your regular job, and work on your indie game during your free time, and then once you are 100% confident that your game has a very good chance at succeeding (based on the community and how people are perceiving the game), you can reevaluate your decisions on how to split your work schedule.

I would actually suggest that too. If you have a regular job that you enjoy, you don’t have to quit to work on your dream indie game. Leaving your job for the indie game development dream might end up being a terrible idea if you can’t afford it.

Whatever you end up doing, make sure that you have a solid backup plan in case your game fails to achieve what you were hoping for.

2- Engage with the community early on

If you wait for too long before you reveal anything related to your game to anyone, you might miss one of the most important aspects of the indie game world and that is the “Community”.

There are a lot of people who enjoy following along and watching your game grow into a production ready product. Missing out on the support of these people is a great loss in my opinion.

The community that you build around your indie game can be one of the main reasons that make the indie game development journey worth it.

You might also lose your motivation if you wait for too long before you reveal your game to anyone. The influence of the community around your game is usually strong enough to keep you going.

There are also many other benefits of engaging the community early on when it comes to your game, but we’ll talk about these in another article.

3- Pick a game genre that you enjoy playing

If you pick a game genre that you don’t like, there is a large chance that you will lose your motivation when working on the game.

For example, if you go for an RPG because you think RPGs make more money, but you don’t actually enjoy playing RPGs, you will probably also not enjoy building an RPG.

Go for a game genre that you enjoy playing yourself, and that might help you keep your motivation and your excitement throughout your whole game development journey.

You will be adding the features that you wished other games of that genre had, you’ll probably enjoy playtesting the game (Something that you will be doing A LOT), and your new ideas and features might be better fit for the game overall since you will be the fan of your own game, and you’ll want to enjoy playing the game as much as anyone else wants.

That’s it for this article. I hope you have your questions answered. If you like to read more, you can check these other articles on the blog: