Game Development is one of the most time-consuming software niches. With all the time spent on art, music, code, and story writing, there is barely any time left to promote the game and get paid for doing what you love!
I know you would do game development because you have a passion, no matter your financial circumstance. Making money through your game development could provide you with a full-time income, and what is better than doing your passion for a full-time job?
I aim to include income streams in this article so that you can do both video game development and the income stream because I know that game development is a time sink. You need to spend your time making your game, and these other income streams open up more time to work on your project so that you don’t have to work another job. Working another job doesn’t make any progress in your game or your brand. That is why I didn’t include freelancing, creating new products, and game testing.
In this article, I will ask a lot from a game developer. Asking for money is very hard to do, at least for me. I want to let you know that as long as you provide value in every way, the viewers/customers will be more than happy! Drop your ego, ask for help, and provide good content/perks for each one of these income streams. Here are the nine ways to make money with video game development.
- Monetizing your Game
- Youtube Videos
- Streaming on Twitch
- Rereleasing on a different platform
- Sell the soundtrack
- Sell merchandise
- Sell extra assets and plugins on Game Dev websites
1.) Monetizing your Game
Your game is going to be the bread and butter. All monetizing platform and income stream results will be based on the video game idea and how well-executed the game is. Remember, gamers are always the hardest customers to please. Don’t try to get into game development for a quick buck; it won’t happen. Also, don’t try to bring Cryptocurrencies or NFTs to your games. Many have tried with much larger Venture Capitalist funding and haven’t seen a profit yet.
Selling your game on an online marketplace
Selling your game on an online marketplace like Steam, Epic Games store, Hubble, Itch.io, and others is probably the most well-known way of profiting off your game. There are a few things you should know about each of the stores before releasing each one.
The Marketplace’s cut for each one of these stores is different. Steam, Apple App Store, and Google Play Store take 30% of all game transactions for hosting your game on their platform. Steam also requires you to pay $100 to request to release your game on steam. I believe Apple App Store costs $100 annually as well. These entry costs are a big deal for game developers already pinching pennies.
Epic Games takes 12% of all game transactions, and Itch.io doesn’t have a set amount. You can give 0%-100% to Itch.io. It is common practice to give Itch.io some money if you turn a profit. These options are very enticing to release games on, but you do have to remember. Steam is the most popular platform, and it is always better to diversify income streams in case something happens with one platform.
In-Game Purchases are a beautiful way of monetizing and lowering the barrier that is the paywall to buying the game in the first place. Video game developers will only have to spend a little more time creating models, adding more art, and coding for possibly a huge gain. This is much easier than making a new game or DLC.
Common In-Game Purchases include Battle Passes, Loot Packs, In-Game Items, Pay-To-Win Gold, or whatever you call your currency.
In-Game Purchases have been getting a little more news attention with the introduction of the “Gacha Games” games category. To avoid bad press, try to ensure you provide value for your products and maybe do some market research.
DLC is the traditional way to make more money from an existing title. I find it the most rewarding, too, even though it requires just as much work and time as making a game on a smaller scale. Development hopefully should be easier because you already have some of the assets, music, and code that made your game to begin with.
Gamers are more willing to buy DLC than other game-related purchases.
A Subscription-based Game Model
This type of pay-to-play model is slowly going extinct except for the categories of MMOs due to the insane amounts of cloud server costs. I would avoid this because the store cuts will slash monthly income by a percentage! Gamers tend to be on the cheaper side, as I know I am, so be careful if this is the route you want to take.
I would like to include ads to monetize your video game, especially if you are developing a mobile game. While income can be lower than usual, it incentivizes purchasing the full game without ads. Giving the player a better game experience.
Crowdfunding video games has been a huge way for game developers to continue developing their ideas and maybe hire more people to give funding rewards to potential customers. I also would be careful of this style of monetizing your game. The sudden influx of money could result in anything. Scams like the video below happen all the time.
Popular platforms that provide crowdfunding are Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
There are many videos out there on how to lead a successful Kickstarter. Some of my initial recommendations are to provide physical products to support the game’s discounted version on launch (within reason). In my opinion, buying Kickstarters in the past and providing future products like in-game items, beta builds of your game, and launch codes means the game has to be released to get these items. It is better to provide physical items they can receive while you are still developing your game!
Patreon is a platform where paying members can access your content. The payment occurs monthly, and the content creator is expected to post monthly. If you need an example of game developers with Patreon, this is one of the most popular game developers -> https://www.patreon.com/phanxgames.
Provide blog posts, podcasts, dev logs, and assets.
4.) Youtube Videos
Youtube is an investment, and every game developer should do it! You can make money from ads, sponsors, and affiliate marketing. The number one goal of video game development is the VIDEO GAME!
Youtube is a way to get eyeballs on your game with organic searches. It is also completely free, so there really isn’t a reason not to do it because I provide lots of different avenues of income streams. This is because having an audience can potentially convert into a customer.
- You gain one view
- Now knows the name of your game
- Gain a repeat viewer
- Gain a Patreon
- Gain a Merch Customer
- Gain an active Discord Member (community platform)
Youtube even has multiple income streams listed below:
- Memberships – $2 min a month
- Superchats – Youtube’s donation currency
- Ad revenue
5.) Streaming on Twitch
The Software and Game Development Category on Twitch has exploded since 2020, with an average of 1 million monthly watch hours! Many game developers are already live streaming their development process. Some people find it distracting for their work, while others find it helpful that there is a chat that helps them and provides immediate feedback on game systems, 3D models, and music.
Feedback is important for a developer, especially when you start selling the game and have an asking price that people must agree to buy.
Streaming on Twitch even has multiple income streams listed below:
- Subscriptions – $5 a month
- Donations – $1 min according to paypal
- Bits – $0.01 min twitches payment currency
- Ad revenue – from the ads that viewers of your channel watch
Livestream viewers are typically more invested into you and your game because of the time investment they spend while watching the stream. Forming these relationships with your community will always benefit you in one shape or another.
6.) Re-releasing on a different platform
Re-releasing on console or mobile is another way to diversify your income. This isn’t for every game; decide what is best for your game. If you make a story game or a platformer, there is no reason why console or mobile can’t be possible.
Game engines like Unity, Unreal, and GameMaker Studio offer to port a game to different platforms. This does require more work to be done before releasing on these platforms and having a stable build. This also might require learning new accessibility features and User Experience specific to each console.
7.) Monetizing Soundtrack
Creating a soundtrack for your game is a time-consuming and/or money-consuming process that can return on this investment. I recommend releasing the soundtrack on Steam or Epic Games stores if you want to sell it for a profit. I would try to protect your intellectual property so there aren’t any resellers of your music or using your music for monetary gain.
If I were to release a soundtrack, I would release it on streaming platforms like Spotify, apple music, etc., and try to get revenue there. I would also release it on Youtube, but I wouldn’t copyright claim videos for using your music! This is important. People using your content and giving credit gives your game more exposure. Also, giving your other income streams more exposure.
8.) Sell Merchandise
Fans love buying merch of their favorite games or developers. This also is a free advertisement on every purchase of your product. I would try to have a store feature on your game’s webpage or maybe your game dev company’s webpage with products that a simple Print-On-Demand company can print for you if you give them images and designs.
If you want to release something more personalized and maybe a higher quality clothing. Have a pre-sale that you know the exact amount to order and who to ship it to. Having extra products and worrying about selling is the last thing a GAME developer should worry about.
9.) Sell Unused Assets and Plugins on Game Dev Marketplaces
This is an even niche way to make money for video game developers because it depends on your art style, game engine, and market. I know that game design goes through many and many iterations. Maybe you can sell those iterations in an asset pack. Maybe you made lots of scripts or shaders that are unique. Make it a plug-in. Maybe there is unreleased songs that you made. Sell it.
There is no use for files to go used and take up space on your computer. Let’s spend a little time and list these files. The best thing about these products are digital assets that only bring home profit and continue.
I hope at least one of these income streams sticks out to you! In the future, treat the income stream as a compounding asset (Especially Youtube). If you put in smart time and effort, organic search and promotion will help users find you and your game. Treat your video game development as a business. Price in your hours, eliminate costs and increase profits. Profits allow you to keep working in an industry that you love, and you can continue being your own boss. My last piece of advice is to invest in yourself and your craft. Buy courses and assets or hire professionals for music or art to increase your game’s value and the value of your content.
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