That’s the question on a lot of people’s minds. Here’s my story anyway…
I have made 6 products since starting to program games properly in November 2004 (I was a hobbyist since the age of 8 and a professional Delphi/SQL developer for 9 years). The first 7-8 months were spent learning the ropes and making freeware games as practice.
My first commercial casual game, Xmas Bonus, launched in December 2005. This was followed by Easter Bonus in spring 2006. In Spring 2006 I switched from BlitzPlus to BlitzMax and began developing my BlitzMax Game Framework which is continually in development. I used the framework to make The Wonderful Wizard of Oz which launched in November 2006, and Holiday Bonus in December 2006. In 2007 I only made one game, Fairway Solitaire. You can find all my games here. I’m contracted to make two games in 2008 for Big Fish Games, so wish me luck!
Show me the Money!
OK so here’s the low down. In order from best to worse, here’s how much money I’ve made per hour making my products (I keep a detailed log of time spent programming and on related tasks for each product):
- Fairway Solitaire (cannot say how much I’ve made due to contract)
- Wizard of Oz = £11.48 (this is continually rising with royalties + Mac version is about to launch)
- Game Framework = £8.47 (this is rising with sales but goes down when I do more work on it. The framework is used for all my recent games so it’s more than a standalone product – it’s extremely useful, vital in fact)
- Holiday Bonus = £9.18 (It sells a good number of copies all year round so it will keep going up)
- Easter Bonus = £3.75 (Yep, that’s below minimum wage! but it was all good experience)
- Xmas Bonus = £2.43 (this is based on an estimated number of hours as I didn’t keep a proper log. This was my first game, so the fact it made me any money at all is cool).
My next game should make me more money per hour than Fairway Solitaire which will be nice
So you can see that I worked for nothing per hour at first (when making freeware games), then a very low amount per hour for my first two games (I was doing IT consultancy work @ £30 per hour and getting out loans at the time to keep my finances in check). Then Oz was pretty good (and the game framework provides a regular low level income) and Fairway was great. Also I make money from affiliate sales and adsense revenue, although not very much (it’s rising all the time, however).
Bear in mind that each game took 250+ solid hours to make (except for Fairway Solitaire which took WAY more) and that I still have business admin to do (accounts, filing, tax returns etc) and run my home finances etc. So when I’m doing that other stuff, I’m not making any money by programming games (thank God for royalties and affiliate sales which occur 24 hours a day). Also bear in mind that it’s taken 2 years for the Xmas Bonus money to reach the level that I’ve reported above. When you finish a game, assuming you are not being paid to write it, it will take about 2 months before you’ll get the first batch of royalties through and then they’ll keep on coming through at a lower level for years, so it’s a long term game. You don’t just program the game and collect the money (unless it’s a contract job).
Clearly the amounts I was earning at the start are not enough to provide a full income unless you have very low overheads (which I don’t). That’s why I was doing IT consultancy work (my old job) and gradually phasing it out and doing more programming work. Some weeks though I did tons of hours and had to work really hard in order to meet game targets and get jobs done for my consultancy clients. You’ve all got different life situations and skills so I suggest you way them up carefully before deciding to make games for a living. I think it’s a great job, but getting here wasn’t easy…
Hope this info is useful to you! Thanks for reading.