Creating a fantastic indie game is just half the battle. But how can you as a dev turn your passion into profit? Statistics show that many indie developers struggle with effectively monetizing their games. And with so many game monetization models out there, no wonder it is so hard to get going. Lucky for you we wrote a guide to get you off the ground quickly. We’re diving into seven insightful strategies to help you capitalize on your indie games. Ready for a deep dive into the world of game monetization? Press start to continue…
Selling game assets, such as unique characters or objects, and creating asset bundles is an effective strategy for monetizing indie games.
Structuring your video game monetization model early is as important as good game design. In fact, it should be part of your game design.
Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter offer a way to get financial backing and build a community around your indie game project at the same time.
Signing a contract with a publisher can provide financial support, marketing expertise, and wider distribution for indie games.
Creating and selling your games directly to players through platforms like Steam can generate income while retaining control over your game.
In-app purchases and downloadable content are popular ways to monetize indie games by offering additional features or virtual items for purchase within the game.
Ad monetization allows you to earn revenue while allowing players to enjoy the game for free.
Licensing your game provides an opportunity to earn revenue by selling the rights to use and distribute the game through partnerships or licensing agencies.
Types of Monetization Strategies
First, let’s look at the most common monetization strategies for indie devs, including selling game assets, securing sponsorships, crowdfunding, signing contracts with publishers, creating and selling merchandise, in-app purchases, downloadable content, integrating advertisements, and licensing their games.
Selling Game Assets
Game devs can capitalize on selling game assets to maximize revenue. There are several approaches you can take with this strategy:
Design and sell unique game characters or objects, A.K.A., “skins”. Skins can transform the aesthetic appeal of a player’s experience. They are very popular purchases within many gaming communities. For example, Fortnite offers character skins while Call of Duty lets you buy gun-specific skins.
Create valuable game tools or power-ups that players can buy to enhance their gameplay. Known as in-game purchases, these could range from unique weapons to special abilities or skills. More on this in the in-app purchase section below.
Develop and market asset bundles. Grouping related items together often attracts buyers looking for a deal, making it an effective game monetization option. This is an especially good strategy for mobile games.
Sell user-generated content rights, allowing players to create and sell their own designs within your game world. Implementing this not only enriches the player experience but also opens up an additional stream of income.
Utilize platforms like DMarket, which specialize in monetizing games through paid in-game items, providing a readily available market for your assets.
Consider implementing microtransactions as part of your monetization strategy. Selling small in-game items, skins or power-ups is key when rolling out this plan.
Securing sponsorships is worth considering if you already have connections or are willing to spend a significant time developing them. This approach involves collaborating with brands or companies to promote their products within your game effectively. A well-implemented sponsorship not only provides funding but it can also boost your game’s exposure and market recognition.
Try to find a sponsor that makes sense though. You probably wouldn’t want Twinkies sponsoring your game if it were a VR fitness app, right? Conversely, you may practically beg Nike to sponsor you with their huge brand recognition and deep pockets.
Sponsorship is a newer model, but it can make sense, especially for mobile game monetization. With proper planning and execution, securing sponsorships can yield substantial benefits for you while providing value for your sponsors.
Raising Money From Crowdfunding
Crowdfunding has been around for over a decade now with the launch of Kickstarter back in 2009. This is a well-explored game monetization strategy for indie studios. Kickstarter and their rival Indiegogo offer a stage to present your creative game ideas while seeking early adopters from gamers worldwide.
This method not only provides essential capital during the early development phases but also helps in building a thriving community around your project, garnering more visibility and engagement.
Moreover, it empowers you to own your app without surrendering any equity or control over its progression (unlike signing a game publisher contract).
But be warned, the crowd can lift you up one minute and crush you back down the next. Fail to meet your obligations and commitments, and your game may get many negative reviews before it even hits stores. This could hurt your reputation which can impact any future games as well.
To be successful, you really have to nail not only the game mechanics but also the timing. This is what kills most games because schedules tend to run long and feature creep is a real problem. Know what you can and can’t accomplish without the funds available.
Of the various game monetization models on this list, this is better suited for a seasoned developer or team. An experienced team is more likely to have an existing fan base to draw upon as well as the knowledge of how to successfully bring a title to market on time and budget.
Signing a Contract With a Publisher
Signing a publishing contract can be a game-changer for indie developers looking to monetize their games. Publishers not only provide financial support but also offer expertise in marketing and distribution.
When entering into a publishing deal, it is important to consider factors such as the scope of the game, target platforms, and desired monetization model. The contract should outline royalty rates and give the developer some control over pricing decisions.
However, it is crucial to carefully review the terms and conditions to ensure that they align with your goals as a developer. While publishers may take a percentage of revenue generated by the game, this amount can vary depending on the agreement.
Creating and Selling Your Games (One-Time Purchase)
One of the easiest and time-tested models for game monetization is to create and sell them directly to players. This approach allows you to retain full control over your game and its revenue streams.
By selling your games on platforms like Steam, Epic, Xbox Game Pass, or through your own website, you can earn income from each player’s purchase. Additionally, mobile games have the potential to generate significant revenue through app store purchases.
Although this is the most popular, it is not necessarily the easiest. Without additional revenue sources like ad monetization, many game publishers quickly find their revenue taking a sharp decline after initial sales.
In-App Purchases and Downloadable Content
One of the most popular and effective strategies for monetizing indie games is through in-app purchases and downloadable content. In fact, 79% of mobile games use this model to generate revenue.
By offering additional features, levels, or virtual items for purchase within your game, you can provide players with a valuable experience while earning money. This strategy works really well for free-to-play games, as players are more likely to make in-app purchases when they have already downloaded the game without any upfront cost.
There is a difference here between durables and consumables. Things like power-ups tend to be consumables which can lead to repeat purchases. On the other hand, items like weapons tend to be durables that can only be bought once.
When it comes to virtual currency, a psychological effect comes into play. The in-game currency is often perceived with a different value than real-world money. Further, there is usually no direct exchange rate of real money to virtual currency posted in games. By selling virtual currency instead of items directly for real money, a game de may be able to increase their game monetization profits.
But you can do so much more with in-game currencies, as we explain in our “Coins, Crystals, and Chaos.”
Additionally, offering downloadable content such as expansion packs or new characters can further entice players to spend money on your game, increasing overall revenue potential. While downloadable content could be considered part of in-game purchases, it really is a model unto its own.
But game publishers have to be careful as well. Poorly implemented in-game purchases that offer significant advantages or create pay-to-win scenarios can harm the game’s reputation. Players may feel that success is determined by spending money rather than developing real skills. This will lead to frustration, negative reviews, and ultimately declining numbers.
Implementing an ad monetization model into your indie game is a delicate balancing act. This model is especially common for mobile games. In-game ads allow you to generate revenue while providing your players with a way to enjoy the game for free.
Advertising generally provides access to a larger audience, as players are likelier to download and try out free games. Mobile game monetization trends in 2023 show a growing popularity of integrating in-app ads, making it an ideal strategy to consider. The older and more traditional style usually consisted of banner ads. Recently, mobile gaming studios have experimented with playable ads to keep players from churning. Others allow their players to watch rewarded ads as a way to boost ad engagement, and thus, their profits.
This approach allows developers to earn revenue without relying solely on in-app purchases or subscriptions, creating multiple income streams from their game. But be aware that ads can be a double edge sword. Too many, and players will churn. Too many ads and your monetization model is ineffective. Successful games will balance the two. Try running A/B tests during alpha or beta before the game’s initial release.
Licensing Your Game
Licensing your game is a traditional monetization strategy. This allows you to earn revenue by selling the rights to use and distribute your game. This strategy can be done through partnerships with other companies or licensing agencies looking for new games to add to their portfolios.
By licensing your game, you can tap into existing distribution networks and reach a wider audience without handling the publishing and marketing aspects yourself. It’s important to consider factors such as royalties, exclusivity agreements, and contract terms when entering a licensing agreement.
It should be said that this strategy comes with some risks. There are many a dev who have tales of ongoing legal battles involving copyright and royalty issues. If you decide to pursue this strategy, get some professional legal counsel. It is also advisable to look up the reputation of the game publisher or licenser to verify they are legit.
Making Money From Platforms
Many games can leverage platforms like Humble Bundle, Xbox Game Pass, and Steam to generate revenue and reach a wider audience. Why not be on a platform that was designed to play video games?
Humble Bundle is a popular platform that offers a unique way to monetize your indie games. They have sold over 47 million bundles to date and offer a PC game membership called Humble Choice.
With multiple revenue streams, they generate income through donations, subscription fees, commissions from their Humble Store, and fees from their publishing business. Selling your indie games on platforms like Humble Bundle can provide valuable market exposure and the opportunity for significant sales.
The Humble Store also has an impressive revenue split of 95/5 for indie game sales, ensuring you receive a fair share of the profits. So if you’re looking to monetize your indie games effectively, consider leveraging the reach and reputation of Humble Bundle.
Xbox Game Pass
Xbox Game Pass is an incredible platform for indie developers to monetize their creations and gain exposure in the market. With Microsoft paying developers hundreds of millions of dollars to have their games on Game Pass, it offers an excellent opportunity for generating revenue.
By making your games available on Xbox Game Pass, you can earn money while reaching a larger audience. It may change the dynamics of game sales, but it provides more choices for gamers and game creators alike.
Platforms like Xbox Game Pass are definitely worth considering when thinking about how to monetize your indie games effectively.
Steam is a popular platform for studios of all sizes to monetize their games and reach a wide audience. While it can be challenging to stand out among the vast number of games available, it’s not impossible to make a significant amount of money on Steam.
Only 1% of games released on the platform make over $7 million in revenue, although most are not indie games. However, with effective marketing strategies and leveraging platforms like Humble Bundle and Xbox Game Pass, indie developers can earn revenue and gain market exposure for their games on Steam.
Leverage Word of Mouth
To maximize word of mouth for your indie game, encourage players to review and share their experiences on social media platforms, leverage the power of influencers and game journalists, and take advantage of promotional events or partnerships that can generate buzz about your game.
Reviewing Your Game
One of the key strategies to generate word-of-mouth buzz and monetize your game is by actively seeking out reviews, especially from reviewers with large audiences. Positive reviews from trusted sources can significantly increase the visibility and credibility of your game, leading to more downloads and potential revenue.
According to a study, 71% of people are more likely to purchase based on social media referrals. By encouraging players and influencers to review your game, you can tap into the power of social proof. Additionally, incorporating multiplayer functionality or other social product features in your game can enhance its potential for discussion and sharing among players, further increasing its chances of going viral.
Leveraging paparazzi can be a unique and attention-grabbing strategy to promote and monetize your indie games. By creating buzz and generating visibility, you can attract players and increase the popularity of your game.
Utilizing paparazzi can involve staging events or stunts that capture media attention, as well as working with influencers who have a strong following. This approach can help create excitement around your game, drive traffic to your website or social media platforms, and ultimately lead to increased downloads or purchases.
It’s all about using unconventional methods to get people talking about your game and building anticipation among potential players.
Social media platforms have become a powerful tool for indie game developers to generate buzz and connect with their audience. By leveraging social media, you can tap into the power of word-of-mouth marketing to promote your games.
One effective strategy is to encourage user-generated content (UGC) where players share their experiences and achievements in your game. UGC not only spreads awareness about your game but also builds confidence among potential customers.
Additionally, using social media platforms like TikTok allows you to showcase snippets of gameplay or behind-the-scenes content, attracting a wider audience and generating excitement for your game release.
Connect With Communities and Forums
Joining communities and forums dedicated to indie game development can provide valuable networking opportunities and a platform for promoting your game. By engaging with other developers, sharing insights, and participating in discussions, you can gain exposure for your game and build connections within the industry.
Use these platforms to learn from others’ experiences, gather feedback on your game, and potentially find collaboration opportunities. To discover more effective strategies for monetizing your indie games, continue reading the article.
Joining communities is a valuable strategy for indie game developers. It allows you to connect with like-minded individuals who share your passion for game development and can provide support, feedback, and guidance along your journey. Here are some key ways to effectively engage with gaming communities:
Participate in online forums: Platforms like Reddit’s r/gamedev offer a vibrant community where you can interact with other game developers, ask questions, share experiences, and gain valuable insights.
Engage in social media groups: Joining Facebook groups or Twitter chats dedicated to indie game development allows you to connect with a larger network of developers, discuss industry trends, share updates about your games, and build relationships.
Attend local events and meetups: Look for local game development meetups or conferences in your area. These events provide an excellent opportunity to meet fellow developers face-to-face, exchange ideas, showcase your games, and potentially find collaborators or mentors.
Collaborate on projects: Seek opportunities to collaborate on game development projects within the community. By joining forces with other developers, you can pool resources, share knowledge and skills, and create something even more impressive.
Provide feedback and support: Active participation in communities goes beyond seeking help; it also involves giving back. Offer constructive feedback on others’ projects and lend a helping hand when someone needs assistance. This reciprocity helps foster a sense of camaraderie within the community.
Promote your games strategically: Instead of solely promoting your own work, focus on building relationships first. Share helpful resources or interesting articles related to game development within the community regularly. This establishes you as an engaged member who adds value before promoting their own games.
Participating in Events
Participating in events is an important, but often overlooked opportunity, for anyone looking to monetize their games. Here’s how you can make the most out of event participation:
Attend gaming conferences and expos: These events provide valuable opportunities to network with industry professionals, potential sponsors, and fellow game developers. Building these connections can open doors for collaborations, sponsorships, and funding.
Showcase your game: Set up a booth or demo station at relevant events to show off your game to a well-targeted audience. This allows players and potential investors to experience your game firsthand and generate buzz around its release. There are gaming events and conventions held year round for both Indie and AAA games. The more famous ones include GDC, PAX West, and E3.
Participate in panel discussions: Offer your expertise by participating or giving talks at gaming conferences. This helps establish you as an authority in the industry and increases visibility for your game.
Enter contests and competitions: Many gaming events host contests or competitions where developers can showcase their games and win prizes or funding. Participating in these can not only provide monetary rewards but also garner attention from investors and publishers.
Collaborate with other developers: Events offer opportunities for collaboration with fellow devs. By working together on projects or combining resources, you can maximize exposure for both games and share marketing efforts.
Host your own event: Consider organizing your own launch event or meet-up to create hype around your game’s release. Inviting press, influencers, and potential players can help generate buzz and increase monetization chances.
Promoting Your Game
To effectively promote your indie game and get it noticed, it’s crucial to build a pre-launch community. By joining forums, participating in events, and engaging with the gaming community, you can generate buzz around your game before its release.
Leveraging word of mouth is another powerful tool for promotion – encourage players to review your game and share their experiences on social media. Additionally, creating trailers and gameplay videos can help showcase the unique aspects of your game and attract potential players.
Don’t forget to utilize social media platforms and collaborate with game influencers to expand your reach further. By implementing these strategies, you can increase the visibility of your indie game and take it one step closer to success.
Effective Marketing Strategies
Utilize app store optimization (ASO) techniques to increase the visibility and downloads of your indie game.
Conduct a soft launch to gather feedback and make necessary improvements before the official release. Seek out game reviews from influential reviewers or gaming websites to generate buzz and increase interest in your game.
Use social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to promote your indie game and engage with potential players.
Collaborate with popular TikTok creators who have a large following in the gaming community to showcase your game through entertaining videos.
Participate in video game events, both online and offline, to connect with other developers, industry professionals, and potential players. It is much easier to leverage someone else’s audience than to try and build one from scratch.
App Store Optimization (ASO)
App Store Optimization (ASO) is a crucial strategy for mobile games. This process concentrates on increasing app store visibility and app conversion rate usually by optimizing your game’s metadata and description. The goal of ASO is ultimately to attract more potential users, leading to higher rankings in app store search results. With higher rankings, your game will gain more exposure, increasing downloads and revenue.
By implementing ASO techniques and tactics, you can effectively boost your game’s rankings, improve its visibility in crowded app stores, and drive more downloads for your indie games. While not necessarily a game monetization strategy, this will boost the success of any models you employ. You will need a solid understanding of SEO and marketing to make this strategy work.
Soft launching a new indie game is an essential step in maximizing its success. This process involves releasing the game in a small international market, like Australia or Singapore, to gather real data from players and track important metrics.
By testing the game during the soft launch phase, developers can optimize onboarding, improve monetization strategies, and truly understand their target audience. It’s crucial for the game to be polished and refined before the full launch so that it can make a strong impression on players.
Soft launching allows developers to test different game designs, experiment with various game monetization methods, and refine their marketing strategies for maximum impact. In essence, a successful soft launch helps build retention rates and sets up an indie game for long-term success. So yes, it can really help prepare how much money you’re game will make in the long run.
Twitch, YouTube, and TikTok
Each of these platforms has its own way of spreading your message. Veterans of the video game industry know how powerful a marketing tool it is. With each of their massive user bases and engaging content, they have the potential to help boost streams and grow your fan base.
There are many ways to leverage this avenue. Creating your own channel and videos is a good first step. But the real power comes in guest interviews and leveraging other people’s audiences. Also, video ads can provide a huge boost to your game’s website and signups.
So if you’re looking to promote your indie game and stand out in a competitive market, consider incorporating TikTok into your marketing strategies.
Game monetization doesn’t have to be this scary, hairy creature stalking your dreams. But it does require significant preparation. As a game developer, you have numerous strategies to help you generate revenue. Selling battle passes, free-to-play with in-game currency, and video ads barely scratch the surface.
By leveraging word of mouth, connecting with communities and forums, and implementing effective marketing strategies, indie game developers can increase the visibility and profitability of their games.
With careful planning and execution, game monetization can lead you to financial success in the competitive gaming industry.
1. What are some strategies to monetize indie games?
Some strategies to monetize indie games include selling the game directly through platforms like Steam or Itch.io, offering in-game purchases such as cosmetic items or extra levels, implementing ads within the game, creating a subscription model for ongoing content updates, and partnering with other companies for promotional deals.
2. How do I determine the best pricing strategy for my indie game?
Determining the best pricing strategy for your indie game involves researching similar games in the market while considering production costs and development time. You must also analyze your target audience and willingness to pay. Try conducting beta tests with players to get feedback on perceived value. Finally, optimizing your model takes time. Experiment with different price points to find an optimal balance between revenue generation and attracting customers.
3. Is it necessary to offer free demos or trials of my indie game?
It isn’t strictly necessary. However, offering free demos or trials can entice potential players to try out your indie game before making a purchase decision. It allows them to experience gameplay mechanics, graphics quality, and overall enjoyment firsthand. This sampling can increase word-of-mouth recommendations and potentially convert more users into paying customers.
4. How important is marketing in monetizing indie games?
Well, let me ask you – how important is oxygen when you run? Marketing is absolutely crucial! You can have the best monetization model in the world, but it won’t mean anything if nobody knows about it. In fact, it is so important that you may want to start with marketing first before you code a single line. It really helps generate awareness among potential players and drives traffic toward purchasing options.