Report: Most Indie Game Devs Made Less Than $500 in Game Sales in 2013

Report shows most indie developers made under $500 in game sales in 2013.

According to a recent annual salaries report published by Gamasutra, indie development might not be entirely glamorous to the prospective programmer.

The report reads as follows:

  • Salaries for solo developers (not on a team) dropped 49 percent from 2012, with the average developer earning $11,812 in 2013. 
  • Members of development teams earned 161 percent more in 2013, the average member bringing in $50,833. 
  • The majority of developers, at around 57 percent, reported game sales as their sole source of income within the game developing market.
  • Only 17 respondents--accounting for 5 percent of all respondents--received any money from crowdfunding sources such as Kickstarter. Only 1 of these 17 respondents reported over $200,000 in revenue from crowdfunding.
  • A miniscule 8 percent of respondents reported profits on paid alpha sales, and half of that 8 percent reported these profits as 96-100 percent of their total sales.
  • A staggering 57 percent of all indie developers (team members and solo developers) reported less than $500 in income from game sales, while only 2 percent of developers reported profits exceeding $200,000 from game sales.

The entire report is available here, if you're interested in all of the nitty gritty.

So what does this mean?

Well, it means that the indie market isn't as profitable as it seems. Granted, not all reported numbers decreased from the previous year, with development team members making livable wages solely from developing. Overall, however, the numbers are relatively grim.

It would seem like 2013 was a great year for indie developers, with plenty of hit games releasing, such as The Stanley ParableStick It to The ManRogue Legacy, etc. And overall, the indie game market seems to be on the rise, especially in popular consciousness. With PlayStation and Xbox both making extraneous efforts to support the booming indie market that saw its rise first on PC, and especially through Steam, "indie" is no longer used as a derisive word to describe low-budget games.

Rather, the term epitomizes the utopian vision of a completely democratic game development process, in which a college student with a vision can make as much as Larry Probst, Executive Chairman of Electronic Arts. Or maybe these numbers suggest the coming downfall of poorly funded pet projects.

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Published Jul. 26th 2014
  • UltraMan_5415
    As short as this article is, I didn't even have to read it to be able to tell you why this happens.

    -Too many games with no USP's(unique selling points).

    -Too many indie game developers who know everything they need to about making a game and NOTHING about marketing one.

    -Too many designers who are great at what they do and have no clue on how to raise funding effectively.

    -Too many would be designers with NO ORIGINALITY getting in the industry just to cash in on the market.

    There might even be something else I'm missing but those are the biggest issues with the indie scene and why dev teams aren't making that much.
  • Spyke_3447
    It's probably because for every stanley parable, there's a Infestation survivor stories.

    You might have better luck if Steam got off it's hole and really added some quality control to it's indie games. far too many rip off merchants and dodgy a-holes in the industry on the indie side of things. but it's still better than the cynical douchebag publishers on the other end.
  • Evan Lower
    Featured Contributor
    I anticipate that people would see "quality control" as censorship.

    As it stands Steam's indie section is anarchy in perfect representation. Some people are comfortable with that, because it allows for them to choose what they'd like to play without anyone interfering. And some absolutely despise it, because it disallows them from really knowing what's good and what isn't. Granted each game has its reviews available.

    If Steam was to start sifting through the junk, some people could call foul-play.
  • Zachary Welter
    Featured Contributor
    Makes sense. Random guy entering the industry with a bad, unpolished game that nobody wants counts as an indie dev. And there's tons of those out there. They bring the average down.
  • Germ_the_Nobody
    hahaha I haven't read the actual report. That does seem like a good point. =)
  • Evan Lower
    Featured Contributor
    Still substantial that the average is down so much from the previous year. Yeah, it could just be symptomatic of a fluctuating industry, but still. I totally agree, though. In an industry so accessible, the majority of losers will have been the result of mediocrity and lack of ability/access to funding.

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