Your career as a developer often comes down to simple economics. A presentation during the opening developer keynote at TechEd Australia highlights just how challenging it can be to make money, especially with games.
During the keynote, Patrick Klug from Greenheart Games discussed the performance of Greenheart's Game Dev Tycoon on the Windows Store. By Microsoft's standards, the game has been successful enough that it is now only taking 20 per cent of the selling price for the title as its commission, rather than the industry-standard 30 per cent. And because Game Dev Tycoon was highlighted in the Windows 8.0 preview release, it had a higher visibility than many competing titles.
But how does that work out in terms of cash? Klug said some 80,000 customers had downloaded the trial version of the software through the store, and the conversion rate was around 30 per cent. Let's call that 24,000 customers, each of whom paid $7.99. Take off 30 per cent for Microsoft and that amounts to around $134,000. (I don't know when the discounted commission rate kicks in, but if it had applied from the start, the total would be just above $150,000.)
The game is also available for PC and Mac as an independent download and has been greenlit to appear on Steam, so the actual revenue should be higher in the long run. Klug said he was very pleased with the conversion rate, which was much higher than the rates for commercial software with a trial version he had worked on in the past. Those projects typically had conversion rates in the single digits, he said.
The lesson? Yes, there may be money in games development — but you need luck, patience and a reasonable bankroll. You also have to put up with high levels of piracy. Earlier this year, Greenheart revealed how it had taunted pirates by itself offering a cracked version of the game.
While the aim for players in Game Dev Tycoon is to make money from game development, in the cracked version you inevitably go bankrupt because of piracy. Demonstrating the humourless and clueless sense of entitlement that typifies many digital content consumers, people who had downloaded the pirate version complained about this aspect, rather than paying for a legal version of the game.
Disclosure: Angus Kidman travelled to TechEd Australia as a guest of Microsoft.