How Do We Make Games? | The State of Independent Game Development

Towards the end of last year, we put together our report entitled The State of Independent Game Development. Since then, we’ve been going through the results and in our previous article, we were looking at why we make indie games.

Now, it’s time to look at how the developers in our community make their games and what it means for development and budget.

With so many developers working alone, you can expect them to be wearing a lot of different hats. We polled our followers on which aspects of their games they work on themselves and which they outsource.

We suspect that the reason so many developers will be doing most tasks themselves is for one of two reasons: they’re either making the game themselves for fun and are happy to do it all themselves or they don’t have the funding to enlist the help of many others in their project.

Do Independent Developers Have Any Money?

With a good number of developers making their games for fun, it would be safe to say that you wouldn’t necessarily expect them to be investing much or any money into their projects.

However, given that there’s roughly a 50-50 split between amateur and professional developers, you would expect that around half of them would have a budget for their projects.

However, over two-thirds (69.2%) of developers reported having no budget for their indie game and over three-quarters (77.3%) had no marketing budget.

It would be fair to assume, given the differences between these responses, that there are some independent developers out there with some money to make their games, but they aren’t using these funds to market their games, something which appears to be reinforced later in this report in the marketing approaches and strategies section.

Multitasking or outsourcing?

With many projects being for fun, others having little or no funding, and most developers working alone, you won’t be surprised to find out that many developers report doing most aspects of game development themselves.

When looking to outsource aspects of game development, developers reported being more likely to outsource music production (46.2%) over art (22.2%).

We suspect this is down to cost with a lot of developers either collaborating with musicians and artists on pro bono projects, with marketing and promotion of their game rarely available for free.

Similarly, very few are working with a publisher and, while many would rather discuss whether working with a publisher can still allow a project to qualify as “indie”, the vast majority (84.5%) had nothing to do with them.

What’s interesting is that in the responses to this question, there seemed to be a fair amount of negative sentiment towards publishers. Developers cited concerns about predatory practices, limiting creative control, and suppressing their identity as an “indie dev” if they were to work with publishers.

On the other hand, some developers seemed interested in the idea of a publisher relieving them of the burden of marketing and promoting their indie game.

Find Out More

Next time, we’ll be looking at how we market our indie games and whether or not developers are doing enough.

Throughout the series, we’ll be sharing our insights from our findings and also discussing more how we make games and how to better market them.

We’ve also been discussing on how to market your indie game and these will soon be available on our YouTube and our podcast.

For early access to these sessions, support us on Patreon.

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