Funding Indie Games with the Asset Store
The following post was written by Calle Lundgren from VisionPunk as a follow up to his Unite Nordic talk. At the end of this post you can watch a short video interview with Calle from Unite Nordic 2013.
Hi, I’m Calle Lundgren, coder, artist and designer at VisionPunk. We’re a small indie team developing an asset humbly named Ultimate FPS. I’d like to share some of our experience so far on fully leveraging the possibilities of the Unity Asset Store to fund our games development.
Although it isn’t easy, making a living through the Asset Store has been possible for at least two years. It all depends on your expenses, the appeal and pricing of your product, the competition, your skills and what you are willing to sacrifice (more on that later).
Here are my tips so far for funding an indie game with the Asset Store:
1) Stay alive by some means during the early days. Game design consulting was ideal for me. I could do it one day per week.
2) Design your game early on to know its technical needs and requirements (later you will want to identify all kinds of synergies in order to minimize cost).
3) Build some game generic features or content that will be part of your game. Make these modular and possible to “productify”.
4) Sell your content in the Asset Store and use the earnings to fund your game.
This approach has many benefits:
● Your game is making money (figuratively speaking) from the moment you start selling your game’s assets in the Asset Store. Once your packages start selling well, money will appear in your bank account monthly.
● Becoming an Asset Store publisher will challenge you to learn new things. Support routines, online business infrastructure and economics, marketing strategies, teamwork, collaboration technologies et cetera.
● You will get the opportunity to build productive relationships with other game developers and Asset Store publishers that will boost your business and future opportunities.
● You will be forced to keep a clean, modular code base (or suffer an increase in support cases). Every once in a while another skilled programmer will come around and point out ways to do things better, meaning your programming skills will likely improve (depending on your level of humility).
● You will be constantly exposed to new, cheap and powerful middleware solutions that may shave months off your game’s development time. If you are skeptical about combining systems by diverse authors into a big working whole, just know that getting over this can cut dev time immensely.
● Your customer base is potentially a huge, free test team that will heat-seek every single flaw in your product (believe me). Throw in tested-and-stable systems from other developers too, and there’s a fair chance your game will be reaching beta in a pretty robust shape.
Basically, developing your game in this environment can disperse workload over many channels, most of which are cheap or free to you. It will boost personal growth while allowing you to use off-the-shelf solutions for areas where you have no desire to reinvent wheels.
Downsides? Not many if you’re just looking to make a little extra money. But in my personal experience:
● For my first asset, Ultimate FPS, I’ve gone all-in and chosen a complex product in a fiercely competitive niche. This means I’ve been in classic crunch mode over the last months (stopped counting at around 2000 hours). This is a recipe for having to make some shitty personal sacrifices.
● Success is proportional to customer relations. Support can become quite daunting when your asset takes off (depending on user demography). I currently average one hour of support per day, five days per week.
When someone posts this in your thread, you know it’s time to up your build tempo
● Ironically, thus far I’ve found little time to work on my actual game! It’s sometimes bittersweet to witness the stunning creativity of certain customers, some of whom have already shipped super high-quality games, and some of whom are so innovative it makes me shiver (with admiration).
But it’s OK. I’m making money, learning and having fun. Over the last year Ultimate FPS has evolved into a sweet, modular first person framework. Thousands of indies have purchased it, and hundreds are helping to improve it by contributing ideas and testing. I’m part of a small team of skilled and passionate coders and artists, and indulging in my dream job. As for my dream game? …. one day, just you wait!
Want to know more or get in touch? Let’s hook up on twitter.com/VisionPunk