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Daniel Esteves is an Asset Store publisher who is all in. His assets are not a byproduct of his game development process. He actually enjoys building tools more than building games, just as we do. And he’s got some advice for people who are itching to make it their living as well.

He used to create Flash games and built an independent game studio that had some success with an MMO card game on Kongregate. After a few years of updates, however, the revenue dried up.

When searching for a new camera system for yet another update on the game, Daniel came across Unity and the Asset Store. He immediately fell for the possibilities of rapid prototyping: “Suddenly, I could see how to do so many small things really, really fast. I was like a kid in a candy store. I just thought “This is sooooo cool!” And I bought all these assets.”

Then it hit him. If there are other enthusiasts like him around, it must be possible to make a living out of this. Around the same time, he sold his share of the game studio, so he could afford to spend some time developing an asset idea. “Since I already had a passion for fighting games and there was nothing like it available in the paid market, I decided to invest my next 8 months working on a 2.5D fighting game toolkit called Universal Fighting Engine (UFE).”

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UFE launched on the Asset Store in December 2013, but Daniel started pitching the idea to potential customers a long time before that. And he’s advising others to do the same: “Before going too deep into development, pitch the idea in the Asset Store forum as a WIP (Work In Progress) thread. Introduce yourself and your qualifications before introducing an idea. As you progress in development, post news, screenshots and videos.” This is a way to get some true fans, people who will provide feedback, open your eyes to new ideas and spread the word about your asset.

Since the release, Daniel has been working on updates and customer support, eventually hiring two freelancers to help him with development. He’s still getting lots of support queries, but it helps that he makes sure the documentation is up to date.

“If you are a coder, document EVERYTHING. It will save you countless hours of support. Of course, you will always have the occasional “TL;DR” customer, but trust me, you are mostly dealing with highly intelligent, adult people. If you have it well written somewhere, most customers won’t bother you. If you are a modeler, organize your files the best way you can. And of course, always give them something to look at (a video or a web demo).”

That said, he knows that customer support pays off. Daniel uses the Asset Store section of the forum as a public QA and a website, which saves him a lot of the hassle of answering similar questions multiple times through email. And he knows that people reporting bugs and asking for specific functionalities have helped to mold his product into something better.

One of his most prominent customers is the guy behind Kings of Kung Fu. With a very small budget, professional 3D modeller and animator Jay Lee was been able to put together an alpha build of his dream game, recreating Kung Fu scenes from classic movies.

What does the future hold for UFE? Daniel plans to release a separate engine for purely 2D games and dreams of creating a comprehensive Beat ‘em up engine. So far, it’s been possible for him to make a living doing what he loves. His assets have grossed over twenty thousand dollars since the beginning of June. The future of his projects depends on the Unity community’s love for the genre though, so he hopes that fighting games continue to be in vogue.

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  1. If he releases a beat ’em up toolkit I will buy it day one. Especially if it’s exceptionally versatile.

  2. Sometimes it’s better to look at forums that are looking for a solution similar to what you offer, mention the asset and hope someone gives it a try. Ex: I made an instant 3d replay feature that records all game play and you can carefully observe every frame in any angle you want using GameRec. Heres a demo video GameRec unity3d asset tutorial Demo: http://youtu.be/Ay-wuj5PvHU

    Check it out :)

    I made a couple of sales with very satisfied users in this month alone.. all I did, was mention it on a form. Good luck!

  3. It’d be useful to have some insight into what sort of assets are providing a living for their developers… from what I’ve experienced I think it may mainly be those with higher-priced items, mostly like the editor extensions…. but I might be wrong, it could be popular scripts or certain 3d assets etc. Some kind of graph of ‘what sells’ would be useful, but I expect that would be too revealing for Unity to share even on a per-category basis?

    I do agree about needing to come up with something that is unique… something some portion of the audience finds hard to do on their own… like maybe targeting newcomers or those in a niche. Then you’re basically selling your expertise and doing various magic that your buyers can appreciate and find useful. Also the polish and documentation and support is important. But also the demand has to be there, you can’t expect to make money from something that only a few people are looking for.

  4. Antoine Desbiens

    October 9, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    It depends on 3 factors I think. First being how hard it is to make something similar, we’ll call it rarity. Second being what the current demand for said product is. Last being the degree of difficulty to implement. If you have something that is rare, where the demand is strong and where the documentation/support is good enough to ensure positive ratings, I’m sure it could go big on the asset store.

    1. I am not sure how rarity as you define it is different than “hard to implement”.

      1. Antoine Desbiens

        October 9, 2014 at 6:22 pm

        I’m not strictly refering to scripts here, since the asset store is quite large. Although, something being hard to recreate doesn’t mean it has to be a nightmare to implement. What I mean is, ask yourself how many people you think could create what you created. If you believe alot of programmers could, then you probably shouldn’t bother with it. The common practice nowadays is to base the product on what the current demand is, and not to push a product and hope there’s a demand for it. Knowing that, say you want to release X, but X is relatively easy to create for a knowledgeable programmer, you should expect the market to be flooded with X’s, and thus, you should expect X to be of lower value. Now, say X is hard to recreate, X requires a certain expertise. You can expect a lower number of competitors, and you can expect its market value to go up. This is what I mean by rarity.

        While, by hard to implement, I am refering to the documentation and after-purchase support provided to your customers to ensure positive ratings. Of course, some assets may be harder to implement due to their nature/complexity. Therefore, your level of documentation shouldn’t be universal but proportional to your asset’s complexity.

        I hope this makes more sense.

  5. @LIOR TAL As a personal anecdote:I tried to sell one “cool bit of code” that I use basically everywhere. It sold all of 2 copies at 5 bucks apiece. Maybe it’s not that useful, or maybe I need to market it aggressively.

  6. As developers, we all have some cool bits and pieces of useful code that we probably use in every single project we work on.

    i wonder whether sharing those on the asset store could provide some revenue (or ANY revenue at all?), or only bigger scope assets, such as the “engine” described in this post may have a shot at making some $$

    1. It’s difficult to get much attention for those ‘bits and pieces’ – people tend not to look for them in the same way that they go looking for ‘big’ assets.

      That might actually be an interesting post for Kristyna to make, actually – the best ‘little’ utilities and code chunks (“Unity power-toys?”), for $5-$10 apiece, that people maybe don’t need for their projects (i.e. wouldn’t think ‘hmm, I need an asset that does X, I’ll go look in the store’) but would still find useful. Like my own Scene View Bookmarks, ahem. :)

      1. Kristyna Paskova

        October 13, 2014 at 9:31 am

        Haha, subtle. Not a bad idea for a category post though. Would you have any other suggestions than Scene View Bookmarks by any chance?

        1. Hmm… well, Lightmapping Extended is one. Also Immediate Window

          It’s difficult to think of others because the whole idea is that these are things you don’t realise you need until you see them… I tend not to use much Asset Store stuff myself.

          Maybe things like Scene Saver or Notes? I’ve not used either but they look like the sort of thing that stand to be useful to everyone, regardless of platform or discipline.