Indy Dev Debate: Online, or Check-out Line?


IGFThe Game Developers Conference is all about big money games, but indy developers aren’t out in the cold: they’re getting a crash course in monetization today. At the low-key and neophyte Independent Games Summit, indy devs heard about distribution models, and found that online isn’t the only way to go. Hosted and coordinated by the inimitable and indefatigable Simon Carless, the event proved an excellent foil to the Serious Games Summit and the GDC Mobile event. While the event wasn’t highly publicized, there were a number of discussions that served to enlighten outsiders to the concerns relevant to developers trying to go it alone.
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Naturally, being independent developers, these folks were eager to hear about the process of selling through Xbox Live Arcade, or of working with Turner GameTap. But online distribution wasn’t the only method discussed. One largely overlooked avenue for independent games is retail. Lloyd Melnick, co-founder of Merscom, was adamant in stating that retail is still a viable route for indy game developers. His point, however, is significantly skewed by game type; Melnick’s company favors more casual and copycat games, the sort of low priced fare bought on impulse at check-out lines and non-game retail outlets. Melnick offered up statistics that showed a game with a $20,000 development cost can clear $50,000 in profit selling only 10,000 copies. That’s a fairly nice return for an indy title. Never mind his estimates of close to a million dollars profit returning from the same game, provided it sells 150,000 copies.

While Microsoft and Sony discussed their disparate online resale channels, Turner GameTap used the Independent Games Summit to announce its new publishing label, GameTap Indy. While the site hasn’t yet gone live, Resnick, a 16-year veteran of DC Comics, and GameTap’s new director of licensing, said that the new label will look more closely at funding and signing underground and independently produced titles on Turner’s service. Unfortunately, Resnick also stated that every one of Turner’s contracts has been different, and thus he could not detail royalty or developer compensation.

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