GameDev Protips: A Few Tips On Managing Your Finances In Indie Game Development

Even if you feel like you’re a competent developer, your financial situation might get in the way of you doing your job; after all, you can’t make games if you can’t pay for your living situation. Here are some tips for overcoming that obstacle before it even shows up to impede your progress in the first place. First off, and most obviously, you should try and live cheaply. This is obvious for household-related costs, but I mean to say that in general you should stay small. I personally lived off of TV dinners and was on welfare for a while, so the struggle for me was pretty real. But, even if your situation isn’t as bad as mine was, figure out ways to cut down living expenses to extend your runway. There’s little worse than “running out of money” during a game project and having to abandon it.

If you are working with partners, don’t let things get out of hand when it comes to equity splits. There have been many games that fail because the game’s income is split in too many ways to actually generate cash for the people involved. You definitely should pay for work that you can’t do well yourself so that your game is received better, but work to become as independent as possible so that your outside payments are limited. Keep the game’s costs as low as you can. Back when I was working on SanctuaryRPG I bootstrapped everything and recruited the help of volunteers and teammates working for revenue share. In terms of household, consider working abroad if you can manage it as the lower living expenses of some countries can help you out a ton. Even if you can’t go abroad, you can always consider moving to somewhere a little bit cheaper than a large city. I was fortunate enough to live in a cheap suburb in California.

On the topic of outside assistance, be careful about the specific people you’re getting help from. This isn’t just a monetary concern, though. People that you don’t know can definitely hurt your game if they don’t do their job well enough or have ulterior motives. Follow your gut instincts and only get help from people you trust. With that being said, definitely accept help from others if they offer it! Especially in terms of money, or crowdfunding. As a solo game developer, you’re absolutely allowed to get help from others, so don’t trick yourself into thinking that you “must” do everything. Even though it’s useful, try to never be in a situation where you “need every penny” to finish a project, but rather be in a situation where it helps out. Yes, I said it… you shouldn’t be a full-time indie game developer and depend on your game’s success to feed yourself. It’s probably not going to happen on your first try. If you start your project on Kickstarter or a similar service, make sure you can deliver your game without Kickstarter’s help in case the game doesn’t receive the funding you request. The money should go towards making your game better instead of holding it up as a whole, as crowdfunding is too risky to rely on entirely.

If you do decide to go down the crowdfunding path, make sure everyone knows exactly what they’re getting into. Make sure your videos and screenshots show your game’s premise crystal clear. Additionally, keep your backers up to date on what’s going on in its development so that people can see that you’re trustworthy and deliver on your promises. People will be way more likely to help if you’re an honest developer and are promising a good game. My final tip is to be alright with asking for help. This might be tough to get used to, but people are generous and willing to help as long as you leave a good impression on them. As long as you aren’t nagging and show genuine interest in them and your project, a surprising amount of people will help out. Start some conversations and talk about topics they care about. Post on social media or start a blog detailing your daily game development struggles; do whatever you can to show your passion and as long as you’re being respectful and have a good product to back it up, people will help you.

Important Takeaways: Most developers will have to worry about their finances when they’re starting out. Make sure your living expenses aren’t too high, and that you aren’t paying too much for outside help. Consider moving somewhere cheaper if you think it would significantly help you. Crowdfund whenever you can, but don’t be in a situation where it is required as it’s too unreliable. If you decide to crowdfund, make sure everyone knows what they’re buying into so that they feel they can trust you and are more likely to help. Finally, don’t shy away from asking for help when needed; as long as you leave a good impression, more people will help you then you would think.