Selling Your Indie Game Online: The Complete Guide
The indie game market has seen a significant uptake in interest and sales over the last year. As of September 2021, indie games made up 40% of all units sold on Steam – showing non-AAA-rated companies and investors that the indie landscape is a critical part of the game development space on PC.
The genre’s popularity is higher than ever, so it’s the perfect time for independent game developers to sell video games online.
Are you trying to create your own success story in this industry but are unsure where to start in making this dream come true and start earning indie game sales? Let’s take a closer look at your publishing options for your own products as well as the pros, cons, and practicalities of each.
Selling Your Indie Game
A major platform is very much like an online marketplace. Platforms allow developers making games to achieve some cost savings, which is of course, a huge advantage and should most certainly be regarded by independent devs as a major part of their business strategy. Obviously, while an online platform can help game businesses sell, there are also downsides to using them.
Major Platforms: Pros and Cons
Right now, the most popular PC gaming platforms are Steam, Epic Games, and Origin. For consoles, Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo PlayStation continue to dominate the market. Currently, mobile gaming sales are typically made through Google Play and the Apple App Store.
These platforms have several attributes in common, with similar pros and cons.
7 Pros of Selling Indie Games on Major Platforms
Your audience is as big as the platform’s user base.
Make your game cross-platform compatible to have access to an even larger user base.
The royalties received will provide a much larger income than initial sales.
Some platforms market your product to make it immediately visible to their player base.
These platforms have extensive libraries, so your game has high chances of being approved for publication.
These platforms offer strong social support, with Steam leading the pack.
Built-in community forums, chat functions, and multiplayer capabilities are true advantages for game developers.
5 Cons of Selling Indie Games on Major Platforms
Your game will be listed among thousands of others. If you don’t push for visibility from the start, your game could get lost among other titles.
A significant portion of your online business profits will end up going to the platform. However, the amounts differ per platform. Epic Games & Microsoft Xbox take 12% from each sale, Google takes 15% for the first year and 30% for consecutive years. Steam is taking a $100 submission fee which is recoupable after your game has made $1,000 in Steam sales and a 30% royalty rate.
You won’t have full control of how your game is sold. Many platforms draw players in with special offers, which obviously impacts your overall revenue. Epic Games offers a free game every week, for example, and Steam sells games for up to 95% off.
Even the most straightforward platforms to sell games on, such as Steam, will not advertise your game for you. You will be required to promote your titles from the very beginning.
Your game will have to adhere to the platform’s standards and regulations, which may not be to your liking.
Niche Platforms: Pros and Cons
If you’d rather market your game to a smaller and more invested audience, indie game platforms are the way to go. GOG (Good Old Games) and Itch.io are top favorites in the indie community. The Humble Store and Game Jolt are also fairly popular with this crowd.
Once again, the platforms share comparable pros and cons.
4 Pros of Selling Indie Games on Niche Platforms
Since these are about showcasing indie games, online consumers will already be interested in buying games designed by independent devs.
Even after playing through the base game, niche platform users will continue supporting the developer’s future projects.
You have greater control over pricing and royalties. GOG takes 30% as a standard but allows you to take 40% on release. Itch.io gives you a range of pricing options, even allowing a 0% rate. The Humble Store has a 95/5 revenue split, with the option of contributing 10% of your net revenue to charity.
Indie platforms have more support for indie developers.
3 Cons of Selling Indie Games on Niche Platforms
The smaller customer base of indie platforms means it will take longer for your game to pick up traction.
You’ll have to work much harder to communicate with your customer base, meaning more marketing efforts and time.
Even though the revenue splits are more in your favor, the net profit may not allow you to do more than break even.
Going the DIY Route to Sell Indie Games
How To Sell Indie Games on Your Website
Many independent video games developers choose to forgo major platforms entirely and decide to self-publish through their own websites. You have to take many of the same steps to self-publish, the same as if you were to sell your game through a major platform. However, it might just turn out to be the perfect solution for you. For this next project, you will need to build your own website and set up accounts on social media channels for your game.
Stay true to your idea. That’s how big game companies do things. Indeed, personalization is the primary factor that sets the self-publishing route apart from using third-party platforms. A platform dictates how you must present both your game and your team. On the other hand, your website can convey your brand identity better which will draw in precisely the kind of end-user that will commit to your games. It gives you the freedom to serve customers in your own manner and you can boost your game’s financial success.
Make sure you have a page where players can contact you and expect a response in a timely manner. The ability to communicate directly with developers allows players to feel like they are heard, enhancing the overall customer experience.
Beyond design and content, another important aspect of your website is ensuring that it allows you to make your game unique. Where a platform will have a standard system for making and receiving payments, you’ll be able to add your payment methods of choice to your website. That will be the engine that’s making money for your business. Obviously, you can pick a payment solution that works best for your business and select a revenue model that will facilitate transactions by increasing customer orders. Smart business calls can easily turn a great product into a profitable game.
Streamline your gamer's purchase journey at every step through our API-led infrastructure, securing in-app payments and subscriptions without interrupting the gaming experience. Reduce the payment friction and gamer frustration, while boosting authorization rates and conversion, all through our unified game-changing solution, delivering the tools you need to grow anywhere in the world.
Pros and Cons of Using your eCommerce Business as Your Platform
Having complete control of your game’s development and publishing journey means you’ll have a unique set of advantages and challenges. Let’s take a look at what selling games using your own website means:
4 Pros of Selling Indie Games on Your Website
You have complete control over every aspect of your game, from design and development to publishing and marketing.
If you need to make drastic changes to either the game or the development process, you can do so on your own timeline, without risking the launch of your game.
You can customize your website to showcase your game as optimally as possible.
You can set up your pricing and payment plans and choose the one that works best for you.
3 Cons of Selling Indie Games on Your Website
You will be in charge of every task, which could mean additional resources. Where more prominent platforms have staff dedicated to each area, like social media and legal, you and your team will have to independently address each of these channels. Collecting taxes for your business purchases is also something you need to pay attention to.
Self-publishing can be daunting if you’re in charge of designing your marketing campaign while also creating and coding a game. You might have to hire an external marketing team to allow yourself the time to work on the game itself.
If you haven’t planned your budget and timeline strategically, you might lose more money self-publishing than if using other platforms.
The right way to go on this journey is to partner with a unified eCommerce solution ready to provide you with all the growth tools your gaming brand needs. Choosing to remain independent and away from major or niche platforms means investing time, energy, and resources to develop and market your products properly. In the absence of a partner that can handle the payments infrastructure, secure your brand with seamless in-game purchases to streamline shopping experiences across all channels, and administer the tax operations, all while allowing your gaming brand to scale globally, you are taken away from what you love most, your product, and thrown into an endless rollercoaster of tasks you are not familiar with. We at PayPro Global believe that solid partnerships are fundamental to the growth of any brand, giving entrepreneurs focus and peace of mind and taking away the responsibility of handling complicated and time-consuming operations.
What PayPro Global offers
If you’re going the DIY route, you’ve come to the right place! As an independent game developer, you’ll need the support of a trustworthy partner ready to provide you with all the tools required to minimize risk, drive more sales, and most importantly, get you up and running as soon as possible. Our robust all-in-one e-commerce solution caters to your team’s unique needs – from handling your global payments to customer support, analytics, mitigating risk, and providing you with all the eCommerce tools you need to successfully run your business.
With PayPro Global as your partner, you’ll enjoy lower transaction fees and access to all your payment data, be free from worrying about compliance, and – most importantly – you’ll be able to generate higher revenues without splitting them with a gaming platform.
The biggest advantage is that you can use PayPro Global as your Merchant of Record (MoR)! As your MoR, we’ll handle payment processing, taxes, and invoices and ensure you are compliant with all eCommerce standards and lead management on your behalf.
That’s right. We have all the tools available to ensure you focus valuable time and effort where it counts most: your profits. Check out our eBook to get all the process details and understand why our solution can help you sell your Indie game worldwide.
3 Top Marketing Tips to Sell Indie Games
Good marketing is the cornerstone of a successful indie game (and every other product, for that matter) and, quite honestly, of all online businesses. Whether you’re self-publishing or selling via Steam or Epic Games, your game could easily get lost in the masses. Bottom line - you need players to buy your game – and that’s only going to happen if they know you exist.
1. Create Trailers and Gameplay Videos
A trailer is the first glimpse a player will get of your game, so it’s crucial that you make it as enticing as possible. You can even release multiple trailers (or teaser videos) that focus on various aspects of gameplay to peak interest. Doing thorough market research and looking at similar titles will help you convey the game’s essence in a way that’s appealing to your player base.
It cannot be overstated that players come for the trailer, but more importantly, they stay for the gameplay. A trailer is the best place to showcase the game’s most noteworthy features and mechanics to people interested to play the game, so it’s imperative you make this a top priority to get this right on your first shot!
2. Distribute a Demo Version
The easiest way to connect with your players in the early stages of marketing is to release a demo version of your game. It could easily provide you with the necessary information to secure your game’s success. A demo is where your players can access a limited portion of the game and get a sense of whether they would enjoy playing and hopefully share it with friends.
This is also a good method to learn about bugs and/or user interface features that may interfere with gameplay. Additionally, a demo version increases your chances of drawing players into a Beta program, like all other games. All the games created by big companies include such a program because it has relevant benefits.
3. Stay Visible
The biggest weapon in any small development team’s arsenal is the ability to stay visible. Once potential players have noticed your game, you need to keep the momentum going. It’s indeed simpler to achieve a higher popularity level when adding your mobile game to the Apple store than selling it on your site. Still, don’t let that bring you down and discourage you to sell your next game independently.
The game industry’s most popular product model focuses on live updates and downloadable content (DLC) available for purchase. You’ll need to keep delivering quality updates, whether patching the game regularly to fix problems, responding to player feedback, or selling DLC that enhances gameplay and creates additional revenue streams.
4 Additional Ways for Indie Games to Connect with Players
Many indie game devs have increased their chances of success with crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
Developers build an online community through these platforms by incentivizing them with game merch or exclusive in-game content. Rewards typically work on a tier-based system: higher donations mean more valuable rewards. One of the most valuable functions of crowdfunding is that even the smallest donations will earn rewards, allowing you to access players of all ages and tax brackets.
Crowdfunding pages allow players to subscribe and follow the game’s development. This means that players will follow your title as it grows and are more likely to develop a feeling of solidarity with your brand and player base.
2. Beta Community
Running a Beta version of your game has several advantages. For one thing, you get to build relationships with your most interested players. The Beta players will give you feedback to improve the user experience but helps you fix bugs and issues before the final version is released. Then once released, you’ll be in the enviable position where you already have an existing player base.
Beta players are also not only highly likely to give specific and usable feedback during the Beta stage but after the game has been released, as well. They’ll be able to comment on the gameplay and note what improvements and mistakes have been made since prior versions were released. Things could go further, and you could obtain feedback regarding the subscription model. There are plenty of eCommerce business revenue models you can choose from, but it’s best to consider the opinion of your players. After all, your subscription service matters to your players. This type of personal investment for them creates a sense of community and loyalty among your end users.
Streamline your gamer's purchase journey at every step through our API-led infrastructure, securing in-app payments and subscriptions without interrupting the gaming experience. Reduce the payment friction and gamer frustration while boosting authorization rates and conversion, all through our unified game-changing solution, delivering the tools you need to grow anywhere in the world.
3. Discord and Social Media
Discord is an excellent medium through which developers can communicate with players. Discord’s channel and bot features allow devs to set up an automated welcome system for new players that can include rules, terms and conditions, privacy policies, the current progress of game development, and more.
You can, of course, also use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to build an online presence that promotes your brand. This is where your team persona will come in handy: are you a happy-go-lucky bunch? Or is your team snarky and sassy? Both could work – but different approaches will draw different audiences. The point is to get the word out about your game and all it has to offer to your target audience.
We have found that Reddit is a hugely beneficial resource to indie developers in particular. Players of niche games congregate on dedicated subreddits creating awareness and interest. As soon as your game has a following, no matter how small, it would be useful to check regularly for subreddit activity. Hosting an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on Reddit will also contribute to building relationships with your player base.
4. Engaging With Feedback
The best developers pay attention to what their audiences say. Ultimately, customer experience is best defined by the customer, right? Asking players to share their feedback will give you an informed opinion on which parts of your game and marketing strategy need to be improved or adapted.
You can reach out for feedback in several ways:
Use your platform’s built-in review system.
Publish a link to a feedback form on your website.
Create a demo version with interactive or live feedback functionality.
Reach out to players on social media.
No matter which methods you use, remember that you need to consistently maintain the quality of the game that attracted your player base in the first place.
Final Thoughts on Selling Your Indie Game Online
The most important step any independent game developer can take is to ensure that their game is well known before release. Your title should be marketed early and strategically to attract a loyal group of fans. Your website or platform, social media accounts, e-commerce tools, and pricing model all need to be optimized and aligned with your marketing efforts. Then you need to consider taxes. Indie games are subject to sales tax, so you need help in this department. Remember to stay connected with your audience and keep improving your game. Follow these steps, and you’ve got a recipe for successfully selling your indie game online.
Launching a new game is an exciting and overwhelming undertaking for game developers. Because we have been in the industry for many years, having helped businesses succeed globally, we stand proudly behind our platform and services. With this in mind, we are honored to work as a dedicated partner. We're here if you need a full-service e-commerce partner to help your game succeed or sell SaaS online or if you are just curious about what we have to offer. We genuinely love to hear from people and welcome any opportunity to make a new friend in the eCommerce world! Get in touch with us here.
Can you make money selling indie games?
Yes, of course, you can. There are actually a few ways to make money selling indie games. One is to build a game that is designed for mobile devices, as these games tend to have lower development costs and can be marketed through app stores at a lower price point. Another option is to build a game that can be free-to-play, as this business model typically generates more revenue than traditional paid games.
Where can I sell indie games?
A few popular options include Steam, Epic Games, and Origin. However, if you're looking to obtain a more global reach, PayPro Global is an option worth considering. PayPro Global is the world's largest digital goods store and offers support for over 110 currencies, having over 2000 customers worldwide. This makes it an ideal platform for selling indie games to players all around the world. To learn more about PayPro Global and how it can help you sell your indie games, visit our website today.
How do I market my indie game?
A great way to start is by creating a website for your game and posting regular updates on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Additionally, you can list your game on online marketplaces such as Steam and the App Store. Finally, you can contact gaming blogs and websites to see if they're interested in doing a review or featuring your game.
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