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How much does an indie game need to sell in general to be profitable for the dev?

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Was thinking this is I watch the Indie showcase on 8/19/2019. 

All these games, and I can't imagine all of them blowing up like Shovel K. But of course there is a space between Shovel K. and failure, and where is that?

Probably a dumb question...



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There are many indie games that are only one-man dev teams, and revenue is of course a product of sales and price. I think many indie devs get by with mediocre sales as they oftentimes don't spend anything on marketing. Also, many indie devs work on games as a hobby, so if the game doesn't sell, there isn't really an expense to offset anyways.

Edit: It does make me wonder how rich the creator of Stardew Valley is.



Depends on the indie. A game developed by a single person like Paper's Please, Undertale, Unepic or Obra Dinn probably don't need much sales to break even. Other games have bigger teams up to a hundred or so, like Pillars of Eternity. These need much bigger sales to be a success.



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Not really an answerable question. You could make an indie game with no budget at all and then it'd be profitable with just a single sale. Or you could make a multi-million dollar budget indie game and need a whole lot of sales in order to generate any profit on that.



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Not a lot and Shovel Knight isn't really that big of an indie seller.
A few 10k sales is usually enough.



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Like most other games, it depends on the budget/cost of development for the game. If I made an indie game that took about 6 months to complete, assuming that I'm living alone and paying all my expenses out of pocket, and have to pay employees within the company if there are any...let's say the overhead for 6 months is $20,000 for living expenses and payroll for the artist and composer. If I want to break even and my game is $4.99, Nintendo takes 30% of that leaving the net profit on each game sold at around $3.49.

Some quick maffs tell us that around 5,730 copies of this game need to be sold to break even, Any more than that is profit. And of course the variables in this situation can change. You may have very low rent and overhead expenses because you may have a mortgage or maybe you're a one man team, etc. I'd imagine decent games that do get coverage and are indeed decent games make their money back at least. The scenario is different for most every dev because their living situation or team sizes vary. In addition to those overhead costs, you also have to worry about commercial engine fees if you're using a commercial game engine, any software purchased during development, development kits, etc.

Good question, but there's no real good answer I'm afraid. It's really context sensitive. Most indie games aren't Shovel Knight, but I'd imagine that also a lot of these games are coming as ports from other platforms which isn't that expensive to do for most indie titles. So that R&D Cost is negligible in a lot of cases. The biggest hurdle to making great profit as an indie is the cut that Nintendo takes off the top.



Barozi said:
Not a lot and Shovel Knight isn't really that big of an indie seller.
A few 10k sales is usually enough.

Shovel Knight selling over 2M (Last time we heard) isn't big enough for this market ? (That's not counting the stand-alone campaign DLC) Sure, it ain't at the level of Stardew Valley, Hollow Knight or Undertale but it is still viewed as one of the most prolific stories in the indie market.



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Mar1217 said:
Barozi said:
Not a lot and Shovel Knight isn't really that big of an indie seller.
A few 10k sales is usually enough.

Shovel Knight selling over 2M (Last time we heard) isn't big enough for this market ? (That's not counting the stand-alone campaign DLC) Sure, it ain't at the level of Stardew Valley, Hollow Knight or Undertale but it is still viewed as one of the most prolific stories in the indie market.

Considering all the hype, the 10+ platforms that it was released on and the 5 years of sales, 2.5m (which is the most recent number) isn't that impressive. Definitely good and better than the average indie game, but not among the top sellers. I could name a dozen that sold more just out the top of my head and there are probably a lot more, especially when looking through the Steam library where I'm not that familiar with.



I’m betting Minecraft at least made it’s money back.



KrspaceT said:

Was thinking this is I watch the Indie showcase on 8/19/2019. 

All these games, and I can't imagine all of them blowing up like Shovel K. But of course there is a space between Shovel K. and failure, and where is that?

Probably a dumb question...

It varies is the answear...

Watched the indie showcase too, and yes some of them look really cheap, while a few you could tell probably cost abit extra to develope.


"Eastward" + "youRopa" + "Touryst" looks like it had alot of effort behinde it.

While something like "freedom finger" looks budget as all hell.
"Skater XL" looked budget as hell too, same with "Earthnight".

Skelleboy probably didnt cost much either, but looks okay.
Superhot was cheap, but well done, dispite it.
Sometimes it also comes down to how well they spend their money developeing stuff.