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  • How To Turn Your Mod Into An Indie Game

    [01.24.19]
    - Nick Pearce

  • 4. Estimate how much it's going to cost to make a prototype

    Making an indie game is expensive. You're going to need funding from somewhere (discussed below), but before anyone will even consider funding your game, you'll need to build a prototype. You might think "Well, I have this mod...". Sorry, your mod isn't going to cut it. There's a massive amount of work involved in re-building a mod as a stand-alone game, particularly if you're using a different engine, and every potential investor knows it. They'll need to see a stand-alone prototype, which you'll need to put together at your own expense, before you seek funding.

    a. Prototype Expenses

    Here are the things you'll need to budget for:

    • Engine licensing fees (if applicable)
    • Programming (if you're not a programmer)
    • Art, including logos (if you're not an artist)
    • Animations (if you're not an animator)
    • Legal fees (for contracts, if you're hiring people)
    • Licensing existing assets from online Marketplaces
    • Grant application fees (if applicable)

    There's no one-size-fits-all equation here, but as a ballpark figure I'd recommend setting aside at least USD $30,000 if you need to hire specialist help. It'll be cheaper if you do everything yourself, or partner with someone who's giving up their time for free, but having the support of an experienced professional is a huge advantage.

    b. Opportunity Cost

    I'd recommend setting aside a minimum of six months to make your prototype if you're working full time, or a year part-time. Remember that if you quit your job to do this, and your annual income was previously about $50,000 a year, then your opportunity cost is $25,000, in addition to your direct expenses.

    5. Figure out how you're going to pay for development of the rest of your game

    Unless you're wealthy enough to drop a few hundred thousand dollars on your game business, you're going to have to secure funding. There are four main sources of funding:

    • Grants from Government organisations looking to support your local video game industry. Some grants don't need to be paid back, provided you meet all the relevant conditions. This is the best kind of funding around.
    • Crowdfunding sites, like Kickstarter. These are generally regarded as risky these days, and according to research by ICO Partners, most of the successful campaigns present a playable demo, which means the game has been in development for a long time before the campaign starts.
    • Find a Publisher. There are plenty of Indie Publishers around (there's a great list here) who offer to fund your game, but they tend to expect a substantial share of your revenue in return for their investment - often around 30% or more. This might not sound like much, but one you consider that Steam and/or the consoles will be taking 30% of your game's revenue already, giving 30% to a Publisher would mean you'll end up with about 40%, for doing most of the work and taking most of the risk.
    • Find an investor. These are fairly rare, but some investors will give you money in exchange for a share of your game, but leave you to do all the marketing and promotion yourself.

    Taking the leap

    If you're confident you can handle the above challenges, then you may be ready to take the leap and begin turning your mod into a stand-alone game. Indie Dev is risky and expensive, but it can be a wonderfully satisfying, and lucrative, business. Good luck!

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