I have been regularly sharing my itch.io income numbers on Twitter. This year I’ve been doing surprisingly well on itch (the snowballing is kind of blowing my mind).
When I last looked at the account overview I noticed that (since starting on itch.io, in 2015, OVERALL)…
The Gross Revenue of my games are: $7,276.70
The very touching part of this is that the *TIP* Revenue is $7,164.18.
That’s Tip. So ok, queue me melting into a useless puddle of feelings.
I shared that in this thread, with some thoughts about what itch.io and GameJolt mean to me.
I asked if people were interested in me sharing all my stats, they said ‘yes’, so here it is… To the best of my efforts. If there is more that you would like to know lmk and I’ll share that too (to the extent that I can).
The first payment I ever received on itch was $3.00 for Anatomically Incorrect Dinosaurs. This was in August 19, 2015, so it’s safe to say I started an account with them in 2015.
Before beginning I would like to make clear that I am not on Steam. Without help from someone (like a publisher that understands toxicity, and will manage that store presence for me), I have been trying to avoid Steam. I go over why later in this post.
My games are itch.io exclusive and GameJolt exclusive. My hope is that this post should give you a good idea of how successful you can be, despite not being in a major storefront, and by being entirely supported by these two platforms.
Also, my work has always been PWYW with the option of free. I never had a paywal on itch.io. This is for reasons that are actually fairly thought through after plenty of trial and error. I will also talk about that later…
In total I have 34 games on itch.io.
They are not all big “hits”, some of them are small experiments.
from 1,072 Payments
The average payment is about $4.98 (most of my games are priced around that)
The max payment ever received was $350.00
This was for “Everything is going to be OK”. It has had a handful of $100+ donations (the game is priced at $10).
This is for a fairly successful game. It’s brought in quite a bit of support. I’ll go over EIGTBOK’s numbers later (it’s the bulk of my payments).
People tip more than what you ask for (I’m assuming that’s how to read this?). I had a feeling that this was the case (given that I often get double the amount that I ask for, but it’s hard to tell from just emails). I’m also still using itch.io’s old payment system (no reason, I’m forgetful), so I get an alert whenever someone buys something.
Here are screenshots of my analytics since starting itch.io (2015)
Weekly fron August 1st 2015 – July 31st 2016
Weekly from July 31st 2016 – July 31st 2017
Weekly from July 31st 2017 – July 31st 2018
Weekly from July 31st 2018 – July 31st 2019
Weekly July 31st 2019 – present day
The earlier spikes are because of features. This is usually because of Rock Paper Shotgun. My work wouldn’t be where it is if it wasn’t for them covering it.
The second most important factor has been indiegames.com (now IndieGames+)
The third is itch.io features.
A couple of spikes are because of popular Streamers.
Magazine features (in print) don’t contribute to it that much. From my own stats, being featured on a popular website does more.
Most of the sales (majority but not all) that I do get from incoming traffic comes from Rock Paper Shotgun (from what I can tell). I do not know why. I assume they are just really good at doing what they do.
Also interesting is that…
No? Nobody? Since ever? This is where you would see if people requested refunds, right? I’ll assume so…
Yay supportive community!
(Disclaimer: I would credit this to the PWYW model + Free. This is not a fair assessment to make if weighed against payment exclusive games.)
* Now for the payments (total)…
This is sorted by release date (earlier games on this list were released first… tracking my itch.io history)
Payments tend to die down as time goes on. Close to release, you can expect the most payments. After that it takes a lot of work to maintain people’s interest.
Tip: It helps to have an open beta that you incrementally update. This builds interest and keeps the game relevant longer. You can make the most money, and there’s the community boost that people participated in making the game possible. Games that you just release (without incrementally updating) tend to die down quicker (if you don’t maintain interest).
For a solo-dev, incrementally updating until it’s done is much easier because you pace yourself (less likely to burn out), and you don’t have to work so hard on marketing it.
Also, it is very important to pace yourself. After you release something that you worked on for a long time you are very likely to feel burnout. Post-release can be a brutal period. Take care of yourself. This happens to me with every game, and it can be a very difficult time!
Most of my marketing happens via Twitter (90%). Sometimes I write journalists. I am a very shy person, so there are probably just a handful that I feel comfortable contacting. IndieGames+ is wonderful and you should write them.
Itch.io is also wonderful and you can write them. GameJolt is very supportive too.
I am also usually way too burned out to write people properly, or do any kind of press work, so Twitter is what I turn to.
I’m also sharing the download count for each. In each case you can see that Windows is much larger than Mac.
I am not including bundles that these were featured in. I participated in two charity ones.
Anatomically Incorrect Dinosaurs (Just how far will evolution go?)
Anatomically Incorrect Dinosaurs did best on GameJolt. GameJolt gave it its big feature that made it a viral phenomenon with Let’s Players.
I did 0 effort to promote it on itch.io.
Electric Love Potato: Potatoware Cursor (MAC only)
This was made to prank my mom. Long story. Not worth mentioning.
Electric Love Potato Playlist Player
I didn’t promote this one.
The lack of popularity surprised me. The original Electric Love Potato did extremely well on GameJolt (this was when I was using GameJolt more).
The Playlist Player is much more sophisticated. It’s basically a parody iTunes that involves a potato enjoying your music with you, talking over songs, interrupting songs, and randomly insisting that you play another song.
You drag and drop your music files on it and it compiles a playlist. It supports a variety of media formats.
I think it’s an interesting release.
ARMAGAD (also Tetrageddon Games)
ARMAGAD was lightly promoted. I sent it to about three journalists, and submitted it to festivals. It did better on GameJolt and accounts for most of my sales there. Most of the support for ARMAGAD came from GameJolt.
I was incredibly burned out after releasing this, so I didn’t have the energy to market it properly.
ARMAGAD is Tetrageddon. So overall, this was the Nuovo award winner, and received quite a bit of critical acclaim. It was a finalist at IndieCade, etc…
I didn’t promote this one.
This one is a small one, and not really worth mentioning. It’s an important one to me because it’s a throwback to Nekko (that old desktop pet), but overall it’s just a cute little thing.
I did not promote this one.
Frog Pets is special to me, and I consider it a more notable work.
It’s a strange desktop pet experiment where you try to keep these robotic “dead inside” sounding frogs alive. They demand attention, love, and food, in a deadpan robot voice. It’s hard to love something that sounds dead inside, but you kind of do because the setup is so ridiculous.
It got featured on Rock Paper Shotgun and Offworld (Boing Boing). It was covered fairly well, in my opinion.
It’s small. It did fairly well (this statement includes the GameJolt version).
Electric Love Bar (social love simulator 2k)
I did not promote this one.
Most of the support for it came from Warpdoor (one of my favorite sites). It was mentioned as part of the best of the year (as far as I can remember).
This was made for “Everything is going to be OK” but released separately because it brings an interesting experience to your desktop.
It simulates social media by giving you good numbers for everything you do. It’s empty, vapid, meaningless, fake… but somehow you feel acknowledged by it.
Potatoware: Intros 2k17
I did not promote this one.
This was on Waypoint (that’s the only feature). I also like this one. It’s a webcam experiment that asks you to take a few pictures of your face (just your face), and will interject that into an exciting intro for your website, accompanied with techno music. It outputs what it generated as a web appropriate .mp4
This is parody software.
Jump Scares For Your Desktop
This is small. I didn’t promote it, but it was retweeted well.
This is barely worth mentioning. Only one person bought it, and I pretty much only made it because they said they would get it. It’s a joke.
EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OK
2017 – 2018 (it was fully released in 2018)
$5,441.01 out of 27.8k downloads
My asking price is $10 but it’s free
This is the big one. It accounts for most of my itch.io earnings ($5,441.01).
It got quite a few $100+ donations. It enjoyed generous critical acclaim, including being IGN’s nominee for best of the year.
It was nominated for the IGF Nuovo award. It won at IndieCade and AMAZE.
This should give you an idea of how something award winning does that is not on Steam. In my opinion, this is impressive given that it’s not on a major storefront.
It’s itch.io and GameJolt exclusive.
It still gets people paying for it. I also still get messages from people telling me that it helped them, or saved them in some way or another. It’s probably my biggest and most personal accomplishment.
It also received a generous amount of harassment from gamers (think youtube, 8chan, angry emails, whatever). Someone told me that the fact I was harassed is the reason it made it into IGF or was covered this well, but I doubt it. I think it’s a good work. I make mention of this because it would probably have done well if it was on Steam, but I avoided Steam for fear of generating more harassment.
I talked about that extensively during development. It’s a personal game, and for the type of message it has it generally triggers toxic white male supremacy types that have an aversion to feminism and feelings.
Most of the income generated was through articles written about it.
It didn’t make anything notable when the few big name streamers played it (and I don’t really like talking about that since it generated toxicity for me). It did generate some income from the smaller streamers (not big name) that played it. I loved how it was portrayed by the smaller streamers. This is culture commentary for another time tho.
ASCII PAINT (SKELETON EDITION)
Not worth mentioning. Just a cute art tool that lets you paint text ready ASCII.
Electric Love Potato (Two Point OH!)
This is a followup to the first Electric Love Potato, which was kind of a viral hit. They were originally posted to GameJolt and I later brought them to itch.io. The GameJolt numbers for them look better. They took off on GameJolt.
This is a cute .pdf in which you have to help Igor escape. It was done for Everything is going to be OK. tbh I’m surprised it made that much. Bless you one person that payed $5 for a pdf.
A very STINKY mystery FILE
To be honest I’m not surprised this got traction. It’s massively simple, but it leans in the direction as “software as meme”. It’s presented in a way that the itch.io page is themed, with a funny rotating comments section, and it’s so bizarre that it’s hard not to want to download it.
Was featured on PC Gamer and (if I remember right) Warpdoor.
Cyberpet Graveyard (very cursed, beware of download, do not hug)
I marketed this one a little. It’s on PC Gamer’s 50 best free PC games list, and most downloads come from that. It was a PC Gamer’s editor’s pick with a 90 rating.
It was featured in Fantastic Arcade, and got an honorable mention for the last Nuovo Award.
It’s an interesting piece in which you rummage through a graveyard of folders to discover the hidden inhabitants. I consider this a more notable release. The delivery is unique, and it took quite a bit of work.
GOGOFISH! (REDUX) GOTD Edition
$7.89 (one payment)
This one is a game from ARMAGAD (also Tetrageddon Games). I released it separate because it’s so bizarre that I thought some would enjoy it.
It’s visually very stunning imo. There was a let’s player that really liked it.
ELECTRIC FILE MONITOR
It was writen about on Forbes. Most of the downloads is because of MolleIndustria’s blog. I didn’t promote it except for over Twitter.
I showed it during my surprise talk at Fantastic Arcade.
oujevipo.fr also wrote about it… and IndieGames+… actually come to think of it, it did make it’s rounds in the indie game press.
It makes sense. I consider this a more unique piece. I love it. It’s a prison industrial complex for your computer in the form of a fictional virus scanner. It uses your actual files as characters, and you can punish the hell out of your computer (safely, nothing actually gets hurt).
It’s social political commentary in form of parody software.
It also takes a stab at the game industry and labor conditions (see the unlock-able awards area of the app).
This was up for a nomination at last AMAZE Berlin. It also got most innovative gameplay 2018 at Free Game Planet… IndieGames+ covered it, and RPS wrote about it too. It did get some nice coverage.
In my opinion I consider this one of my “bigger pieces” because just getting something designed so strangely to work on both OSX and Windows was a technical achievement.
It’s a cute experience in which two files, on your actual desktop (using the desktop as a game), ask you to pass eachother love notes.
It’s kind of like a freeware tech experiment meets game. It’s very unique.
I promoted this probably the heaviest from all my work (more so than Everything is going to be OK) because I really needed to make up the money to pay for my trip to GDC. I made enough to cover it.
It was featured around places like PC Gamer, a itch.io feature, IndieGames+, Rock Paper Shotgun mentioned it a couple times, and more that I can’t quite remember. It did well.
On the surface it looks like a very small project. That’s actually not the case. Quite a bit of resources went into it. It has almost an hour of recorded dialogue.
It’s an experience that you can literally only run once. It’s a virtual friend that you doom if you run it, but if you don’t run it you never get to know it.
It’s an exercise in loss, remembering things, and letting go.
There are some other works on itch that didn’t make anything so I’m not including those.
For example, the original Electric Love Potato was a viral hit (by my judgement). It’s software-as-meme meets parody software. It was covered in a lot of places, and is the reason why I made the potatoware website.
It did well on GameJolt, but not so much on itch. I think it’s interesting. GameJolt and itch have slightly different player bases in terms of what they like. It’s good to put your thing on both.
* Gross Yearly Summaries:
(not including taxes, or tips to itch, or marketing fees…)
(This is the year I started development on “Everything is going to be OK”)
(2018’s biggest earnings were from “Everything is going to be OK”‘s release, Cyberpet Graveyard, and A_DESKTOP_LOVE_STORY)
(This year’s total. Mostly because of RUNONCE and Electric Zine Maker)
* GROSS REVENUE:
out of 1,073 payments…
$922.2 marketplace fee (I assume this is the custom tip to itch.io)
$6,353.0 is the final amount I got (not including taxes)
By what I am sharing I hope it’s obvious that these stats have been snowballing. A project like RUNONCE making anything near that amount is fairly amazing to me. At the beginning I was lucky to make that in a year, and now I make that for one release.
In total, if you account for everything, I think it’s very impressive. It’s coming close enough to the point where it’s almost an income for me. I hope I can come to that point. It’s taken years of hard work & hustle.
So how do you do itch.io right? Ok, it’s not just for gamejams. To me this is a serious storefront, and general beacon of hope.
I am very active developing things. Small one-off releases do help draw attention to your account (while you work on your larger release).
If you work on only one “Big Hit Game” and don’t release often, I don’t think you are that likely to get a frequent stream of attention.
Some of my other titles (the one’s important to me and that I consider “Big”), only gained traction later. People will play one thing, and decide they like it, and then look at your other things. I view this as “re-discoverability”.
Just because something didn’t take off when you released it doesn’t mean it never will. You need to keep making things, and keep building a following… I realize how vapid “a following” sounds, but that’s a realistic assessment.
Having a good homepage (the profile page) is important. Your work needs to be sorted from best to least good.
Customizing your pages helps!!! It makes a big difference if you visually brand the first impression. Cyberpet Graveyard says nothing about itself, and is a very heavily customized page. This adds to the mystery.
Odd example: A very STINKY mystery FILE looks super weird and that makes it enticing. I’m pretty sure that it would have gotten 0 downloads if it wasn’t for the weird rotating comments.
Everything is going to be OK is a very customized page that fits with the game’s aesthetic, and that is intriguing to people.
The type of CSS customization that itch.io offers is what sets it apart in a big way from other mainstream storefronts.
itch places its brand in the background, instead of the foreground, and lets the developer exhibit their identity.
Most any online community these days doesn’t allow for that level of customization. There’s always the impression that you are entering “that entity’s brand”. In this case developers have a face. In my opinion this is irreplaceable, and a big reason why I host my games with itch.io, instead of setting up my own thing (which I used to have, but abandoned for itch).
You need to regularly update. Devlogs help to a degree.
You need to maintain and upkeep your games. Notice that ARMAGAD went out in 2016, but I updated it later in 2018. I regularly update all my games on itch. This is maintenance. It’s a lot of work for 30+ things, but it’s important to me.
This is basically a full-time life commitment for me. I don’t get out much, and most of my time is spent making things. I work very hard to keep that up, and will sacrifice what it takes to protect my time so I can create. I love doing what I do. This is in no way complaining, but it should give you a realistic bar for the level of commitment this takes (for one person to accomplish).
I have not worked with an indie team (I don’t count the horror stories I’ve experienced when working in this industry as “working with a team”, so ignore those), but I am certain that it’s very different if you do work with a team (probably easier).
This is all from the point of view of a solo-dev.
Most of the money made is because of “Everything is going to be OK”.
Last year (2018, this is from my taxes) my itch.io income was about $2,471.66 for the year.
Here’s how this year looks in terms of downloads.
This year has made about $1,782. Not including taxes, or what I give to itch. I’m sharing 30% of my profits with them. This is a custom amount, and you can chose $0. Since Steam charges that much (and sucks), itch should get the same imo.
The yearly earnings have been steadily growing over time. This year’s highest payed project is Electric Zine Maker. Other releases like RUNONCE and Cyberpet Graveyard contribute to this too. This should give you an idea of the scope. All three projects that I just mentioned took considerable amount of time to make, and I did email journalists about them. They did get covered. For example Cyberpet Graveyard was editors choice in PC Gamer (it got a fairly high rating) and is in their favorite free PC games list on their website. I heavily marketed RUNONCE. It would not have gotten much money if it wasn’t for that effort.
* Why has all my stuff on itch.io always been PWYW with an option of free?:
This is a fairly big question, but I’ll try to keep this short.
This work is experimental. Most people will not engage with it even if you payed them to (most people, not all).
I realize that this sounds pessimistic, but from my experience it’s fairly realistic.
I had ARMAGAD (also Tetrageddon Games), this is the desktop version of Tetrageddon, on GameJolt. It was featured as part of their storefront launch, and it did fairly well there (by my standards). This was PWYW with the option of free. My plan was to keep it this way for about a week and then put up the paywal ($6.66). When the paywal went up, nobody bought it. Imagine cricket sounds… tumbleweed… ok…
When it was PWYW with the option of free, people downloaded it, then payed for it later, or just payed for it.
After seeing that nobody was buying it, I lowered it back to PWYW with the option of free. Surprise! People started buying it again.
This has happened on a number of occasions.
I think charging for experimental work is very tricky because people will not engage with it UNLESS the barrier for entry is very low (free). Once they realize that they like it, they are likely to pay for it.
This is a summary of my observations.
Since I never have had an “exclusively for-pay game” (not PWYW/Free) on itch, I cannot speak to the success of that there. My gut tells me that if I tried that on itch.io it would be about the same.
It’s more important to me that people engage with my work, and I will continue to work as hard as I can to keep it as accessible as possible.
That being said, if you enjoyed it please do pay for it because it supports me and I really need the money. :)
* To be absolutely transparent, here is my follower count, download summary (everything ever), and total payments.
As of now I have about 1,888 followers. I think you can expect to see incremental income like this around this point.
To paint a realistic picture, here’s a bit about me (link).
Here’s my (brief overview, and very sanitized so as not to be too traumatizing) account of when I first started working in games (link).
I won the Nuovo Award in around 2015 for Tetrageddon. I think you can mark that timeframe when I started getting the most support from the indie community.
My work has won a handful of notable awards, as well as being featured in quite a few magazines (including PC Gamer, Webdesigner Magazine…), also WIRED, frequently covered on Rock Paper Shotgun (thank you for the support!), and what have you…
I bring this up not to brag, but so you have an idea of the scope. The history is important!
Me being here has been steadily snowballing, and this is a very long uphill journey. It’s important to adjust expectations, and not look at what I’m sharing and create unrealistic standards for yourself, or condemn yourself if you’re not seeing the same results. Success here (even if you’re going a traditional route) involves a lot of work, PR, attending events, networking, working on your popularity (for lack of a better term), and luck (right time and place), JUST AS MUCH as it involves making a good game. Be kind to yourself!
I have received a lot of support from the folks running itch.io. They featured my games, as well as interviewing me.
This type of exposure wouldn’t be possible without them, and this type of success for one person is certainly a community effort.
I can’t stress that enough. It involves everyone.
The itch.io, GameJolt, Indiegames+, etc. folk are very approachable.
I hope that this post helps people and is encouraging. Seeing how this (financial turnaround) has been snowballing it ALMOST seems possible to avoid Steam. ALMOST.
This speaks volumes to me because I’ve always had my skepticism about having my work on Steam. I view it as toxic and largely detrimental to indie games, at this point.
That’s a sweeping statement, but it’s hard not to form such conclusions when Steam regularly makes changes that directly hurt indies and do nothing to mitigate that damage. My fear of having my games on Steam largely has to do with the fact that they take 0 stance against managing the toxicity coming out of their platform. I do strongly believe that we would not have such a huge problem with gamers being associated with Nazi’s, GG, and hate mobs, if places like Steam (large culturally influential storefronts) took a stance against that. That lack of action makes everyone look bad for the ugliness that grows out of it.
Places that host communities have a social, and cultural obligation to manage the toxicity coming out of them.
Both itch.io and GameJolt actively ban what could become a problem. They take this serious, and they also take the well being of their devs serious. They are approachable and very generous.
Suffice to say tho that both of these storefronts (GameJolt and itch.io) are very important to me, and I view them as being a beacon of hope among the doom and gloom of the mainstream indiepocalypse.
There’s something genuinely hopeful about these two storefronts.
The fact that I can make that much, and the majority is through tips, speaks volumes of how supportive of a base itch.io has.
I talk about this very often with friends. I think that there’s a new type of “gamer” (player base for a lack of a better word) growing in these indie friendly storefronts, who are kind and more conscientious to developers. It’s wholesome, and supportive. Reading the comments there usually doesn’t send you up the wall.
They are fostering healthy communities that are positive and helpful. This is what we need. We need to care about people (not brands). We also need mentalities that re-enforce that devs are people (not avatars that you yell at if you think they are being rude to your entitled ass).
I fantasize that this becomes the “mainstream”. I think this can slowly change how people view “Gaming” and “Gamers” and challenge the association with the toxic baggage that holds this stuff back.
I’m being hopeful. I realize how hard it is. It’s an uphill battle for anyone that cares about alternative experimental work, and small indies… but it’s good to hope.
* (Update) Supplemental reading:
What i hope my stats here highlight is the growth that’s happening, the comfortable amount of effort it takes as a on-person-team, and the growing generosity of the community on itch.
I am not ignorant, and am fully aware of the numbers indies “can” subjectively make in major storefronts.
On the other hand, I think it’s very important to understand the scope of effort it takes to succeed in these places.
When engaging with a major storefront, factor in the amount of labor it takes to be successful on that storefront. How much work it takes to get wishlists, how much it takes to maintain interest, and so on. As a solo-dev it’s almost as much work as making an actual game.
Also, don’t just look at an indie success in these places and think that is attainable. A lot of these successful titles have had help from a publisher, or have connections in the industry.
Most of these storefronts will be skeptical about promoting someone that’s “new”. Most of success happens because of connections.
For example… Yes, people can make a living from apps on the App Store. It is extremely difficult tho, and involves a lot of work.
I had about 6+ games on there at one time. They were well covered too. I BARELY made anything, and that includes trying advertisements and paywalls. Also count in the labor it takes to work with the politics of a storefront.
It actually cost me to be on the App Store (only had my stuff there for fans). Customer’s on these platforms historically don’t have a mentality to support devs, and can get aggressive.
I credit a lot of this “uphill battle” difficulty to customer mentalities. These mentalities need to change, and lean in the direction of understanding the necessity of supporting developers. Itch and GameJolt propagate that.
Also, the fact that major storefronts will be hesitant about promoting something really new (you need to have preexisting traction) is an issue when breaking through.
So there’s a difference when you read these numbers, and I hope this post highlights a cultural difference on itch.io.
Yes, they are small right now.
Yes, what I’m talking is laughable to some BUT there’s growth happening in these places. It would be arrogant to ignore that.
I think when putting work on these places you should bank on the fact that people want to be supportive (once they know about you). The level of support I have received from the customer base on itch.io and GameJolt is truly heartwarming. On GameJolt someone bought “Everything is going to be OK” three times ($30). I contacted them, thinking this was an accident, and they can request a refund. They told me that they bought copies for friends.
In my twitter thread the question was brought up if it would be possible to make close to yearly minimum wage between GameJolt and itch. I think it’s absolutely possible. There are things I know that I could have done better, and I could have used GameJolt to its fullest capacity.
If I were less flaky with contacting people about “Everything is going to be OK” and engaging with the community on both sites, the numbers would be considerably higher. Between both sites I would estimate this could grow to something like minimum wage.
Some of the tips I mentioned here will help, and maybe I should make a post breaking down all that I learned.
For example, doing things like having a public beta that asks people to support it (they do), actively market it while building, AND releasing smaller works while making the big thing (that also make the smaller amounts of money), can work.
The difference here is that the community is very supportive, and the people running these sites are extremely supportive and approachable.
So… I hope people view these numbers as a cultural shift, and as indication of the growth happening.