8 Platforms for Publishing Indie Games
Making a game is a challenge. Juggling a whole host of systems, art, narrative, game-feel and performance is no easy feat, and when any game finishes its development cycle it almost feels like a miracle. However, many games fall into obscurity either because they are hard to discover, or they completely missed out on marketing.
Publishing and distributing a game can be a real challenge, but thankfully there are a variety of platforms that want to get your game out there for you. Given, that want is often in their interest—as they get a cut of your profits—but choosing the right platform(s) can be the difference between your title becoming an indie gem or being lost in the pile.
Let’s run down some of the key places to publish your game.
This platform needs absolutely no introduction. Steam is the largest platform for gaming on PC, so chances are you not only have a steam account, but you use it regularly.
Because of its popularity, steam will likely be the first port of call for your indie game given that you get the greatest exposure on the platform. However, with popularity comes competition, meaning that your game will need to stand out from the crowd to be successful.
To publish your game, you’ll need to go through Steam Direct, which has a submission fee of USD100 (RM421.65) per title. Fortunately, that USD100 is recoupable after your product has made over USD1000 (RM4,216.50). Something which seems like a fair precaution to stop Steam from becoming a dumping ground for half-baked projects.
Furthermore, you can expect Steam to take a 30% cut on your profits—something which is largely considered as an industry-standard price.
Another of gaming’s most popular stores popularised due to its exclusive titles and frequent freebies, Epic Games has been amassing more and more users over the past years.
Developers can apply for their games to be published on the Epic Games Store, with them taking an incredibly appealing 12% of profits.
The online home of game jams and indie developers, Itch.io is a platform known for passion projects, solo developers and the truly indie side of the indie game market. As such, Itch.io offers the tantalising possibility to upload any game completely free while also being able to choose and adjust your prices on the fly.
Itch.io also allows for flexible pricing models, where individuals can pay an amount of their choice for any game—making it especially good for projects which may not warrant a full price tag.
Given its ease of uploading, Itch is also great for in-progress projects, allowing you to keep fans up to date with the latest builds.
Itch takes a respectable 10% by default however this percentage can be adjusted by developers themselves either up or down, with the minimum being a pretty epic 0%.
Yes, you read that right. Nothing.
Game Jolt, much like Itch.io, is home to true indie games. Similarly, uploading is free, and you can easily set your price.
The revenue model of Game Jolt is slightly more complex; with them taking 10% (or less) while you also receive 30% of the ad revenue generated from your game page.
Well established, Good Old Games strays away from Epic Games’ and Steams’ models of keeping everything on the platform and opts to sell games DRM-free. In other words, players get full access to the game’s files, as if there were buying a good old CD-ROM.
There is no submission fee to GOG, but they, like Steam and Epic Games, can be quite selective about which games get uploaded. Be sure to do some research to ensure your game has the best chance of being selected.
GOG takes 30% by default, but there is an option for an advance on your royalties, which can really help you in terms of funds if you are still in development. Taking this your revenue split alters to 60/40 upon release.
Among the most difficult to produce for and most strict to select, console-specific stores are generally the finish line for an indie game. That said, depending on your idea, control scheme and target audience, your game may well be better suited to a console-specific store.
These stores will most often take 30% while having incredibly tight submission and selection criteria. As such, it’s vital to do some good research to ensure your game has a good chance to end up on your console of choice.
App Stores (Google Play, Apple, Amazon)
While old-school gamers may try to deny it, mobile gaming is huge. That means many developers may want to either develop directly for mobile or have their games ported to mobile devices.
For this, you’ll need to ensure your app is, of course, playable on your target device. Then you will need to open up an account on your app store of choice.
Google charges a one-time fee of USD25 (RM105.41) to open an account and then splits revenue 70/30.
The Apple App Store’s initial setup costs USD100 (RM421.65), followed by a 70/30 split for one-time payment apps and 85/15 for subscription apps.
The Amazon Appstore is free to submit to and release upon, with the revenue split being 70/30. That said, Amazon’s Appstore is still the smallest of these three marketplaces.
If you’re producing for VR, you have three key marketplaces: Steam, the Oculus Store and Viveport.
Thanks to the popularity of the Oculus Quest 2, the Oculus Store is where an incredibly large proportion of VR game purchases are made, making it a must for those looking to distribute their indie games.
Uploading to Oculus can be met with some resistance, with key criteria needing to be met. But once your app is uploaded, they will take a cut of 30%.
There are plenty of ways to distribute your indie game but knowing which ones you’ll choose can help inform your game’s design and compatibility. Thus, knowing early will make a huge difference.
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