Written By John Sonmez
Do you enjoy making games so much that you want to make a career out of it?
With the popularity of video games today, there are so many opportunities to make money in game development — so let's talk about 5 major ways to make money by making games.
You can either choose to pursue a career in a big studio, in a small studio or even follow your way as an independent game developer.
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Whatever career you choose, keep something in mind:
Find a niche.
Learn what you need to learn, meet who you need to meet, and do whatever it takes to become successful in that specific area of game development.
If you keep bouncing around between these different paths, it's going to be hard for you to become great at any one of them.
My biggest piece of advice to becoming a successful game developer is to pick just one of these career paths and focus all your energy and efforts on becoming as great as possibly you can.
Let's get into it.
Now, within here you have a couple of different options.
You, of course, can go for a larger studio, a smaller studio, or pretty much anything in between. For a larger studio, these are places like Bethesda, Rockstar, Electronic Arts, and typically these teams who are creating games are going to be hundreds and hundreds of people big.
To get a job at one of these companies, it's best to specialize in a very specific area of game development.
I know someone who specialized in rigging, which is where you take the 3D model and you make a skeleton of the 3D model before you pass it on to the animation department so they can animate the character.
And because he's specialized in this area and got so good at it over a short amount of time, he was able to get a job at a large game development company.
Where to look for jobs
A platform we promote for software developers looking for jobs is Triplebyte.
They also feature job postings looking for game developers:
How Triplebyte works
Getting an ‘In'
Another way to get in the door at one of these big game development companies is to just meet the right people. So make sure you're attending big game development industry events as well as little local meetups of different game developers.
You never know, the person you might meet might end up landing you a job somewhere.
The Thing with Small Studios
At the other end of the spectrum, you can go to a smaller game development studio and these smaller studios are often maybe five or six people, or even about 10 to 15. And because the studios are much smaller, you want to have a broader and more well rounded skill set.
You'll need to understand the whole pipeline of creating a game from beginning to end and you really need to understand how all the different teams interact because you're going to be interacting with a bunch of different people doing a bunch of different things.
Again, meetups are really important for just meeting the right people to get a job at a smaller game development studio.
Now, if there aren't very many game development studios in your area, it can be difficult to land a job at a company like that.
A great option for some remote work is to start doing freelance and contract game development.
So of course you can find work for these smaller jobs on websites like Upwork or Fiverr. However, it may be difficult to stand out if you don't have a whole lot of game development experience.
One way you might be able to do is to reach out to some smaller game developers on YouTube or Twitter and just ask to see if you could do some unpaid game development work for them. And although you won't be making any money to begin with, you'll be able to build up that portfolio and start being able to show people work that you've made and then people will want to start paying for your work.
The third way to make money as a game developer is to sell tools and assets on things like the Unity Asset Store. The Unity Asset Store is a great place for game developers to go, you can buy all kinds of assets and tools. They have things like 3D models, 2D background, all kinds of things that you could need to develop a game.
And if you're an entrepreneurial programmer, you can make tools to sell in the Unity Asset Store. And these tools can integrate with whatever game engine you're developing for and they can make game development a whole lot easier for end users. People will be willing to pay a lot of money if they can save a lot of time by using your specific tool.
Again, it's important to have something that addresses a specific need or solves a specific problem if you want to stand out in the Unity Asset Store.
It's certainly possible to make quite a bit of money on the Unity Asset Store. When you're going to submit something to the Asset Store, Unity basically tells you to not be afraid to price your asset or tool pretty high because people would be willing to pay that high price if it solves their specific issue.
The fourth way to make money as a game developer is to teach game development. So of course there are websites like Udemy and Unity Learn where you can make little courses and things like that to teach development or you could even get a job as a tutor or a teacher at a game development university or some local tutoring school.
Or you could maybe even do some one-on-one consulting, again, in a specific area of game development to help them maybe with their programming or help them with their art direction or marketing.
But to become a good teacher, you're probably going to need to be fairly experienced in game development already.
The fifth and final way that you can make money as a game developer is, of course, to go indie.
So the big thing these days, the thing that everybody wants to do is to be an independent video game developer. And I mean, it really is the dream job, you get to work for yourself, you get to make something that interests you and you could potentially make quite a bit of money doing it.
I would say for someone who doesn't have very much game development experience this is going to be the hardest one to really succeed in.
But I don't mean to deter you from doing it because there are plenty of people who started off making games by themselves and ended up making huge, massive hits.
Let's go over some of the ways that you can monetize your game as an independent game developer.
Sell Your Indie Game at a Fixed Price
The most common strategy for independent game developers is to make a game and sell it for a fixed price. So maybe you sell it for 7,99 9,99, 12,99 whatever you want.
Someone buys your game, they pay that fixed price and they have access to that game for the rest of time. And when you sell your game for a fixed price, you have some flexibility so you can maybe put your game on sale, sell it for half price and make some more sales that way.
You can also do DLC, which is downloadable content, so this is extra content that you maybe make for your game. So maybe you add in some more levels or you add in some cosmetic items, like different player skins or something like that.
Free-to-Play: In-App Purchases
Another great monetization strategy for independent game developers is to make a free-to-play game.
Free-to-play games are common on mobile platforms, but you do see them on console or PC as well. And the way that they actually monetize these is through either in-app purchases or advertisements. With in-app purchases this can be very similar to downloadable content, so you can sell cosmetic items like player skins or you can even sell extra levels to your game.
How to Make Money Running Ads in Your Game
The Subscription Model
Another way you can monetize your game is through a subscription model. This would be pretty difficult to pull off for a beginner because you basically need to get someone to sign up for your game that they're going to be paying a monthly recurring fee on.
And the reason I say that's difficult, especially for a beginner, is because you need to be selling your game non-stop. You need to be giving everyone a reason to come back and purchase the subscription for an extra five bucks a month or whatever you have it.
And the last major way to make money as an independent game developer is through sponsorships. Sponsorships are going to be pretty difficult to pull off if you don't have much of an audience. And depending on the deal, they might pay you at a fixed price or a variable price depending on how many people play your game.
Those are the top five ways to make money as a game developer.