Making a game, even a small one, is challenging as hell. Making a game and having it be financially successful is exponentially harder. This Friday (April 7th), I’m launching my next game, Missile Cards, on Steam, and I’m on a quest. A quest to break even.
I know what you’re thinking: “Woah, woah, hold up! Let’s not get all CRAZY TALK here, Mr. Ambitious pants.”
Break even? Yeah. Break even. That’s my first target with Missile Cards’ Steam launch, and to do that, I need to sell roughly 5,000 copies of the game. My goal is to hit that sales mark in the first month, which would let me pay off a few looming bills and feel not-miserable about spending the last 6 months hustling like a lunatic to code and create this thing.
To some, 5,000 copies — in a month or otherwise — is a super ambitious goal. A lot of small indie games don’t even sell 1,000 copies in their entire lifetime. Yet for others, they break the 5,000 sales mark in a single day. Me? I know better than to set high expectations, so instead I’ve set a goal to work hard towards, and I need your help to hit it.
WHY 5,000 COPIES?
From the beginning, Missile Cards was designed to be a small, minimal-risk project. My goal was to make, polish, and launch something I could be proud of in as short a time as possible. The idea was to minimize financial risk and hit the finish line to feel that sense of COMPLETING something.
My goal was to develop and launch the game in only three months. It took six. That’s still a lot better than the 1-2 year slower burning projects that I’m chipping away at.
5,000 copies sold, after Steam’s cut, would give me roughly enough income to cover the game’s six month development cycle. That’s my break even point. If I sell more than that, I can start counting it as actual profit, which is something I could really use, to be honest.
I started prototyping Missile Cards just before the holidays, and shortly afterwards I found myself in a crappy position work-wise — I lost roughly 90 percent of my steady freelance gigs all at once due to budget cuts and client priorities shifting.
For at least half of Missile Cards’ development, making this game was my full-time job while I was hustling to rebuild my freelance workload. At the same time, I’ve been struggling with depression, anxiety, and mounting house renovation nightmare bills (don’t buy a money pit, folks). I’ve been taking it on the chin from life lately and it has put me in a really shitty headspace.
Missile Cards has the potential to be a light point in a very dark year for me, and I’m hoping this launch is successful enough to be the catalyst that gives me the boost I need to get out of the mental and financial quicksand long enough to find the better work/life balance I so desperately need.
WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
I mean, you don’t have to care. Lots of people struggle. Mental unwellness is easily as common as financial instability among game developers and indies in particular. I’m no special flower.
But here’s what Missile Cards doing well during this critical launch month means to me.
Not going to lie: life hasn’t been so peachy.
I’ve been working myself nearly to death since I started making games 3 years ago. I love gamedev. It fulfills me on a much deeper level than even word-slinging has, and that’s saying a lot. It’s what I eventually want to do (among other creative-driven pursuits like writing books, helping other folks, etc) on a more full-time basis. The last three years have been tremendously rewarding and an amazing learning experience. The last three years have also flushed my mental, physical, and social health down the crapper.
People who know me (or sort of know me via the magic of the Internet) know that I know how to hustle. I work crazy hours, weekends, whenever I can. I’m driven to learn things, to do things, to make things happen. That’s a good thing and a bad thing sometimes, because if I’m given the choice, I never turn it off. I’m always doing.
Freelancing is still a full-time job for me, and it’s how I stay afloat. Between my solo projects and working with my co-founders at Touchfight Games, gamedev is easily a second full-time job’s worth of my time — except I’ve been doing that at a financial loss for three years. Meanwhile, I’m juggling so much that I’m missing out on important things like…going outside and seeing the sunshine, doing things with my wife and pets, and interacting with the human world. I feel less and less human lately, and that’s not good.
I’ve been rapidly approaching the precipice — a point in my life where if I don’t start to tap the breaks, scale back, and stop pushing myself 400% all the time, I’m going to break.
If Missile Cards is even a small success, it’ll be ONE positive thing that’s happened to me in a year that’s been full of stress, mishaps, and nightmarish obstacles. One win won’t turn that around completely, but it can create a foundation for me to build more positive momentum. It creates potential. A spark to ignite something greater, something better than…whatever this has been.
That’s my hope for Missile Cards. And that’s a tall order, because the odds are stacked against me.
What I am going to do this week, however, is double down and give it my absolute best, then keep on pushing throughout the month to try to hit my goal, try to exceed it, and hopefully dig myself out of this abyss I’ve been slipping into. Wish me luck.
And speaking of wishes…*cough*…you can add Missile Cards to your Steam wishlist!
The game launches Friday, and I’ll be blogging throughout launch month with updates on progress and where I’m at. I’m also hoping to document more of my launch experiences to share what worked, what didn’t, and how things went.
Cheers and be well.