Making games is hard and expensive. It’s getting easier and cheaper every year, of course, but as every dedicated activity that requires a long time of thinking and development it has a certain cost. A lot of game developers try to start an independent journey with almost no money on their bank account thinking that their awesome game idea is enough to make them rich in no time. Because of the lack of money or the uncertain future they live in they often try to only work with free or cracked softwares and are reluctant to spend some money in marketing. If you’re not interested in investing few coins in your own game development how could you expect someone to actually put money to buy your game?
Incredibly powerful free tools exist. It’s a fact. When I think about awesome free tools I immediately think about The Gimp and Blender. Both are powerful and formidable tools. They can do what Photoshop or 3D Studio Max do and they are sometimes even better. But don’t fool yourself, it’s not because it’s free and awesome that artists will accept to use them.1
When you have done something for several years you start to feel comfortable with it. You don’t want to change your habits and start all over again with a new similar software you don’t master. It might lead you to the scary feeling to be a new born again. Even if artists you work with accept to give The Gimp a try to please you, you might hear them crying during hours about misplaced color channels or some other broken artist magic spells.
Never underestimate the comfort a mastered software can offer. It goes the same with programmers. Try to tell an experienced C++ programmer he will write Java during 2 years for the next game and you’ll have a sneak peek of what is pain and discomfort in his eyes. If the tool you are putting money on can help your team to be comfortable it can also help them to work faster. Also, if these tools help you make several games it could be very interesting to invest on them.
Don’t be greedy
Sometimes softwares are VERY expensive (or they seem to be). If you’re broke you will surely remember the first time you spent $1000+ to buy a software. It’s a harsh choice to make, and it can put yourself in danger.
Once again you have to be wise because money is also what helps you put warm food in your plate. BUT… you have to weigh the costs with the benefits this software can bring.
Spending money is not only a matter of software to buy. Making a marketing campaign will cost you time and money. If you want to show your game and spread the good word about your work, there are chances you will have to jump in a plane and show yourself at an event… everything has a cost… the plane ticket AND the event entry. These kind of expenses are almost mandatory if you want to be known and seen. Without them it will be harder to get some coins from your game.2
It’s important for you to know that you will surely have some expenses to make if you want your game to reach a large audience. Don’t fool yourself too much with the idea that a good game will naturally be trending and reach its audience, it’s wrong. Steam tidal flats are full of awesome games who have only sold 10 units. Even if you make the best game ever, if nobody hears about it, you won’t sell that much. Please remember that.
In the end
You have to be the first to invest in your own game. Sometimes spending a few bucks can help you and your team to work better and faster. Sometimes it will help you reach more people that you would have naturally reached. If you plan to start a game developer journey, please be sure you are prepared to spend some money for it. If you’re wise enough you will see it as an investment and hopefully see the benefits of it very soon.
of course more and more artists work only using free but powerful tool. However as schools stubbornly continue to mainly teach Photoshop people don’t feel the need to discover other tools. ↩
even if money is not your first goal and you prefer glory and fame, cases where you are already rich enough to dedicate several months of your life to work on one game only without seeing it on your bank account are pretty rare. ↩