Who is making money from Game Maker?

on February 16, 2010 - 24693 Views

Before we start yes I am aware that people choose to use Game Maker as a hobby, to learn how to program or to meet new friends from around the world.  Money is not the reason why tens of thousands of people opt to download and use Game Maker every year or the reason why hundreds of people launch services or websites providing resources for community members.

We know YoYo Games are not making money from Game Maker and a recent look at GMB’s finances got me pondering just “who is making money from Game Maker?”.  Presumably someone must be somewhere down the line.    Forgetting your ISPs, electricity providers and computer retailers and looking a little closer at the users.

Commercial game creators?
It is infamously difficult to get Game Maker users to part with money.  The majority of forum members are of school age with many running illegally cracked versions of the software.  Thankfully games can be marketed outside of the YYG/GMC where people are more willing to pay for games providing they are of sufficient quality.  A spreadsheet showing sales figures for several commercial Game Maker games is available here (please add to it if you know any more).  Although some of these figures may seem quite large in most cases they do not match the equivalent of the minimum wage which could be earned if the hours spent developing the game were used for employment.

Verdict: In very small numbers.

yoyo games logo Who is making money from Game Maker?YoYo Games?
Before YoYo Games came along Game Maker was run pretty much single handedly by its developer Mark Overmars.  The official Game Maker website hosted few games itself and instead linked to two approved community run websites.

When YoYo Games came along expenses increased vastly.  YoYoGames.com is one of the top 15,000 websites in the world, required significant coding  to setup and has large ongoing costs with over 725GB of data served on average each day last month.  Not to mention the costs of developing future versions of Game Maker including Game Maker 7 for Mac and porting the runner so that games can run on a variety of hand held devices.  So far these have resulted in losses of over $600,000.

Verdict: No

Community websites?
By “community websites” I am encompassing all websites providing resources as well as forums and membership sites. Very few sites are regularly updated for more than a year or so but two of the oldest sites still going are Game Maker Games and the not-really-GM focused 64Digits created in 2003 and 2004 respectively.  In the past GMG has carried AdSense but currently both sites appear to be completely ad free.

Verdict: Possible to earn some small change.

magazines end of 2008 lo Who is making money from Game Maker?Media?
As with games considerable time and effort is put into producing media products for Game Maker users to consume.  The 10 magazine issues released by the “big two” in 2008 totalled 401 pages and that is excluding Russell’s Quarterly, GMWeekly or any of the lower quality magazines.   All for free  and with extremely minimal adverts which in most cases were given in exchange for content or were part of a cross-promotion deal and not sold.

Then there are those that don’t hide behind their screens and have created video shows such as Game Maker TV resulting in the need to purchase expensive equipment.

Verdict: No

jacob habgood sumo digital Who is making money from Game Maker?Book authors?
Mark Overmars and Jacob Habgood’s The Game Maker’s Apprentice Who is making money from Game Maker? has been far more successful than the authors predicted selling 5,000 copies in the first 90 days it was on sale.

Even today, almost three and a half years after its release, it is still ranked highly in Amazon best sellers lists around the world and as a result Mark and Jacob are working on a follow up.  There have also been books written by third parties including Jerry Lee Ford’s Getting Started with Game Maker and Basic Projects in Game Maker Who is making money from Game Maker?.

Verdict: Yes

Hosts?
WillHostForFood is perhaps the best known site hosting predominantly Game Maker content to close recently but there have been many other smaller sites run by Game Maker users which have also closed, MyGMHost is just one of these.  The problem with these file host websites is the large amount of data they transfer and the minimal amounts of advertising that they show – especially if you allow files to be linked to directly from third-party sites.  WHF claimed to be spending $10-150 a month, depending on whether you believe an advertisement where they tried to sell the site or the excuse given to Game Maker users, on hosting before they vanished (without having learnt how to make a backup) two and a half years after the site launched.

Verdict: No.

Photo of Jacob Habgood by Flickr user Preoccupations (CC).

19 Responses to Who is making money from Game Maker?

  1. xot says:

    I’m kind of shocked that ShellBlast has only made $300 considering how much I’ve seen it praised. I mean, I only made $100 with my puzzle game, but that was with no promotion, no advertising, and no reviews. It’s sad that even with decent media support a good game like ShellBlast tanked. I wonder if ShellBlast HD (XBLIG) fared any better.

    • As there is no date or source URL given to that figure it may be out of date. I did a quick search at the GMC through Mr Chubigan’s topics but couldn’t find a total sales figure anywhere despite quite a few posts about his commercial games.

  2. SunnyKatt says:

    I certainly think getting a commerical game to sell well is possible. It has to be really good and innovative, and you need a good publisher if you were able to get one.

    If a GM game were sold over steam it could make alot more than other games would. :)

  3. David Barnes says:

    Why is the “pro” version of Game Maker only $25? It makes the whole thing look like a toy. I’ve tried a few Game Maker games that are exactly the sort of games I like, and would pay a quid or two for — if it was convenient. And — the time that people put in to creating decent games means that most of them wouldn’t see much difference in paying an extra $50 for the tool. $25 is just an embarrassing figure!

    Game Maker could use something like the Apple Appstore — install it on a PC and it provides a front end for buying and downloading games, a menu system so that all GM games are easily accessible from the same menu, and maybe even shared preferences and high scores. Try to mimick the iPhone experience on a Windows PC.

    The system will recommend games you’ll like based on your previous buying and playing habits, compared with other customers.

    • So that people have money left to spend on buying Game Maker books :P.

      I believe the reason for the low cost is that it was previously completely free and that many of the users are young (that said I expect they are still more than happy to spend £30-£40 on the latest games for their consoles).

  4. I’ve made some money with Game Maker, but not by any “traditional” means. Most of my commercial GM work has revolved around creating small, simple games for specific uses (such as for kiosks at corporate functions) or prototyping (my last project was a demo of a possible game show for TV).

  5. GMArcade says:

    To put some more perspective, I decided to share a little bit. GMArcade over the past year made about $100 from Google AdSense. The new iPlayIndie (when it comes out) is projected to make much more, as the website has been designed to be monetized.

    As for David Barnes idea for a program, iPlayIndie is going to implement a program like that :)

  6. Joeri says:

    Game Maker programming won me an Ipod, so I guess that’s already a pretty big price compared to usual standards :D

  7. Ethan says:

    See where it says on that spreadsheet “$10.05″? Well, that game was released by my team. No need to congratulate me, I already know how big of a deal getting over 10 dollars is (I’m kidding).
    But anyway, I’m still trying to get my first paycheck from AdSense. And my site’s been around for a while. But I guess that’s partly because we haven’t gotten a hit.

    In the words of Jean Jacques Rousseau, “Money is the seed of money, and the first guinea is sometimes more difficult to acquire than the second million.”

  8. Tom Russell says:

    For quoting Rousseau, you get my click.

  9. David Barnes says:

    @FredFredrickson that would make for an interesting article…

    I’ve heard rumours that some developers use Game Maker as a fast way to prototype a game, then they outsource the development work for a different more “serious” platform to a third party. I guess that means they’re indirectly making — or at least saving — money with Game Maker.

    By the way, if any experienced Game Maker wants to try their hand at writing a book — the only option to get an unqualified “yes” above — then please contact me by clicking my name above. I work for Packt Publishing, a tech book publisher that’s just getting into games development books.

  10. Peter Szabo Gabor says:

    Hello,

    I add my knowledge too, because the list is not full.

    1.
    I licensed 500 copies of GM6.1 from Mark as a branded version, and so far I sold about 300 copies in Hungary. It costed about $8000 for me (license, production, site hosting etc.) and I earned about $3000, which means a massive $5000 loss.
    Altogether, I don’t regard it as a loss, because I built a community arount GM and run the site for about 4 years (2005-2009). $1000 loss the part of the $5000 was because we spent this amount for the prizes of the contests we run.

    Now, the http://www.gamemaker.hu was renamed and the aim of the site had changed.(last year at november, becase GM8 made our effort worthless, and the GM6.1 lost any ability to be sold). When YoYo changed the upgrade policy (no free upgrades) then any older version lost their value. I have to add that YoYo was more than fair with us, they gave me 35 coupons to add to the product which allowed my customers to freely upgrade from 6.1->7.

    So for me the answer is : No (I didn’t make any money, or more precisely: any profit)

    2.
    Silentworks, also a hungarian guy, created the first version of SilentWalk (www.silentworks.hu) in Game Maker. Now, since the first version is not on sale, the second isn’t done in Game Maker, I might share this information (nobody will decompile and crack the first version, I guess). He also made some small amount of money of Silent Walk 1 (according to his words: he was able to buy a good coat, which means about $500-600). I don’t know anything about his spendings though. But I guess: altogether, the Silent Walk 1, which was made in Game Maker, wasn’t profitable.
    Answer: probably No

    3.
    I also created some commercial games in Game Maker, which are still on sale in the US. I am tied by my contract, and I cannot name them (nor can I link to them), this was added to the contract when the decompiler came out. I made about $1500 from them as an upfront, and on-completion payment (I do not get any royalty of them). I do not know any sales statistics on them.
    Answer: Yes, for me. I worked altogether about 2 months on them, so I made $750 / month. Which is not that much, but still I regard it as an income and profit (beside my daily job, so I might regard it as a hobby-income)

    I hope this help :) and prove, that GM might bring in money, if you use and sell it properly. My GM6.1 project was a loss, but that’s because I am a coder, and I wasn’t able to keep up with sales knowledge. I also do work on a site, where I will sell my games in GM and other creator softwares, and the games of others (from the community we built).

    Thanks!
    Peter

  11. xot says:

    I somehow forgot that I made a few grand working on an unreleased open source Game Maker game that was canceled halfway through production. Even though it was never meant to be a commercial release, I still made a nice chunk of change on it.

  12. Drazzke says:

    I once met a guy who just happened to need someone to make him a quick prototype (to test out some ideas of his), and I offered to do so using Game Maker. I think I earned close to $300 (Canadian). Not all that much, but I’ve definitely earned my money back buying GM ($50 in total, for 6.1 and then later 8). Otherwise, I haven’t attempted selling anything, and haven’t won any money from competitions.

  13. parali okey says:

    very great information thank you

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