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.
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.
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.
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.
Mark Overmars and Jacob Habgood’s The Game Maker’s Apprentice 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.
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.
Photo of Jacob Habgood by Flickr user Preoccupations (CC).