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Is GameMaker Studio Master Collection Worth It?

Are you wondering if GameMaker Studio Master Collection is worth the hefty asking price? YoYo Games, the company behind the massively popular development engine, want you to think it is. Despite the allure of “free modules” and apparent “savings”, the offer is not as clear-cut as you might imagine.

The Master Collection is the most expensive version of GameMaker currently available. It includes all of the existing modules, which allow you to export projects to Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, Android, Ubuntu, Windows Phone, and HTML5. As new modules become available in the near future you’ll receive them for no extra cost.

The cost of the Master Collection is currently $499 USD. This is a one-time flat fee. Update: The price has now increased to $799 »

GameMaker Studio Professional costs $99 USD, but it is only able to export to Windows and Mac OS X by default. You are then given the option of purchasing each module separately at your leisure. If you bought every module in this manner, you would end up paying $1000 or more for GameMaker. Considering that scenario, the appeal of the Master Collection becomes quite apparent.

High-Priced Mystery Box

YoYo Games are attempting to lure people in with the promise of what might be. Yes, you will receive new modules when and if they are released in the future. But should you pay extra for something that doesn’t exist yet, and might not ever? If you’re hoping for a PSP module and it never arrives, would you feel cheated?

This line thinking is flawed, though, as YoYo Games will not be giving Master Collection owners free modules forever. That’s right: the free modules will be provided only up until a certain version.

Recently a GameMaker Community forum administrator suggested that owners of the Master Collection could stop receiving free modules once the engine reaches version 1.2, which could be a matter of weeks or months. Update: Version 1.2 has now been released and free modules will continue indefinitely »

Although no date has been made official for the cut-off point, it is generally believed that YoYo Games will stop providing free updates no later than version 2.0. YoYo Games CTO Russel Kay confirmed this possibility in October 2012 when he announced the free module scheme. He ambiguously wrote that the offer would be provided until version “1.x”.

This exception is not clearly detailed on the YoYo Games website. In February 2013, the terms of the offer led one user to claim he could “sue” the company. After demanding a refund on the grounds he was mislead, YoYo Games allegedly declined to comply.

Deciding Factors

Before purchasing GameMaker, you should prepare a general outline of which platforms you wish to develop for. Although GameMaker Studio offers extensive cross-platform support, it may be wise to focus on a specific group of platforms instead of all of them. For example, creating mobile applications for only Android and iOS is a popular choice. Focusing on HTML5 might be profitable. Buying the Ubuntu module and limiting yourself to desktop platforms like Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux could be another suitable route.

If you only plan to develop games for a select few platforms, buying the individual modules is often a better option.

Hidden Costs Add Up

Even if you think you’re getting a better deal by buying the Master Collection you may just be burning money on something you won’t use. With each platform comes further development costs; this is especially true for Android, iOS, and Mac OS X.

Android developers will need to pay a small sum of $25 for a “lifetime” license to sell their apps, and several hundred more to buy a device for testing. If you want to publish iOS apps, you’ll incur even higher costs. You’ll have to pay $99 annually to maintain a developer’s certificate, plus several hundred dollars for an iOS device, and you’ll need a Macintosh computer to boot.

How about the cost of Windows Phone development? What about renting a server to distribute HTML5 games? Realistically, you will be investing hundreds or potentially thousands of dollars to start a commercial endeavor with GameMaker Studio. Every additional platform you choose to support takes a bite out of your wallet.

The Final Verdict

GameMaker Studio Master Collection is best suited to hardcore hobbyists and professional developers who want, and can afford, to build games for many different platforms. If you’re limited by a budget or lack the licenses and hardware required by the various platforms, opting for GameMaker Professional and one or two modules may make more financial sense.

For the average developer, the Master Collection offers sizable savings if the desired modules equal or exceed the cost of the Master Collection in the first place. If you are being roped in by what “could be” then you need to reconsider your priorities. Likewise, before deciding if the Master Collection is a “saving” figure out if you will actually make use of the product as a whole, or if you’re letting an appealing marketing ploy blur your vision.

What do you think?

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  1. While I like Game Maker, Unity3d has just made their mobile platform free for all indies earning less than $100k and now they are offering the pro version as a subscription .. so I think YoYo would be silly not to compete.
    There free model for PC took them into 2 million users alone.

  2. I think the ‘price creep’ for GameMaker:Studio is rather a ‘value creep’. You are getting a boatload of better, more refined features on every level of the software compared to GameMaker 8.1 … You can do many more things at higher frame rates and with a lot broader platform support with GameMaker:Studio compared to the old GameMaker 8.x versions. The IDE has gotten better, debugging facilities have gotten better, and most of all, features have been adding significant value to the whole package *especially for independent developers*.

    Chances are there will be an upgrade plan once GM:Next or 2.0 or whatever comes at the end of the ‘maintenance period’ of the current GameMaker:Studio. They did the same for 8.1 and HTML5 users. YoYoGames are doing one hell of a job and GameMaker:Studio has matured much faster than its competition.

  3. @Jason, if you’re just getting into GameMaker, and aren’t sure you want to commit a lot of money into tools, there’s nothing wrong with trying out 8.1 Free. The 8.x Free edition is less restricted than GM:Studio’s free edtion, so you can build games in it that are a little more featureful than you can with the free edition of GM:Studio.

    If/when you’re ready to move up to Studio, your projects *will* import, but you *may* have to change some of your code in order for your project to run, if you happen to use functions that have been deprecated.

    I don’t believe YYG will be putting any more resources into developing the GM8.x line, so it is what it is right now — don’t expect anything new, all their new effort is going into Studio (and it’s wonderful). But if you want a $40 Pro-edition license, that’s your option.

    But, personally, I think you’d be best off with GameMaker Studio Free or Standard edition, and then upgrading to Professional once you feel the need for the additional features.

  4. @Jason, GM 8.1 is a different product than GM Studio. It will translate to GM Studio, but there are some significant differences and I would try to make myself aware of them before developing in GM 8.1 if you plan on migrating your game at a later date. As far as the rest of the article goes, GM Studio Master is still one of the best deals out there. Yes there are some free tools, but IMO they are not nearly as comprehensive, easy to use, easy to TEST, and as powerful as GM Studio. Especially once GM:S 1.2 comes out with LLVM which will compile GM:S apps to native code. Just my 2 cents.

  5. @Chris, Awesome! TBH I didn’t even know there were different versions & that the Suite was SEPARATE! Now I can see where value of features could be derived. The suite is more professional with various exporting tools for other OS & platforms. My questions now would be: Does a game I create (along with all assets) in GM 8.1 transfer over into the GM Suite? Is GM 8.1 still being supported & updated, albeit slowly as you mentioned (basically is 8.1 also the core of the Suite as well)? Sorry, but their site is just not very clear about these things & GM 8.1 for Windows is just listed on their site as “other versions”. Thanks again! 😀 I already DL’d the Lite 8.1 to try it out 🙂 $40 is better than $99 any day!

  6. @Jason, I’ve been using GameMaker since 8.0. In the time I’ve been using it, I’ve seen a HUGE increase in the productivity of YYG’s release schedule. They are delivering features at a high rate. In years past, GameMaker may have cost dramatically less, but it languished with releases coming infrequently. The increased cost is justified, based on the value they’re returning. It’s clear they are pouring their increased revenue back into the product.

    If you want, you can *still* buy GameMaker 8.1 for $40 from YYG’s website. Or download and use the Free version of it if you want to.

  7. I got SUPER excited for Game Maker after PC Gamer magazine #235 January 2013, featured GM (page 50) with side by side comparisons of other software suites in their “The Indies Guide to Game Making” article. It weighed pros & cons of each software used to create games. A developer, Derek Yu (creator of Spelunky), was interviewed about Game Maker. He mentions he’s using GM 8.1 & he paid $19 for registration (says “$40 these days”). Flash forward to the time this mag hit the newsstand (December 2012) & once I went to the website, YoYoGames had already hiked their price 5 fold (5 x $19 = $95), which is the current price of $99.00. Not to mention the numerous addons & exporting tools for different OS as stated above in this article costs $1000 when bought alone or as you can afford them. Basically YoYoGames has hyper inflated the “value” of their programs ($19 to $40 to $99 in months?!) & is ripping folks off with their initial pricing scheme & now stating your $499 deluxe will stop receiving free module updates or future newer addons at X date/X version. Where are the options to purchase older versions? If Spelunky was made with GM 8.1 for $19 THAT IS WHAT I WANT TO PAY!

  8. A couple more points worth considering…:

    If you’re releasing software for money, then you’re a business, and the cost of your tools is a tax-deductible expense.

    GM:Studio Master Collection, even at $500, is *still* a lot cheaper than a lot of the other game development tools out there that is aimed at the professional developer/game designer.

    Of course, there are also plenty of tools that are completely free, too. For some, vim + gcc is all they really need.

    Anyone gets out of their tools what they put into it, not what they spend on it.

    • Chris – Good points. Many people forget about the ‘tax write-offs’ because essentially your servers running services/games, your game maker studio software and literally anything you put into your LLC or whatever company type you are – you can write it off.

      Personally I have the Professional + Windows Phone Add In. Although I’ve not yet released any games to the market place I’m fairly confident after tax write-offs and money made from selling the game(s) the return on investment will be worth it.

  9. I think its good that you highlight the “hidden costs”. I was pretty bummed out about the apple developer license last year when I got the iOS port. Although I would have made the same decision regardless, it would have been nice not as a surprise. But you could also blame me for not doing enough research.

GameMaker Studio – Giveaway #2 – Results

Who Owns YoYo Games?