If you are a registered iOS or Mac OS X developer, Apple will let you distribute your game on iTunes and through the Mac App Store. Windows 8 also has its own software store now. Even developers of online games can submit to online portals, or let online search engines act as a catalogue (searching for flash-based casino games in Google for example).
For developers targeting Windows XP/Vista/7 users, there is no “default” distribution store for applications. Instead, you’ll have to find a games portal like Bigfish, or partner with a distribution service like Steam.
Most of us won’t be getting a game onto Bigfish or Steam anytime soon, but smaller-scale alternatives do exist. One of them is IndieCity.
IndieCity offers a downloadable client which behaves similarly to the Steam client, allowing customers to download your game, find new updates, and earn achievements along the way (using the IndieCity API). As a developer, you get to create and control the store page of your game, as well as a page representing your brand or company. IndieCity is rich with features providing everything you need to sell your games.
Well, except for customers.
Over a three month period between May and July, my game sold 12 copies through IndieCity. I was later informed that 11 of those 12 “sales” were not actually sales at all; a member of the staff told me these were free downloads made by testers, who were making sure the product worked. This meant only one legitimate sale had occurred.
The sale was in June. The customer could not install the game properly due to a problem with the IndieCity client, and I had to step in to provide an alternative download link. What exactly had those 11 test downloads achieved if the client wasn’t working properly?
My game has been selling well on other, more established stores. The iPad and Mac versions sell daily. The game also sells copies for Windows through GamersGate, and has been making the odd sale on the Windows Store following a low-key release. I have not gone above and beyond to advertise the game, but I haven’t put any less effort into encouraging people to buy through IndieCity compared to the other stores I have been selling on. Perhaps the requirement to use the IndieCity client is a deal-breaker for potential customers. Buyers can get the standalone version of my game from GamersGate with far less hassle.
I don’t blame people for not wanting to buy games through IndieCity. The client isn’t great. There is nothing wrong with the software per se, but the servers are clearly struggling and download speeds are rubbish. My game, which is less than 100 megabytes, took about an hour to download!
IndieCity isn’t terrible. I like the website, the staff are friendly, and it’s great how virtually anyone can sign up and have a chance to sell their game. Unfortunately, IndieCity suffers from a lack of real customers. You might sell something, but don’t expect to earn a living this way. You can download free games on IndieCity too, and they tend to do better, but even then the statistics are discouraging.
When browsing through the highest played games, the lack of comments and votes on products makes the place feel like a ghost town. The ratings on my game page were from testers alone; it makes me wonder if any of the votes on any of the games are from real customers.
I’m not the only one who is having trouble. Making any sales at all through IndieCity seems to be an uphill challenge for other budding game developers as well. Evidence of this can be found in a forum topic posted early this year on the IndieCity forum, where one developer professes to having made no sales over a period of months.
The combination of my experience, and the reports of other game creators (be they hobbyists or not) was enough to make me conclude that using IndieCity is a waste of time like trying to make money on those mobile casino apps.
City Sandbox is no longer selling on IndieCity (using the term “selling” loosely). My experience with IndieCity is straight-forward: great site, great staff, dismal sales. Sadly, only one of those factors truly matters when it comes to distributing a commercial product.
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