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Opinion Piece – Why IndieCity Is A Waste Of Time

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.

I built a game, City Sandbox, using GameMaker Studio and decided to distribute it through IndieCity, as well as other similar websites. Unfortunately, IndieCity has been a big waste of time for me.

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.

What do you think?

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  1. I don’t see any mention of your marketing campaign, press, or any of the work you were supposed to do?

    If you put a game on the Apple store, Apple do not market it for you. If you put a game on Steam, Valve do not market it for you. How many hits did you drive to your page? What was your conversion ratio?

    And, not to be TOO blunt. but; your game looks like ass. Has it ever occurred to you that no-one on the PC wanted it simply because it looks like a crappy iPhone port?

    We have had great success via Indiecity, but WE drove that success.

    Do you think IndieCity are responsible for 3.5 million hits on that video? No – we had to make that happen.

    Stop looking around for others to blame – market your own game, and produce a quality product.

    Ps as for download speeds – I usually get 1.5mb/sec+ from IndieCity. Check your ISP doesn’t throttle torrents.

    • Hello,

      The game has been selling well over other stores. I acknowledged the marketing effort required and wrote some statistics out on how the product is doing elsewhere, so I’d like to think most of your comment was answered already.

      If a substantial marketing effort is required to pull in any sales, you should consider selling directly from your own website or more popular catalogues. IndieCity has a very limp customer base, so you aren’t even going to get entry-level interest in your product upon release.

      I have had trouble convincing anyone to use the rubbish IndieCity client over the direct DRM-free installer available from GamersGate. I would not want to use the client either frankly.

      IndieCity is still, in my mind, not worth it for the consumer or the developer. It is a website with good heart and little substance I feel.

      • I didn’t see any numbers? Comparing the Apple Store to anything is pointless; you can shit out any app and get a few hundred sales on here (believe me, I’ve tried!)

        How is your app selling on GamersGate, for instance? Hard number make for better reading than vague fluff.

  2. It seems like the new GMB template doesn’t have the author of an article listed anymore. Am I missing that?

    It seems that (especially in opinion articles) when you have an author stating “I”, it seems rather important to figure out who is the one speaking.

      • It still doesn’t state the name of the writer though.
        This article strikes me as very childish. It doesn’t really supply any other arguments than “I had some trouble and I heard others had trouble as well”. A good article needs some more research, some more facts than just one bad user experience.

        • Contradictory for you to point out the article is about more than one persons bad experience, and then suggest the opposite.

          As an opinion piece I can only base it off my bad experience; the broken downloading service, the requirement for a shabby client, the pseudo-bogus ratings, and forum evidence that suggests IndieCity is swarming with developers and starved of a more mainstream audience like other gaming stores.

          This is not a thorough analysis of IndieCity, and you should not expect it. But you are purposefully neglecting a bulk of the content in this article so I’d like to ask you to read it again and consider it from a different perspective.

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