Most freelance video game developers and small indies make games out of passion and creativity. Nonetheless, if you have spent months, or even years designing a mobile, PC or console game, you deserve to earn a living for your efforts.
One reason for this is that people are simply spending more money on games as a whole (and during the Covid-19 lockdown, some 39% of American gamers have said they spent more money than usual). Furthermore, there is now now a greater variety of ways that you can monetise your games. In this article, we look at 10 ways you can monetise your video game.
10 video game monetisation strategies
If you are looking to earn a living from your video game, it’s important to consider potential game monetisation strategies from the outset. Not all of these strategies are appropriate for every game or platform. But by diversifying your sources of income and including more than one way of making money, your revenue opportunities will be much higher.
Banners, pre-roll videos and pop-up ads remain an important source of revenue for game developers, especially on mobile apps. You can plug your game into the platform’s mobile ad network and, as long as the game achieves significant download numbers, you will receive a consistent income stream.
Did you know that some 17% of gamers pay up to £100 each month on in-game purchases? While your game would have to be very successful to achieve those kinds of figures, it shows just how important it is to include in-game purchase options as a method of game monetisation. These can fit into various categories, including ‘loot boxes’, character customisations (skins, clothes, weapons, vehicles etc.), passes (for extra lives or to skip levels) and to unlock new zones or characters.
This kind of ‘native advertising’ means that a brand’s products or logos appear in your game. It could include things like the main character being able to wear a luxury watch, the ability to drive ‘real world’ car brands, the opportunity to feed your character at a fast food restaurant or simply stadium advertising in a sports game.
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Major video game firms are increasingly offering their entire stable of titles on a subscription model, and indies can emulate this model too. The key to encouraging a subscription model of computer or mobile game play is to continually update and improve the game – you have to give people a reason to keep paying. But, if there is scope for continual improvement, this provides a stable income.
It’s the classic approach for mobile game developers and still worth pursuing, even though it seems counter intuitive as a monetisation method. You begin by providing a certain number of levels to get the player hooked before asking them to make a purchase to experience the full game. Alternatively, you can offer the full game for free, but laden with ads – if people value the game enough, they can pay to experience it without disruptive ads.
If you have managed to build a community around your game, selling merchandise is a great way to monetise it. Provide an in-game store where players can order t-shirts, hats, mugs, stickers and similar merch, not to mention game-specific items (such as toy weapons, model cars, maps or other products related to the game itself).
Gamers understand that developers need to make money and use adverts – but they are especially open to if they get something in return for watching an ad. A rewarded ad asks the viewer to watch an advertisement in full. In return, they receive some kind of in-game token or benefit (a new clothing item, some special power or an extra ‘life’). This is a win-win - the advertiser can be confident that the entire ad is viewed, while the gamer get something useful in return.
Donations and tips
For solo developers and small independents, requesting in-game donations and tips is a popular method of generating revenue. If you have a passionate following for your game and are providing it for free, many loyal fans will recognise this and consider paying a small ‘tip’ or donation to ensure you can continue supporting the game. It is crucial to get the messaging right (you don’t want to sound desperate!) but for smaller games this is a legitimate and effective way of generating income.
Streaming on Twitch.tv
Twitch can be a source of income for game developers – because dedicated fans love watching skilled gamers playing the best games. You could either stream yourself playing the game and gather audiences of fans who are looking to learn how to play the game better (you get revenue from Twitch’s ad platform) or you can pay a well-known Twitch personality to play your game and split their ad revenues.
Unusual sales models
If your game development company is already reasonably well established, you could consider using unusual sales models to maximise profits. For instance, you could offer an extremely limited run of units to sell and charge a higher up-front cost – exclusivity means fans may pay more.
Alternatively, it can be a struggle to stand out on the big mobile or PC game markets. So, some developers make their games ‘hard to find’. In this model, you create a certain amount of hype about the game, but make it a challenge to find and purchase the game online (they might have to hunt through message boards or search for clues on a website). By getting potential customers invested in searching for the game, they’re far more likely to actually purchase it once they find it.
Manage the money you earn from video game sales
However you monetise your video games, you need a way of managing the money your earn.
Xace is a new kind of payment account specially primed for businesses operating in the digital and online space. If your gaming company accepts payments in multiple currencies (including crypto) and has customers in numerous countries, you need a business account which allows you to receive and manage that money securely and at the lowest exchange rate.
Xace provides some of the best exchange rates on the market, not to mention many other features specialised to game developers. To learn more, read how Xace supports different markets and industries.