A year has passed since the release of indie platformer game, Dustforce, and the developers behind it, Hitbox Team, have decided to share how the four person indie team were able to realise their goal of turning their competition winning protoype into a complete game, and the sales data after Dustforce was released.
After claiming the top spot and the $100,000 grand prize from entering a polished Dustforce prototype to the 3rd annual Independent Developer Competition at GDC Austin in 2011, Hitbox made the decision to go full-time towards turning their prototype into a complete game. The team split their prize money three ways ($20,000 per person) and lived frugally for a year and half, not knowing if it will ever pay off in the end...
(Hitbox) So if it cost us almost $100k to work for a year and a half, we'd have to make around $67k for every year until we release our next game. However, it would be nice to live a less frugal lifestyle than before, so ideally that figure would be around twice as much. With a rough estimate of three years for our next project, plus a bit of a buffer, we were looking at around $300-400k USD as our final goal. Was that realistic? We had no idea...
Our goal was to just make enough money to be able to do it again.
Fortunately, with a strong launch on Steam and the huge impact of promotions such as Steam's Midweek Madness, the Humble Bundle, Dustforce was able to make $489,404 USD in final sales (from a total of $668,490 in revenue). Minus the costs of running a business (legal, accounting, software licenses etc), they were left with $295,000 which was split between the four developers at Hitbox. An interesting sales fact is that for every $10 copy of Dustforce sold, $4.41 of that went to the developer.
(Hitbox) Through this project, we learned firsthand that time is money, and that sacrifices have to be made when resources are limited. We were also surprised by how critical promotions were for revenue. We are really grateful to have a strong start, and are very happy with how the game turned out.
It's an exceptionally informative article, and the sales figures will certainly give other indie developers another point of reference when it comes to the financials of indie games development and how much it costs to make an indie game. A highly recommended read.