I think it’s an inevitability that, some of us, after playing video games for a long time, will be curious as to whether we can be a part of the industry in a way other than consuming the content: we want to create, or help create, experiences like those we’ve loved. I’ve personally done this, developing my own mobile game and publishing it myself. However, you don’t need to be a solo developer in order to make an income from video games. You can simply sell game assets to budding developers like myself. Here’s a few ways to do it.
1. Engine asset stores.
Unity, Construct, RPG Maker, GameMaker, Unreal Engine… they all have something in common: they are all accessible game engines for which developers will need assets. Be it quick assets for developing a prototype, or final assets like graphics or music for a final product, every game out there is made of something more than just code. And these engines come with their own assets store. What you need to sell assets on there will vary from store to store, but generally speaking, all you need is an account and a way to get paid once your assets get purchased. This is a great way to become part of bigger ecosystems, and it’s an easy route, with low entry barriers and decent payouts.
It’s worth mentioning, however, that some assets are more profitable elsewhere. While game graphics for example are medium-specific, music can be used in a variety of projects like films, corporate promotional videos, and more. I used to be a musician, and sometimes found it better, and more profitable, to sell my music directly through licensing, or just put it on a CD and sell it to customers. It’s not as easy as some other methods, however: If you are serious about building your music career, Ally Crandall from AMW Group says there should be an official press release for every music project you do. It’s a crucial, but often neglected, part of the process.
2. Business-to-business sales (freelancing)
Another source of possible income for artists, musicians and coders is to work directly with a developer or publisher in order to sell them custom-made solutions (like character art, background music or sound effects). I’ve dabbled in this as well: I’m the official LATAM localizer for eastasiasoft’s “Rainbow Skies” (RPG: PSV, PS3, PS4), as well as Behind the Stone’s “Sir Eatsalot” (RPG: PSV). While it is more time consuming to deal with custom orders, I’ve found that the payoff is far, far superior than selling on an assets store. It’s also harder to get the contracts, as you’re constantly competing with other freelancers to get the job.
But if you succeed, you’ll become an official part of a project, and that’s a great feeling. The first time I ever saw my name in the credits of a game published physically on Playstation platforms… that’s a feeling I’ll never forget. And the money was pretty good, too!
3. Game development and publishing
Finally, the other option is to use your assets on your own game. I know you’ve had this very cool idea running around in your head for years. That game that nobody seems to be making, that unique thing that’ll make this the perfect game in your eyes. Well, you’re in luck: game development is more accessible than ever, with engines being distributed for free, even. Unity and Unreal are both free to use (up to a point), and they can export to all major platforms. If you’d rather not code much, GameMaker is accesible, too. RPG Maker MV is a great tool for making RPGs and has a fantastic community behind it. Construct 3 is so easy to use, it even runs on your browser. GDevelop is a free alternative to Construct 3 that is even open source. The possibilities are endless.
And once you’re done with that unique game idea that nobody else has ever made… then you’re officially an independent game developer and you can sell your game for as much, or as little, as you want. Beware, though: the life of a solo game dev is not for the faint of heart. Be sure to start with smaller projects and work your way up in terms of ambition.
Of course, there are other ways to make a passive or active income depending on the type of asset that you’re interested in selling. But these are the 3 that I’ve found most useful over the years. The reality is that gaming and assets are highly competitive environments. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. If you’ve done something like this before, be sure to share it in the comments below. I’d love to see, hear or play what you’ve created!