Making some money with a commercial VN - is it possible?

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Aviala
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Making some money with a commercial VN - is it possible?

#1 Post by Aviala » Mon Aug 11, 2014 11:35 am

I saw a thread in this forums asking if you could make a lot of money making Visual Novels. The answers were exactly what I expected: it's not very likely. But what if the profits you were expecting were a lot smaller?

I had a summer job earlier this summer but for me, it was a very negative experience. My bosses were very stirict and angry, and the working enviroment wasn't very nice either. During my (very boring) days at work I started wondering if it would be possible to make a commercial VN instead of getting a summer job. I'd need 200-300 euros each month (something like 300-400 dollars) to cover my rent during the three summer months when I don't get student benefits. So about 600 euros in total would be enough to get by since I have savings.

What do you guys think? If I made a commercial VN during the winter and started selling it in spring, would it be likely to make anywhere near that much money by the end of summer? How professional-looking and how long would a visual novel have to be to achieve that kind of profit?

600 euros sounds like a lot to me, and I realize it's probably very unlikely to get that much money from selling VN's... But the idea is in my head and I can't get rid of it. I decided that it wouldn't hurt to ask for opinions here.

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Re: Making some money with a commercial VN - is it possible?

#2 Post by MayPeX » Mon Aug 11, 2014 2:34 pm

You'll need to start from the ground up, it's unlikely your first or second game will sell. You'll probably need to earn more than 600 euros if you're talking professionally, unless you make the entire game yourself, market and sell it solo.

If not, you have to think about payment for those who have contributed to make the game. Not many will help make a game for free that is commercial and expect no money in return. It also depends how many people are working on the project, do you have voice actors and for how many characters? Better pay them too.

I'm not discouraging, but Visual Novels in the Western market is quite a niche thing. There have been some appearing on Steam, which is probably the best place at the moment to get players. It has the potential of over 2 million active users. You'll be competing with the ones already existing on there.

It's possible to earn some if not quite a bit, but I don't think you can get by on just making Visual Novels alone until it really picks up.

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Re: Making some money with a commercial VN - is it possible?

#3 Post by Taleweaver » Mon Aug 11, 2014 2:38 pm

Look at Winter Wolves. Look at Hanako Games. Small indie developers that do earn money creating commercial games. Probably not HEAPS of money, but at least some money.

So yeah, it is possible to make money with commercial VNs as an indie dev. It just isn't EASY, or more people would do it.
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Re: Making some money with a commercial VN - is it possible?

#4 Post by jack_norton » Mon Aug 11, 2014 3:20 pm

When I see those threads, the first thing that comes to mind is: CAN you FINISH a game (VN or any other)? do that first, then worry about making money. Just finishing a game (so that's decent) is already not easy as it seems, even a VN.
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Re: Making some money with a commercial VN - is it possible?

#5 Post by papillon » Mon Aug 11, 2014 5:04 pm

Making games for money is a different experience than doing it because it's fun. And when you have to wait for customers to buy your thing and give you money, your income is very irregular, which is awkward if you're planning to use it to pay the rent. It can certainly be done, but it may not always be less annoying than a job. :)

The sum you're looking for should not be that hard to earn, given that I believe you'd be doing your own art and thus have low expenses, but only if you can make an okay game out of it and promote it. Do you have an audience, other than posting here? Do you have any idea where to find one, or what you'd offer that would get them really excited about buying?

600 euros is about $800, right? If you're making a full-length (by english standards) game and charging $20 for it, it doesn't take that many copies sold to reach that number. (More than just 40, because you need to count transaction fees and you'll probably have SOME expenses for music even if you do all your art). But do you have enough time to write and illustrate a full-length game? Are you up for the marketing necessary to convince people that they want to pay $20 for your work if they've never heard of you? Maybe you are, maybe you're not, I don't know.

Let's dial it back a little and say you go for the safer route of a $10 game, doubling the number of sales you need to make to hit your goal. Is it still feasible? I'd say yes. A competent first game that doesn't completely bungle its marketing should still be able to shift a hundred copies without too much trouble. You do not need to get anywhere near Steam or any other big vendor to sell that number, you can do that from your website as a newbie with a little elbow grease.

(Of course, I'm saying this based on my own very early sales pre-2005 and the market may be a little different now, but people barely knew what downloadable games were back then!)

Your biggest hurdles are:

Can you make a complete game? The early days of enthusiasm always eventually boil down to a lot of boring work and frustration and endless days of it being ALMOST done and yet going nowhere.

Can you make a game people actually want to buy? It won't do you much good if your theme or gameplay alienates your target market.

Can you reach people who are willing to buy games? Do you have ideas on how to get your work out there and convince people to pay for it?

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Re: Making some money with a commercial VN - is it possible?

#6 Post by Biomass » Mon Aug 11, 2014 6:10 pm

Another part of the equation is how long it takes to produce a VN. Could you make something marketable in 3 months? Maybe. However, your competition in that market segment probably put in a lot more time than that and it will show.

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Re: Making some money with a commercial VN - is it possible?

#7 Post by Hyraculon » Mon Aug 11, 2014 9:58 pm

It's not practical or smart to depend on it right off the bat. That's not to say it's not something to work towards, because obviously it can be done, but if you want to survive on the money, you need money that you can count on being there. You'd probably be better off doing commissions until you have an established porfolio, some dedicated fans, or more savings.

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Re: Making some money with a commercial VN - is it possible?

#8 Post by Omniknight » Tue Aug 12, 2014 5:46 am

papillon wrote:Making games for money is a different experience than doing it because it's fun. And when you have to wait for customers to buy your thing and give you money, your income is very irregular, which is awkward if you're planning to use it to pay the rent. It can certainly be done, but it may not always be less annoying than a job. :)

The sum you're looking for should not be that hard to earn, given that I believe you'd be doing your own art and thus have low expenses, but only if you can make an okay game out of it and promote it. Do you have an audience, other than posting here? Do you have any idea where to find one, or what you'd offer that would get them really excited about buying?

600 euros is about $800, right? If you're making a full-length (by english standards) game and charging $20 for it, it doesn't take that many copies sold to reach that number. (More than just 40, because you need to count transaction fees and you'll probably have SOME expenses for music even if you do all your art). But do you have enough time to write and illustrate a full-length game? Are you up for the marketing necessary to convince people that they want to pay $20 for your work if they've never heard of you? Maybe you are, maybe you're not, I don't know.

Let's dial it back a little and say you go for the safer route of a $10 game, doubling the number of sales you need to make to hit your goal. Is it still feasible? I'd say yes. A competent first game that doesn't completely bungle its marketing should still be able to shift a hundred copies without too much trouble. You do not need to get anywhere near Steam or any other big vendor to sell that number, you can do that from your website as a newbie with a little elbow grease.
Strictly speaking, that happens only in an idyllic utopia covered with fluffy clouds of moe and innocence.

If you want your games to actually sell, you'll need at least a pretty talented hobbyist or a fledgling professional... and those guys arent cheap. Settle for anything less and...
...it might not turn out well for you, especially if you're using it to pay your rent.

In my opinion,starting out aiming for profit is just unfeasible in any industry. There are--and I can say this for sure--things only experience can teach you, and in Longfellow's words, experience is the best teacher--but also the most brutal one.

Start out with a high-quality game for free. Develop reputation, then if you like it, maybe transition over to commerciality.
But then, doing this for a living is a whole 'nother story...... XD

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Re: Making some money with a commercial VN - is it possible?

#9 Post by papillon » Tue Aug 12, 2014 12:15 pm

... You do realise you're talking to someone who *does* this for a living, right? :)

The OP is an artist and can provide better graphics than I had for my own first commercial game. Also, OP didn't ask about paying the rent on a long-term basis, but about earning a specific small sum of money, which one of those 'failed' kickstarters you linked to did raise (not to mention that kickstarting and selling a finished product are different things)

The reason this forum tosses around a lot of "don't make your first project commercial" advice is because the majority of this forum is underage kids with unrealistic expectations, and so on average it's the right advice to give. But it's not an unalterable gospel.

If someone is capable of being both artist and writer and of being dedicated to doing a lot of hard work, making a game on a very low budget and selling enough copies to raise $1000 is not as unrealistic as you think. You can't live off that for long, but that's a different question.

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Re: Making some money with a commercial VN - is it possible?

#10 Post by Aviala » Tue Aug 12, 2014 5:09 pm

I'm currently working on character design and sprites for a VN project, and writing stuff for a project of my own. I currently have about 5000 words done, and it has taken me a couple of evenings to write that much. I'm planning to POSSIBLY launch a commercial project IF a) I can finish my non-commercial one b) people like my first project.

The first Harry Potter book only has 70 000 words. Let's say I wanted to create a VN that's a little longer than that. Writing it would take about a month if I worked a few hours every night after school.
I can do a sprite in 2-4 hours. But let's say 1 sprite would take 5 hours to make. If I had 6 characters it'd only take a couple of weeks to draw all of them.
Backgrounds take a long time to draw but if I only had a few, it'd take maybe another 4 weeks to make them.
Drawing stuff like menus, logos, etc. would probably take 2 weeks.

I can't do music myself but I happened to study in an art&music school so I have some connections. Also, my boyfriend's dad makes music, and it should be possible to find some free tracks online - even ones that could be used in commercial games, maybe? Music might be a problem but I think I could figure something out.
I don't like english voice-acting in VN's very much and I don't think it's necessary to have voice acting even in a commercial project so I'm willing to leave it out.
I'd probably have to pay someone to be my editor (or share the profits) because I'm a non-native english speaker and I make a lot of grammar mistakes for sure.

It would be possible to make a long VN alone in just 3 months but let's say that it would probably take 4 months or more because sometimes you just gotta take breaks and stuff. If I started in, let's say, November, I could finish the VN in spring, and possibly get some profits in time for summer holiday. EDIT: Forgot to mention coding. I can do that as well. With that added in to the math, I'd say it'd take 4-5 months to finish the game.

Marketing might be a slight problem though, but if I make the game with tumblr audience in mind and if my talented artist friends agree to promote the game on their blogs it might be possible.

I think that tumblr audiences really like games that feature LGBT+ people, especially BL-ish stuff that doesn't follow the usual yaoi pattern. And that's exactly the stuff I like to write so I think I have an audience - if I can market the game well enough.

Everything is hyphotetical at this point, of course! I'm just wondering if it would be possible. I'll look for a summer job anyway. But if I don't get one the VN project would be a good backup plan.

EDIT2: Another option would be an indiegogo campaign with the 600-900 euros as the goal but I'd need a lot of hype for that to happen.

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Re: Making some money with a commercial VN - is it possible?

#11 Post by Hazel-Bun » Tue Aug 12, 2014 6:13 pm

I say go for it. Your goal is quite realistic and, as long as you work hard at it, seems feasible to release in the time frame you set out. You can also set up donation like things like gofundme in the mean time, take commissions (which you're doing and I saw a while ago <3), try to find a summer job, etc. mind you most of my experience is selling writing and crafts/raising funds for good causes but, what you laid out as your strategy/the amount your looking for looks good :)

Remember to set up a landing page of some sort (a website would be good if you can), get on some social media sites (you have a tumblr but maybe one aimed at your VN/put the right tags under those post), and ask for help if you need it ^^ Once you got something solid to show, I'm sure others would be more inclined to help for even potential profit sharing?

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Re: Making some money with a commercial VN - is it possible?

#12 Post by DaFool » Tue Aug 12, 2014 11:08 pm

Lucky Rabbit Reflex was the creator's first game and was commercial quality:

http://www.hanakogames.com/lrr.shtml


... it took her around 2.5 years off/on to make it. If you have the stamina, why not.

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Re: Making some money with a commercial VN - is it possible?

#13 Post by MoonStar » Thu Aug 14, 2014 5:52 am

Making a commercial vn is really a challenge cuz here in the west(by that i mean both usa and europe) VN's are more or a niche then anime are.
Just like Winter Wolves said your very first concern should be to finish it. There are a lot of groups out there that start to make a game and then abandon it mid way. I would also like to add that for your first 2-3 tittles you dont expect to hit big. We all make something and hope for the best of hitting it big time but we must also be prepared to be disappointed. Bottom line is dont expect to make to much of your first projects its more important to get out there and get noticed.
So if you plan on making a commercial product here is some points i think you should cover.

1. Establish your budget from the start.
2. Break your project in to chapters especially if your budget is very thin small (like mine is :( )
3. Put you budget down for every chapter.
4. Think which side you want to focus more, put more work in to and send more money there (if you want more stunning art focus more there if you want a more complex story focus there.
5. MANAGE YOUR BUDGET GODLIKE! always assume something is a few dollars more expensive then it actually is. Its better to have a pleasant surprise that you have money left then realize you have no more money and have incomplete project/chapter like missing art bgm voices etc.

thats about it hope this helps

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Re: Making some money with a commercial VN - is it possible?

#14 Post by Tyrantauranox » Thu Aug 14, 2014 3:53 pm

If you're going to have a branching story, budget a lot more time depending on its complexity. You'll need a lot more testing, too.

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Re: Making some money with a commercial VN - is it possible?

#15 Post by Redditz » Thu Sep 25, 2014 2:31 pm

Say you've made your VN. Are there any online marketplaces to sell it? Do you just make a Completed Project post here on the forums linking to your website and hope for the best?

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