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How Much Money Can a Mobile Developer Make?

November 7, 2011

It’s a good question and there is no one answer. It reminds me of the joke; Q: how do you make a small fortune in gaming? A: Start with a large fortune. 🙂 Anyway the very public spirited Streaming Colour (UK spelling!) took the time and trouble to survey developers about their work and its income and then share the results.

The first point that caught my eye is the difference between the mean and median averages of income:

Notice that the mean average is £161K – which sounds a lot, but the median average is just $3K, the difference coming from the fact that a small number of companies making a lot of money skews the average. (You get the same in ‘average’ wage figures.) So helpfully there is a table that seeks to account for this:

So those who do it professionally and full time seem to be those making the most money, as one might expect. It tallies with my experience of running a games studio; what that is your income, you find ways to make it pay! However that does mean there will possibly be a sample bias in the selection in that those full-timers who are not making money won’t last long and so not be in the survey.

Here’s the next pointer: Who earns the most; working alone or in a team?

So it seems, the developers working in teams make more and specifically team sizes of 10-19 are optimum. Now the author of the article does note the lower response rate that the larger team scale, so the results will not be accurate. But again it tallies with my experience of studio size vs. speed of action (getting a project done) and creativity (i.e. too many layers of management tend to dampen it).

And the final point I want to make is about the number of games released per developer;

So the more games you get out there, the money money you make, which a dramatic rise in the 10+ games category. This tallies with the story of the developer of Angry Birds only striking gold after many lots of games. It also fits with my PhD research of development being an iterative and evolutionary process; each new game you make you should be getting better as a game and more efficient in the making. If not – ask why not? (The studio’s I’ve seen fail in my time, I’d argue, ceased to be on that iterative path).

So the answer seems to be: go full time in a team and make lots of games. That and have good ideas. There; easy.

PS. There are a couple of other examples of iOS/mobile game sales from GamesBrief here & here.

(Hat-tip to Stu for the link)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 23, 2012 5:31 am

    Yeah, there are lots of clonings. I think the best way to be successfull in this area is to “go where no one have gone before”, so poetic. Explore the new platforms, inovate, make something new and never seen before.

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