Indie game sales survey reveals interesting trends at GDC


GDC is one of the key events in the gaming industry, so it’s always worthwhile to keep an eye on it for interesting nuggets. One of these comes from Mike Rose, formerly of Gamasutra and now of tinyBuild GAMES, who conducted an independent study on indie game sales, and some of the findings are surprising.

Harvesting the data from public sources as well as sales data provided directly by several independent developers, Rose has happened upon several interesting findings for those who presume to know which is the best platform for indies to consider. PC continues to hold pride of place, with games that have poor ratings, no marketing and no presence still cracking between 1000 and 10,000 sales on average and up to three million with massive YouTube exposure and “critical acclaim” from those other guys.

Source: Gamasutra


Mobile, particularly Apple, proves to be a fertile ground for profit although is far riskier in terms of your competition and exposure – while those that happen on the big time will get anything between 30,000 and 2.5 millions sales (with Apple’s backing), you’re looking at around 500 games being released a day on the platform. It’s gambling but one that can pay dividends on par with Steam.

Surprisingly, though, the next best place is one you wouldn’t expect: Nintendo. While a conservative approach to sales means that developers for Wii U might not see continued pickup following launch, the ease with which you can port to the Wii U from cross-platform engines such as Unity and the low number of indie titles on the market — around eighty – means it’s a low-contest area which can result in sales up to 60,000 based on the strength of a game’s success on other platforms. In other words, it best not be a Wii U exclusive but it can certainly shine with the light cast by its brethren on other platforms.

Source: Gamasutra


Similarly, the 3DS eShop has only had around fifteen indie titles, but sales are much more respectable, with minimal effort generating up to 5,000 sales and Nintendo backing pushing up to the 200,000 range. Apparently, Japanese games consistently exceed sales expectations except for Sayonara Umihara Kawase which is the best game you’ve never played.

PlayStation 4 and Xbox One – in spite of their declaration of love for the indies — prove to be the most difficult platform for indies to crack it big. Success largely relies on how well Microsoft or Sony support an indie title, with those that don’t gain the coveted dashboard spot or marketing mentions trailing in the low end. Playstation apparently did a lot more for indies, with more flexible sale events, cross-play and PlayStation Plus, but not massively so.

I think one of the most interesting points is that, excluding PC and the Wii U, every platform relies almost exclusively on support from its owner to achieve massive success. I’d be interested to know what Rose’s definition of an indie was, however, as it’s unclear to me which developers fall into this category.

What’s your thoughts? Generally adheres to expectations, or surprised by some of the findings? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Gamasutra,, App Developer Magazine