In industry terms, Finji is a very young company. The video game publisher and developer relaunched in 2014, led by Rebekah and Adam Saltsman. Between publishing successes like Chicory: a colorful story, night in the woodsand Wilmot’s warehouseFinji also produces its own games including By the road and a secret project in development. Suffice it to say, Finji is well versed in all aspects of game development, which is authoritative when he says indie games are getting expensive to make.
Speaking to IGN, Rebekah Saltsman explained how difficult indie development is because the industry can change so much between game releases. Maintaining a following or a fan base is difficult on its own without independent studios disappearing between game releases. Saltsman says one of the biggest changes, perhaps the biggest challenge facing indie developers right now, is the rapidly rising cost of development. Saltsman explains that, for both developers and publishers, everything has become “extremely expensive”.
Five years ago, Saltsman said Finji could make a game for “a million dollars,” which she said was crazy to even think about at the time. Now, though, Saltsman says they feel good about a project if they can say they can do it for less than four million. “It’s so much money,” she says, especially when that cost has to be thought of in the context of the game’s total number of units sold so it can make a profit.
While Saltsman doesn’t go into specifics about game sales, it’s willing to say that the number of indie games that manage to sell more than 100,000 copies of a game is still incredibly low. Additionally, indie games are locked under a price “cap” as video game players focus on pricing smaller games around $10-20. Any higher amount would be a risk. Then the percentage of the platform holder must also be taken into account. Even in its simplest form, the math makes it clear that 100,000 copies sold doesn’t pay for a $4 million budget, or even $2 million.
With funding for indie game development, and dozens of independent game development studios in need of the kind of funding that publishers like Finji provide, Saltsman has a warning too. Many publishers will try to minimize their risk through predatory contracts, taking intellectual property rights and higher percentages of revenue that developers need to survive. Making indie games is a minefield. Even Finji is limited in what he is able to provide.
Still, Finji is a prime example of how indie game development and publishing thrives, even if the risk remains high. In 2021, Finji will release the highly anticipated action-adventure game Tunichelping I was an exocolonist teenager get closer to the release, and maybe share more info about his internal game as well. Game development can get more and more expensive, but publishers like Finji help make it manageable – at least for a few.
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