Why I lost 42K on a VR game, Part 2

Or, I would like to respond to some comments

A bit unsurprisingly, my recent article talking about the VR Game industry became a bit popular. The article used my financial flop, Fruit for the Village as an illustration on how much risk a VR developer carries financially and how there is very little risk mitigation available for indie VR game devs to utilize. Many people didn’t seem to get this point though, focusing mostly on how poorly I budgeted or how bad the game was, or how I charge too much per hour. This was not the point of the article. Either I didn’t explain that stance well enough, or no one read the whole thing (As far as I can tell, it’s a little bit of column A, little bit of column B.) Either way, I apologize.

The following is me hoping to better address some of the major talking points. I will do my best to keep each portion quick and simple so it’s easier to read and understand.

What is my problem with the industry?

I used Fruit for the Village as a real-world example, using real-world numbers, illustrating the cost of making a VR game, even if it was a flop. It’s a worse-case-scenario — an extreme example — to help further my point. Which, to clearly state what the whole point of my last article is, here it is:

I used the development story of Fruit for the Village to help show there is basically no freaking support for VR indie devs anywhere.

That’s it. That was the whole point of the last article. I would like to apologize if you missed that on your skim-through and would encourage you to read it again with this in mind.

Is this just a VR industry problem?

“Does this apply to just VR games?” — Hell No. I use VR as the basis of these examples, but you can replace ‘VR game’ with ‘indie game’ or any type of game made by an independent developer, and it would still apply whole-sale. Truely, this is not just a VR industry problem, this is a Game Industry problem.

What can the industry do better?

I’m not asking for 100% coverage of financial risk. Hell, I’d be happy with like 10% coverage. Even then, I don’t think we need just that. Cheaper access to tools or hardware, mentorship, marketing assistance, better storefront revenue cut shares, hell, even just making it easier how the nuances of your platform work (Valve), would go a very, long way for indies.

“But they could just ask the platforms!” — yes, which is usually extremely effective, but more often than not, developers don’t know to ask. They don’t know that they are missing information. How could they know, if there is no indication of missing information in the first place? I could elaborate more on this, but that would take up too much of your time.

You could just ask for money!

People made this sound as easy as asking my parents for 20 bucks so I could go to the movies in highschool.

Sure, I could have reached out to publishers, they give out money! Yea, no. I know for a fact that most traditional publishers aren’t even considering VR games. From what I’ve seen Valve rarely hands out money, or at least makes it difficult to know how to ask them for it. HTC has handed out some, but even then the indie developers who get it usually need more, elsewhere. Oculus from what I’m seeing does hand out money, but the quality of the game needs to be extremely high, almost AA level OR needs to be ~70% completed. It’s expensive and hard to get to that point. If this has changed, I have not heard of it and would like to know more!

If you knew Fruit for the Village would fail, why did you continue? Why sell it?

Because I needed to know how it would play out, and I felt it was a game that needed to exist in the industry. This goes back to my background in hard sciences. Note! Good Science and Good Business decisions, rarely work well for each other. I’m a scientist, not a business man and Fruit for the Village was a science experiment, not a business one. You can skim over my explanation of how I see VR as a science over here.

Additionally, I released the game anyways, with only about 6–8 weeks of marketing build up as a way to recoup some money on the time lost to the game. I knew I was going to take a hit, I was comfortable taking that hit, but I saw the project through and released it anyways for shiggles

“Fruit for the Village was a bad game”

I made rookie mistakes in marketing and developing this game, this I will not deny. However, this game was not expected to be a financial success nor did I treat it as such. For expansion on why I released the game, please read the previous section.

Also to note: This is not my first published title, nor my second. The mistakes I made were straight up errors I should not have. I have no excuse beyond just my own errors. Do I think Fruit for the Village is a bad game? Nah. I’m quite proud of it and there is nothing that will shake me from that stance.

You charged yourself $60/hr!?!?

YES. A lot of people were shocked by this. Maybe they’ve never worked as a freelancer before, maybe they’ve never hired one. I don’t know, I just know that it’s generally accepted by freelancers that $60/hr in tech or game development is low.

I charge myself $60 USD an hour for personal work when I feel it will become a marketed product. I don’t actually give myself the money, it’s more of a metric. When I quote potential clients for prices, I start at $60 USD/hr and then modify the rate depending on a number of variables including: How many hours will I be contracted? What am I doing for this contract? What is the timeframe of return for the work? Will they take out taxes on the payment, or will I? When this contract is done, am I going to be in a dry-season for work? and so much more. Sometimes the rate goes up, other times it goes down.

$60/hr is generally consider cheap as f*ck for many freelancers and once you work out the math on how much you’re actually making as profit, it’s not that much. Thats the truth. If you don’t believe me, maybe you’re as bad at finances as many people believe I am to be.

No one owes you success

Financially speaking — I don’t think I ever said or implied I was owed success. Actually, I said I wasn’t expecting financial success. Success is subjective to the person, and within your structure of development, if you feel you were successful — then I will never try and talk you down from that. There is more you can get out of a game than just financial success.

I apologize if my words were not clear on this.

In conclusion

My last article did not convey the points about the VR Game Industry as clearly as I had hoped. I would like to apologize for poorly conveying my opinions in my last article. I have no excuse for this and appreciate you taking the time to read this follow up so I could better explain myself. I hope if you agree with me, you find and support VR indie game devs and their games on Steam, Oculus Home, Itch.io, PlayStation Store, or your favourite VR game storefront.

You can read about my previous writing on the cost of making VR games here.

OR! You can follow me around on twitter @fr0z3nR for other game and VR development shenanigans.