Gunpoint Recouped Its Development Costs in 64 Seconds

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Gunpoint Recouped Its Development Costs in 64 Seconds

Gunpoint Screenshot

Tom Francis has earned enough from Gunpoint to become a full-time game developer and hire additional staff to boot.

As an Escapist reader, odds are you've considered becoming a professional game designer at some point in your life. So did Tom Francis, the journalist behind the recently launched stealth platformer Gunpoint. The game is receiving positive reviews from critics but according to Francis, Gunpoint has been a huge financial success as well. While he's declined to share figures, Francis revealed that his $30 development costs were paid off 64 seconds after Gunpoint pre-orders went live. Since then, Francis has raked in so much cash that he's decided quit his current job and make the coveted leap to full-time game developer.

"I think I have quit jobs, as a concept," Francis writes. "I started Gunpoint as an audition piece to get myself a position at a developer, but designing it has been so creatively satisfying that I no longer want one, and so commercially successful that I'll never need one."

Francis presented a slightly tongue-in-cheek graph that, while lacking in revenue, marks significant thresholds like Gunpoint's launch date and the amount required to become a full-time designer. If his graph is to be believed, Francis earned enough to quit his day job from pre-orders alone, only to see his totals skyrocket after release. With his financial prospects secure, Francis is now free to create whatever niche project suits his fancy. "There's really no pressure for my next thing to make a particular amount of money," he explains, "so I can do whatever I think will be most exciting."

As a full-time developer, Francis' first act was to offer a job to anyone who can help him port Gunpoint to Mac and Linux platforms. This staff member will also handle tech support for all versions of the game, freeing Francis to implement features like Steam Workshop support and custom controls. Presumably, once he's had a chance to adjust to his recent changes, Francis will create new titles that reflect the increased development time. Whether he will design solo, or has enough money to go the full Mojang, remains to be seen.

image

Source: Gunpoint, via Eurogamer

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How can that be? They didn't even create a new game engine for it!

I understand what he says by having a budget of only 30$ but not taking into account the fact that as a developer you enjoy making games (like most budgets are made) that budget would go a lot higher then 30$.

Imagine that he wasnt a good artist and had trouble doing the art, he would have to hire an artist and right there the budget would rocket sky-high in comparision.

I myself am doing a 3D animation and I havent spended any money on it (and wont) so I guess my budget would be 0$ but budgets dont work like that, its kind of weird.

DVS BSTrD:
How can that be? They didn't even create a new game engine for it!

And no focus testing dammit! And where's the sex scene? Where's Mark Meer voicing the main protagonist in a strangely metrosexual vibe? Where's the QTEs? Why isn't there DLC to have the ability to brutally punch someone -- you can't just have that in there as-is! Mod tools? What is this man thinking!

josemlopes:
I understand what he says by having a budget of only 30$ but not taking into account the fact that as a developer you enjoy making games (like most budgets are made) that budget would go a lot higher then 30$.

Imagine that he wasnt a good artist and had trouble doing the art, he would have to hire an artist and right there the budget would rocket sky-high in comparision.

I myself am doing a 3D animation and I havent spended any money on it (and wont) so I guess my budget would be 0$ but budgets dont work like that, its kind of weird.

...English not your first language, friend?

That said, yeah. Speaking personally as someone who can cover level design and game design but not much else, I'm lucky to have the 3D animator/modeller as a partner that I've got. We're presently looking at finally getting a new coder and a replacement concept artist, and everyone understands we aren't getting paid until the project is done because... well... most if not all of us either put our expenses into RL or are broke in terms of money we could genuinely spend on development. I'm glad to see the Gunpoint dev do well, as it's clear he's got some fantastic talent under his belt and is a funny writer to boot. Who knows, maybe he'll be the next Ken Levine. You can never tell until the time has passed.

See EA, THIS is how you make your money back on a franchise. Keep that in mind next time you add micro transactions and co-op.

Good for him. Made a great game. Just after the demo I was hooked. It's simple and addicting. Try it out and you'll find yourself contributing to his growing wealth.

After the looming AAA games crash actually happens, I'm glad we have the infrastructure in place to keep these games going, and doing fine and dandy.

The guy deserves all the money he gets. The game is brilliant and, in a lot of cases, absolutely hilarious.

Now get that Linux version out :D

I'm glad I helped support this guy, best 10$ I've spent in a good while. Just waiting for workshop support then the custom campaigns will come rolling in.

That graph is the best laugh I've had all month. Congrats to you, Mr. Francis; you earned it.

Parakeettheprawn:

DVS BSTrD:
How can that be? They didn't even create a new game engine for it!

And no focus testing dammit! And where's the sex scene? Where's Mark Meer voicing the main protagonist in a strangely metrosexual vibe? Where's the QTEs? Why isn't there DLC to have the ability to brutally punch someone -- you can't just have that in there as-is! Mod tools? What is this man thinking!

Never mind all that... he didn't even do a promotional thing with Mountain Dew and Doritos! THIS IS INSANITY!

shiajun:
After the looming AAA games crash actually happens, I'm glad we have the infrastructure in place to keep these games going, and doing fine and dandy.

This is what I've been saying.

Cliffy B and all the dipstick like him will go under but plenty of wonderful people will make plenty of wonderful games.

I'm sure the indie community won't feel a damn thing when the crash hits, I imagine Steam will do fine too.

Edit: I just realized we might not be able to say what I called Cliff B so I changed it to dipstick.

josemlopes:
I understand what he says by having a budget of only 30$ but not taking into account the fact that as a developer you enjoy making games (like most budgets are made) that budget would go a lot higher then 30$.

Imagine that he wasnt a good artist and had trouble doing the art, he would have to hire an artist and right there the budget would rocket sky-high in comparision.

I myself am doing a 3D animation and I havent spended any money on it (and wont) so I guess my budget would be 0$ but budgets dont work like that, its kind of weird.

Not necessarily :). I have a friend who does art for me pro-bono since he loves drawing and we've been friends for decades now. Which is weird...considering I'm only a few decades old.

Anyways, I'd certainly pay him if I ever used it for something that made money but you don't necessarily need to pay a good artist top dollar if you have connections.

That's a big if I suppose.

Good for him! I wish him well and I'll probably give him some money too because the game looks and sounds neat.

*a few minutes later*

Huh. Visited his website and he's got a very funny tale about why he released the demo as he did. Seems he went the exact opposite way that standard business logic says you should go: Instead of focusing on maximizing sales in the short term, he chose to sell only to those he knew would enjoy his game while ignoring or actively avoiding potential sales to people who wouldn't like it.

So, he not only produced a great game, he thumbed his nose at the marketing practices of the industry while succeeding beyond his wildest dreams. As if that wasn't enough, he's hiring.

Heh. This is pretty frigging wonderful.

Am I the only one that noticed that this is just Yahtzees old free to play stealth game repackaged?

So, you're telling me you can make a game without a massive overbloated budget and then rake in substantial profits even with what are likely modest sales? Wow, EA isn't gonna believe this... :p

I'm going to say upfront that I have little to no respect for this article.

Where do I even begin?

No one can make a working game on 30$.

Unless he built his PC out of discarded beer cans and powered it with potatoes the cost would be way above 30$.

Unless he sustains himself by sucking the moss off the surface of rocks and saves up rainwater in a bowl made of palm leaves he must have spent more than 30$.

Unless he was born as an all-knowing enlightened being he needed an education which cost more than 30$.

Unless he has the reflexes of a humming bird he must of spent quite a few hours of his life to code this game, hours that were worth more than 30$.

Unless his work as a journalist that he has been doing for many years was in fact volunteer work he wasn't payed for he must have used more than 30$ of the money he earnt towards making his game.

You might think I'm missing the point, that we are supposed to laugh at the absurdity of the statement, but it is a very harmful statement. I don't want kids to think living off of game development is easy. It's hard and it's dangerous and we are in the obligation to make them aware of those risks.

Most people don't have access to all the resources Tom Francis has. Most people can't afford to spend hundreds of hours creating a game. Most people don't have the luxury of a stable, high paying job that allows you to spend your free time designing games. Most people haven't had the chance to be so immersed in the world of gaming for so many years and they haven't learnt what the developer has.

I'm not attacking the developer. I have no idea if he was born into a wealthy family or if he earnt everything he has with sweat and blood. That is completely irrelevant. The reality is that the developer set out to create his game from a very privileged position. As far as making a video game goes, there are a handful of people in the world who had better odds at making a game and earning a living out of it than this man. To gloss over that truth is morally unacceptable in my opinion and not something I would expect from a self-respecting games journalist. I apologize for my bluntness but I feel someone needed to say this.

Excellent. Always good to see new games doing well. Probably going to be checking this out when I next happen across some cash... :(

JudgeGame:
>Snip<

Perhaps you missed the part of the article where they stated that he was able to give up his day job

He already had a full time job that paid for his computer, food, bills - he made the game in his spare time. Do you charge yourself by the hour for the hobbies you spend time on that you are passionate about? The article also mentions that his graph is meant to be slightly tongue in cheek. It does however show that he has managed to successfully turn his dreams into a profession and kudos to him for it.

Kiya:

JudgeGame:
>Snip<

Perhaps you missed the part of the article where they stated that he was able to give up his day job

He already had a full time job that paid for his computer, food, bills - he made the game in his spare time. Do you charge yourself by the hour for the hobbies you spend time on that you are passionate about? The article also mentions that his graph is meant to be slightly tongue in cheek. It does however show that he has managed to successfully turn his dreams into a profession and kudos to him for it.

It's obvious you either didn't read my post or the meaning of it was completely lost on you. I don't expect you to try again but I have no interest in talking to someone who doesn't listen.

JudgeGame:

SNIP

I disagree.
XKCD's WhatIf came up with a similar scenario recently: Should we add the cost of the ISS to the cost of making Chris Hadfield's Space Oddity Music Video?

Short version: No. Because the ISS would have existed anyway.

So to respond to your own points:

Tom Francis' PC may have cost more than $30, but he probably already had it before he started working on Gunpoint. Had he never decided to make Gunpoint, he would still have spent whatever amount of money it cost to build the PC.

His food costs will have been higher than 30, yes, but Gunpoint is something that he did in his own free time. Had he done something else with his free time, and continued with his day job, those food costs would still have come up.

The length of time spent making it: It's somewhat difficult to put a price on an hour. Especially if that hour is spent doing something that you enjoy, and that you chose to do. He quite clearly enjoyed making Gunpoint, judging by various blog posts and the trailers and, well, the game itself. Making Gunpoint was its own reward. Yes he could have used that time to earn money, but I don't think of Dark Souls as costing me money when it forces me to redo the past hour of gaming.

The money he was paid by his employer while he was making the game... I'm not actually sure of the point you were making with this one. Yes, he will have been paid more than $30 while working on the game, but that's money going into his account, not out of it, and entirely unrelated to Gunpoint. You say he 'must' have used more than $30 of the money he earned to make Gunpoint. How do you know?

You're right that most people don't have Tom Francis' resources. They may not have a reasonable PC, or enough free time to make something like this, or sufficient background knowledge of coding to have a chance at being successful. But Tom had all those things before deciding to make Gunpoint. Therefore they did not contribute to the cost of making Gunpoint. I'm actually curious what he would include in the $30 price mark.

I don't get this, it has colours other than brown and grey, it's got no DLC, there's no mocap dogs, or fish, and you can't control it with Smart Glass?

How did this sell any copies? :)

The_Darkness:

JudgeGame:

SNIP

-snip-

My point is the article glosses over all these issues so it can have celebration at how cheap it is to make a game. It's disingenuous and it gives people the false impression that making games is cheap when it is the exact oposite. In this world only the very richest of the rich can dream of making games and making money off of them. 30$ is a red herring that hides the truth from the reader and reflects poorly on the ethics of the news outlet.

JudgeGame:

The_Darkness:

JudgeGame:

SNIP

-snip-

My point is the article glosses over all these issues so it can have celebration at how cheap it is to make a game. It's disingenuous and it gives people the false impression that making games is cheap when it is the exact oposite. In this world only the very richest of the rich can dream of making games and making money off of them. 30$ is a red herring that hides the truth from the reader and reflects poorly on the ethics of the news outlet.

Only the "richest of rich" can make games? Um... no. How many people do you think enter the indie market being rich already? Answer, probably none of them. Some of the biggest Indie developers known started out working normal day-to-day jobs. Heck, that's where Notch started, and look at him now. He didn't get rich to afford to make his games, he GOT rich from making his games.

Parakeettheprawn:

josemlopes:
I understand what he says by having a budget of only 30$ but not taking into account the fact that as a developer you enjoy making games (like most budgets are made) that budget would go a lot higher then 30$.

Imagine that he wasnt a good artist and had trouble doing the art, he would have to hire an artist and right there the budget would rocket sky-high in comparision.

I myself am doing a 3D animation and I havent spended any money on it (and wont) so I guess my budget would be 0$ but budgets dont work like that, its kind of weird.

...English not your first language, friend?

That said, yeah. Speaking personally as someone who can cover level design and game design but not much else, I'm lucky to have the 3D animator/modeller as a partner that I've got. We're presently looking at finally getting a new coder and a replacement concept artist, and everyone understands we aren't getting paid until the project is done because... well... most if not all of us either put our expenses into RL or are broke in terms of money we could genuinely spend on development. I'm glad to see the Gunpoint dev do well, as it's clear he's got some fantastic talent under his belt and is a funny writer to boot. Who knows, maybe he'll be the next Ken Levine. You can never tell until the time has passed.

No... its not, and I think that most of the grammatical errors are in the last sentence (like spended, even I should have known better lol) so you can still get the point without having to endure the pain of reading a poorly written sentence (it was late and I was tired, not exactly an excuse but a justification).

Either way, my original point is that when I was at school I had to show a budget graph or whatever that was to a teacher (that was teaching about budgets) about an animation that we were supposed to do, no one was going to spend any money doing it but we couldnt just put 0$ at the end of it, we had to make it like no one was doing it for free.

JudgeGame:
I'm going to say upfront that I have little to no respect for this article.

Where do I even begin?

No one can make a working game on 30$.

Unless he built his PC out of discarded beer cans and powered it with potatoes the cost would be way above 30$.

Unless he sustains himself by sucking the moss off the surface of rocks and saves up rainwater in a bowl made of palm leaves he must have spent more than 30$.

Unless he was born as an all-knowing enlightened being he needed an education which cost more than 30$.

Unless he has the reflexes of a humming bird he must of spent quite a few hours of his life to code this game, hours that were worth more than 30$.

Unless his work as a journalist that he has been doing for many years was in fact volunteer work he wasn't payed for he must have used more than 30$ of the money he earnt towards making his game.

You might think I'm missing the point, that we are supposed to laugh at the absurdity of the statement, but it is a very harmful statement. I don't want kids to think living off of game development is easy. It's hard and it's dangerous and we are in the obligation to make them aware of those risks.

Most people don't have access to all the resources Tom Francis has. Most people can't afford to spend hundreds of hours creating a game. Most people don't have the luxury of a stable, high paying job that allows you to spend your free time designing games. Most people haven't had the chance to be so immersed in the world of gaming for so many years and they haven't learnt what the developer has.

I'm not attacking the developer. I have no idea if he was born into a wealthy family or if he earnt everything he has with sweat and blood. That is completely irrelevant. The reality is that the developer set out to create his game from a very privileged position. As far as making a video game goes, there are a handful of people in the world who had better odds at making a game and earning a living out of it than this man. To gloss over that truth is morally unacceptable in my opinion and not something I would expect from a self-respecting games journalist. I apologize for my bluntness but I feel someone needed to say this.

My impression: He bought a piece of software (programming, basic engine, etc) for thirty bucks and made it in his spare time... for fun.

I don't tend to say that my attempts to learn Russian are costing me thousands of dollars because of all the money I spent on food, life and savings, plus the computer and internet connection I use. I say it cost me $15 for the Russian-English dictionary I bought to supplement it. Same logic.

EDIT:

JudgeGame:

The_Darkness:

JudgeGame:

SNIP

-snip-

My point is the article glosses over all these issues so it can have celebration at how cheap it is to make a game. It's disingenuous and it gives people the false impression that making games is cheap when it is the exact oposite. In this world only the very richest of the rich can dream of making games and making money off of them. 30$ is a red herring that hides the truth from the reader and reflects poorly on the ethics of the news outlet.

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

No.

This doesn't reflect poorly on the news outlet, just your understanding of indie gaming. The only particularly expensive first-attempt indie game I can think of was Braid, which cost $200,000. However, other financially successful games like Aveyond were made on a budget of "wow, this RPG engine only costs fifty bucks!"

lacktheknack:

JudgeGame:
snip

My impression: He bought a piece of software (programming, basic engine, etc) for thirty bucks and made it in his spare time... for fun.

I don't tend to say that my attempts to learn Russian are costing me thousands of dollars because of all the money I spent on food, life and savings, plus the computer and internet connection I use. I say it cost me $15 for the Russian-English dictionary I bought to supplement it. Same logic.

Eeexactly.
According to the related Extra Punctation, it was made in Game Maker - $50, though. Let's pick any game you buy for $50 and then spend 300+ hours in it. Do I need to finish this thought?
I should have an old version of Game Maker somewhere, huh...

Gregg Johnson:

JudgeGame:

The_Darkness:

-snip-

My point is the article glosses over all these issues so it can have celebration at how cheap it is to make a game. It's disingenuous and it gives people the false impression that making games is cheap when it is the exact oposite. In this world only the very richest of the rich can dream of making games and making money off of them. 30$ is a red herring that hides the truth from the reader and reflects poorly on the ethics of the news outlet.

Only the "richest of rich" can make games? Um... no. How many people do you think enter the indie market being rich already? Answer, probably none of them. Some of the biggest Indie developers known started out working normal day-to-day jobs. Heck, that's where Notch started, and look at him now. He didn't get rich to afford to make his games, he GOT rich from making his games.

It would be nice to believe you are just taking the piss but my faith in humanity is not that strong. I'll let you know Sweden is one of if not the most obcenely rich countries in the world. It's specifically people like Notch that I am referring to when I say the richest of the rich. I have nothing against Notch but it is in no way realistic to compare the resources he has to make a game with the resources an average gamer might have.

JudgeGame:

Gregg Johnson:

JudgeGame:

My point is the article glosses over all these issues so it can have celebration at how cheap it is to make a game. It's disingenuous and it gives people the false impression that making games is cheap when it is the exact oposite. In this world only the very richest of the rich can dream of making games and making money off of them. 30$ is a red herring that hides the truth from the reader and reflects poorly on the ethics of the news outlet.

Only the "richest of rich" can make games? Um... no. How many people do you think enter the indie market being rich already? Answer, probably none of them. Some of the biggest Indie developers known started out working normal day-to-day jobs. Heck, that's where Notch started, and look at him now. He didn't get rich to afford to make his games, he GOT rich from making his games.

It would be nice to believe you are just taking the piss but my faith in humanity is not that strong. I'll let you know Sweden is one of if not the most obcenely rich countries in the world. It's specifically people like Notch that I am referring to when I say the richest of the rich. I have nothing against Notch but it is in no way realistic to compare the resources he has to make a game with the resources an average gamer might have.

I'm sorry but where is your experience as an indie game developer? Or any kind of game developer? You talk like as if you're all knowing but I'm failing to see how you actually prove your point. If you couldn't make a game on a shoestring or non-existent budget, then why bring up Minecraft? That was literally just a project Markus (Notch) took on in his free time. Becoming a full time developer of the game was sort of an accident for him.

Hell I made a basic proof of concept for a 2D shooter in a week when I was fifteen just using Construct Classic. Game development is not this monolithic monstrosity anymore -- there's a reason things like ModDB/IndieDB exist now.

Another example of a game made with little to no cash: I Get This Call Every Day. Don't you dare tell me that game's developer couldn't have made that game if he didn't put in wads of cash.

Gunpoint was a blast! Even beyond that, it's amazingly written and hilarious. Coming across a dialogue option "Uhh, I lost track of the plot around mission 2. I'm just in this for the money" was fantastic

JudgeGame:
snip

You clearly don't understand the meaning of budget.
Things like his computer, food, etc. are not accounted for in the games budget, because those expenses would have been there even if he didn't make this game. The game's budget is the amount of money allocated for the singular purpose of making the game itself. That 30$ is just the additional expense that added to default expenses on account of making the game. He developed this game in his free time. If you play a game in your free time, and consider your expense on said game, you'r looking at the cost of the game, not the cost of your continued existence.

If I purchase, say, GameMaker, which costs, say, 30$, and then make a game using said software, and nothing else (which is possible), then the budget of the game is 30$. That is if I bought said software for the soul purpose of developing said game. The budget of something entails only, only, the expenses that would not be unless the project would not have been undertook.

OT: It's guys like this that elevate indie titles over the consistent AAA excrement of brown-gray boring over-priced sludge.

Way to go'

The Rogue Wolf:
That graph is the best laugh I've had all month. Congrats to you, Mr. Francis; you earned it.

Parakeettheprawn:

DVS BSTrD:
How can that be? They didn't even create a new game engine for it!

And no focus testing dammit! And where's the sex scene? Where's Mark Meer voicing the main protagonist in a strangely metrosexual vibe? Where's the QTEs? Why isn't there DLC to have the ability to brutally punch someone -- you can't just have that in there as-is! Mod tools? What is this man thinking!

Never mind all that... he didn't even do a promotional thing with Mountain Dew and Doritos! THIS IS INSANITY!

... And subway don't forget subway.But seriously props to that.

The ol' days of amateur bedroom game designers are back!

JudgeGame:
-snip-

He obviously already owned the computer, so it makes no sense to include that in the costs. Not to mention it's very clear he made the game in his spare time, since he was previously working full-time, so that wouldn't count towards development costs either. He would've needed to eat with or without the game being made, that isn't a development cost either. It just seems like you don't know what development costs ARE.

$30 development costs make perfect sense in the context of a guy who makes games in his spare time. You're being ignorant for no real reason. >_>

CriticKitten:

$30 development costs make perfect sense in the context of a guy who makes games in his spare time. You're being ignorant for no real reason. >_>

Some people like being contrarian for the fun of it. Also, HE IS THE LAW.

OT: Good for him. Gunpoint is a great game, and it's got some legitimately funny writing too. Basically, it's a smaller scale version of everything I wanted Watch Dogs to be and fear that it won't.

I'm definitely interested to see what he does next, to see if this was a lucky chance or if he's really got what it takes to make a splash in the gaming industry.

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