The Indiepocalypse 2023 Year-in-Review
We’ve somehow reached the end of the 4th (calendar) year of Indiepocalypse! Time just keeps on going huh?
If you’ve somehow found your way here and are wondering “what is Indiepocalypse? what has it been doing for four years?”, you’re in luck! Because I’ve wrote a starter guide. But for simplicity’s sake, it’s a monthly anthology of independent games. And this is my yearly postmortem where I talk about how it loses a lot of money but I still like it.
But how did it fair during my self proclaimed Laid-Back Year?
The Money (the numbers)
Starting off with the most exciting detail, Indiepocalypse actually lost less money this year compared to last year. Last year I broke out some percentages about how my losses were sort of technically smaller each year because while I was losing more, I was spending more, et cetera, et cetera. But this year the number of dollars I lost was smaller than the number I lost last year. That’s something! Something I wasn’t even expecting when I getting ready to write this.
To date there are also three issues that are profitable: 1, 3, and 34. Though 34 doesn’t really count since it was fully sponsored. (thanks Ranged Touch) Overall, Indiepocalypse is still running a net profit of -$11,648.53. That is ~$-237.73 per issue, meaning that if I removed the costs of covers it would likely be completely profitable. But issue covers are also a core part of the zine that can’t just be removed but it is a neat thing to think about. It’s doable?? (unlikely)
But where did this money come from?
The first thing to note, is that patreon has overtaken itch sales (plus the pledge drive) as being the main source of income for Indiepocalypse. And that makes sense! Indiepocalypse, is by all admission, not necessarily a flashy thing that stands out on a storefront or makes for an impulse buy. I’d say it’s something more for people that are curious and looking to buy rather than people that are waiting to be sold to.
The new vague category of “Sales” are sales made through my personal website (indiepocalypse.com of course). But even more noticeable is that my event sales are ~5x higher in a year where (aside from a brief jaunt to Canada) I only attended (inexpensive or free) events within an hour drive. And I spent nowhere near as much as I did last year. (~$3000)
But postage is up and there’s a new category of “materials” because this is the year I started making Tapes.
Not actually tapes, I started making a physical edition of Indiepocalypse to sell online and (primarily) at events. When I was looking for Game Boy cases to sell with a handful of copies of Taylor McCue’s He Fucked the Girl Out of Me, I learned that people had started using cassette cases to store Game Boy games. I had been looking for a way to physically package Indiepocalypse but optical drives are increasingly uncommon sticking a USB stick in a DVD seemed weird. But cassette cassette cases are the perfect size, shape, are cheap, and easily bought. And people like them! They’re especially a bigger draw at events than my old codes-on-a-postcard.
I haven’t been keeping a strict inventory, but know that I’ve ordered 4 50-packs and have a standard inventory of ~50 burned issues, meaning there are over 100 physical copies of Indiepocalypse floating around out there.
Incidentally if you want to talk about how I made these, want me to make/sell some for you, or want to sell these in a physical shop you work at/own let me know! I think more no-budget indie devs ought to attend small, cheap, local art events/zine fests (shout-out to Anti-Robot Club) and these are great way to sell games there.
SPECIAL ADDENDUM: Where does the money come from?
I’ve mentioned it casually in passing, but where does the money come from to fund Indiepocalypse?
My day job. And a decade of paying off debt. Indiepocalypse is self-funded (which is why it can run at a loss for 4 years straight) and solo run by a boss (me) who would like to make money, but is increasingly fine with no doing so. It’s not especially worth dwelling on, but I’m not sure it something I’ve ever written down.
Money’s until this point unmentioned counterpart and the other core component of making anything. As much as Indiepocalypse benefits from the aforementioned day job and debt repayments, it also thrives on what we’ll call a relatively empty social schedule. Despite what you may think, I am not a nebulous force that makes a monthly indie game anthology. I am in actuality just a regular human with 24 hours in their day like everyone else. And I spend more than half of that (day job) working or sleeping. I am a relative loner, and this was the year I realized how much Indiepocalypse benefits from (or exists solely because of) that fact. Most likely because I tried to take it easy this year. But more on that later. This is The Numbers section.
I was 32 and all I thought about was money
If there’s a way to not worry about money, I haven’t figured it out yet. But 2023 is the I finally felt secure a year into a better paying, more relaxing job, with better skills to put on a resume should I need a new job. It would be an understatement to say much of the stress in the earlier years of Indiepocalypse came from me seeking it as an escape from a dead-end job with no clear escape.
While Indiepocalypse is doing better, I realistically don’t see it ever paying me anything approaching a livable wage. I’m honestly not certain it will ever be profitable. But I do like making it and isn’t that really the best kind of payment. (it’s not. you can’t by groceries with personal satisfaction but it does feel nice)
Being online is all well and good, but sometimes you need to go outside and meet people
At some point this year I switched browsers and in the course of re-pinning my (now 4) social media sites, I decided to make them their own window. Then one day I decided to just close that window. Social media is a sort of useful bulletin board but I’ve never really liked it for actually being, you know, social. And I don’t think I lose too much by not being online and occasionally trying to scoop up a couple followers by wading into discourse.
In the past I have (too often) pointed out that Indiepocalypse has never really been the sort of thing that people leave comments/replies on. The reason why is irrelevant, but I also have difficulty deriving meaning from reposts and likes, so it stuck out to me whenever I felt bad about the zine. But! When you got to a small local market and have excited repeat visitors? Erases all that. Whether I see person excited or immediately losing interest 2 seconds into my pitch (but staying out of politeness) it is clear how they feel and I couldn’t feel better. Never in-person do I overhear someone at the table next to mine talk about how much they love and care about indie games only to have them proceed to come over to my table and for no discernible reason, be completely disinterested in Indiepocalypse.
And this monthly market (plus being more, you know, laid-back) has bled into my online attitude. I have a general attitude at events where I make what I make and I like it. If you don’t like it or care about it? Well I don’t really see how that’s my problem.
What if it was actually fun?
Follow a self-imposed Laid-Back Year, I’m finding myself entering something of a Quitting Year? Not quitting Indiepocalypse of course, but the baggage around it. Worrying about sales, reach, my relevance to games, and all that. That general attitude that something must be made for a purpose. If I’m spending all this effort making Indiepocalypse surely it must eventually become some great, successful, and respected work.
Not really. It can just be a fun thing I do. I was too long consumed by the online idea that your work must be Important and carry some great weight. Earlier drafts of this recap even leaned into this. The kind of post that would make people think “ah, so wise. I must share this crucial piece of thinking about games”. But I don’t care. I’d rather be doing something than just talking about it.
Indiepocalypse Radio, a perfect example of this joy I’d been missing (or at least feeling to keep for long), has even been sitting in front of my face this entire time. I’ve been organizing an almost weekly talk show/podcast for the past 3 years and never once worried about any of its metrics. Almost like it was a fun little getaway from Indiepocalypse. And it is fun!
Indiepocalypse Radio is me trying to find a way for devs around the world could just hang every week without having to travel to expensive events or engineer their way into invite-only little clubs. A world outside of networking that asks the mildest commitment. (hang out for ~20 minutes) I don’t have any particular interest in building a community but do like less people being complete strangers. The kind of person you might say “hey, what’s up” to if you see them at an event.
And I think after this year I’ve managed to finally bring over and adopt that attitude with Indiepocalypse proper.
I made it through this year and it didn’t kill me
At this point I’m not sure I remember how to not do Indiepocalypse and I’m fine with that. There are 3 main things that could end Indiepocalypse
1. Unexpected financial disaster
2. Lack of submissions
The first I’m always trying to avoid, the second has never been a serious issue and something I could always put off for another 2 years by accepting repeat contributors (did you know that Indiepocalypse has had 470+ unique contributors). So the only real threat to Indiepocalypse is me burning out and just lacking the energy to make it.
Time-wise, I don’t work on weekends nor do I work the last 2 hours before going to bed. That just leaves the creeping sense of failure that haunts my every action. The idea that my work will never be good enough. Will clearly never be accepted by critics, festivals, or peers. The idea that most people working in the medium of games don’t even consider me a peer. Asking myself if endless self-doubt counts as imposter syndrome if I haven’t accomplished anything. But if you’ve read this far you can probably already guess that problem is long gone!
Or mostly. Hey, I’m not perfect.
As I approach the 5th year of Indiepocalypse it easily feels like it could be the 10th, 20th, or 80th year. In a way it no longer feels like anything special because I can no longer think about it not existing. And if you’ll allow me a bit of confidence (arrogance?) at the end, I think Indiepocalypse rules and is Good Shit for anyone who cares about exploring the vast potential of games as a medium.
Endless gratitude to everyone who has contributed to and supported Indiepocalypse. It wouldn’t exist without its amazing contributors and, well, the whole point of Indiepocalypse is trying to get more people to play these good games. (and paying the devs a little along the way) It could technically exist without all the support, but oh boy would it be much harder and much more stressful. So thank you to everyone who buys issues, helps promote it, or just privately thinks nice things about it.
And if you’ve made it this far, you should totally check out that Indiepocalypse thing if you haven’t yet. Seems cool.
This edition was far less stat and organizational focused because I just didn’t feel like writing that stuff and it isn’t too different than it’s been in the past. Some things worth noting though
– I’ve been soliciting top 10 lists and writing my own features about games in Indiepocalypse to better highlight the individual games in the now massive library of games.
– I organized a round-table with other video game small press organizers for Super FESTival 2023
– I’m collaborating with Iron Circus Comics to release a special issue of all new games with teams composed of comic artists and game devs.
– Something I’ve probably missed. I do a lot and am very busy