Pay-what-you-want sales and analytics

I started Gender Dysphoria on a whim, really. I felt a little stuck with Access, another game I was working on at the time, and I wanted to make something quick and easy. I held a personal game jam for myself during one weekend in July 2020 and decided to make a text-only game about my negative experiences after coming out as transgender. It seemed like a good fit; I wanted to try exercising the new features I had recently implemented in Rumor, a narrative scripting library I created, and writing about my experiences would be a little cathartic and help me process my feelings. A few days later I released it to my some of my patrons on Patreon, followed by another release to the general public a few months later. I have since polished the game even more, in ways I did not initially anticipate. It was just supposed to be a short text-only game that I would spend only a single weekend on! While the scope grew in more ways than one, this has been the most successful game I’ve made so far. In this postmortem, I’m going to talk about analytics and how much money I’ve made.

When I first released the game to the general public in September 2020, I did my usual rounds of shameless self-promotion in several Discord servers I was in as well as on Twitter. However, I was pleasantly surprised that I also got a significant amount of traffic from itself. A lot of people were finding the game organically by searching for the transgender tag on and I hit a peak of 521 views, 26 downloads, and 277 browser plays in one week. I was also floored to find that my game was also referenced by a college course called INF 190/ICS 80 at the Transformative Play Lab at UC Irvine! The professor found out about the game through the transgender tag on as well. I also earned one payment for the game - $25 USD before fees and’s share - which was paid by a friend of mine who was excited about what I made.

I first heard about Indiepocalypse, an indie game zine, when the creator of the zine Andrew (@PIZZAPRANKS) posted about it in the Discord server. He was offering an up-front payment of $20 at the time and I felt my game was a good fit for what he was looking for, so I submitted and ended up getting in. It was nice to earn some money for what I made and I was looking forward to the additional publicity I would get from being in the zine. When Indiepocalypse #11 came out with Gender Dysphoria in it in December 2020, I saw a small uptick in traffic peaking at 103 views, 2 downloads, and 48 browser plays in one week to my page. These numbers seem low, but quite honestly I was surprised to see anything because the game was repacked wholesale into the zine for Indiepocalypse’s page, so you’d have to go out of your way to visit my itch page. Unfortunately, I have not yet received any additional royalty payments as the zine has not broken even yet.

After releasing the game in Indiepocalypse, I began to feel a little unsatisfied. The game I had made was text-only, but people with visual impairments would not be able to play the game. This seemed unfair and I didn’t want someone to miss out on experiencing the game just because they had a handicap. At first, I looked into adding screen reader support to the game, but for a few reasons I decided to get the game fully voice-acted instead. This, of course, was a very ill-advised course of action. I had only made about $40 after all, and getting the game fully voice-acted would cost much more than that. But, I went ahead anyway and put out a casting call for the game on Twitter in March 2021 and… well, it received a lot more attention than I expected. This affected my page as well: I received 326 views, 7 downloads, and 131 browser plays in one week at its peak. I also made one more payment of $2 USD before fees and’s share during this time.

Later, through another Discord server, I heard about Queer Games Bundle 2021 and applied to that as well. I was hoping to make at least some money for the game and I appreciated the message that the bundle was trying to send. While I was afraid that my game might get lost in the crowd, as this was a bundle of over 200 items, I still experienced a significant amount of traffic. At its peak, I received 625 views, 55 downloads, and 321 browser plays in one week. While these numbers seem similar to when I first released the game, the traffic has decayed much more slowly resulting in significantly more traffic overall. More importantly, however, was the income I received from the bundle. I made a total of around $760 USD before fees and’s share, which was a mix of amazing and underwhelming at the same time.

You see, on one hand I was not expecting to make any money off of this game. I’m an independent game developer who makes games in her free time; I work a full time job to support myself. While I do wish to become a full time independent game developer someday, making games at the moment is like a hobby for me. I do it for fun and I sink money into it that I don’t expect to ever get back, which is exactly how I felt when I decided to hire voice actors. So, of course, I was thrilled when the money I made from the Queer Games Bundle covered those costs and a little more. It seems obvious now that there are people out there who want to buy a game like mine. There are also so many nice comments from others left on the game’s page and others talking about it on Twitter or on Discord. But, despite all of these positive reviews, I’ve only managed on my own to get one friend and one stranger to send money my way. On one hand, I’ve gotten some praise that I really sincerely appreciate; on the other hand, I irrationally feel like people don’t actually mean what they say because they did not pay for it.

Granted, it’s hard to get people to pay for things and there are also a lot of good reasons for why someone might not pay. They might not have the discretionary income to pay for the game, for example. A bigger problem is perhaps that they might not even be aware that this is a pay-what-you-want game., after all, only asks for donations if you try downloading the game. If you try playing the game through your web browser, which most people do, you might not even know since there isn’t a part in the game which asks the player to donate money. I wish itch would add the same payment prompt you get if you try downloading the game to when you click play in the web browser, but I have no control over that. I could add a donation call-out to the web version of the game, but to be honest I’m kind of tired of working on this game and I just want to move on to something else.

You might be inclined to say to me “Well, most people won’t pay if you decide to go pay-what-you want”, and I completely agree with that statement. However, I chose this model because I wanted as many people as possible to play the game. Additionally, this is not the only time I’ve worked with a pay-what-you-want model either. With the same model, I’ve had many more sales on Bandcamp than I did with itch, even though I’ve gotten more views and positive feedback on itch. Maybe people are less likely to pay for pay-what-you-want games? Is it because doesn’t do enough to encourage people to pay? I’m not sure.

In total, as of this writing, I’m walking away from this project having made a profit of about $150. I also have not acquired new patrons on Patreon during this time, so my monthly revenue didn’t grow either. Making money is hard! If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I should be doing bundles more often.

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