Comparing the Financial Prospects of a Regular Indie GameDev Project vs an Adult GameDev Project

Is there money in [adult game development]? Asking for a friend.

Comparing regular indie dev to adult game dev, I would say there’s a lot more games that tend to get to a respectable sideincome level because of these advantages:

  1. Supply — there are fewer people willing to make NSFW indie games since there’s a stigma about putting them on your resume (or just not interested in making them, etc)
  2. Demand (Min) — IMO there’s more people proactively seeking out games that satisfy a particular kink or interest than people proactively seeking out yet another artistic indie puzzle platformer.
  3. Consumers of adult games are adults. Adults typically have jobs, credit cards, and disposable income. This means making a game for adults will likely have better conversion rate than making a game for all ages.
  4. Erotic games are inherently more replayable since people don’t tend to get bored of their favorite kink, or at least tend to come back to it a lot more
  5. Customers are used to buying direct from devs, so the 30% (oof) platform tax isn’t necessary.
  6. Most importantly, customers are used to the subscription model. This is absolutely huge and probably the main reason adult games are more viable. Regular indie games are priced unsustainably, and that can work out for megahits but it absolutely does not work out for 99.9% of indies. Sustainable monthly income for indie devs is literally revolutionizing what kind of games are possible to make.

That said, it’s well worth pointing out the disadvantages, too:

  1. I still see tons of adult games not really catch on. Game dev of all type is still extremely risky business.
  2. Demand (Max) — Even the games that catch on, don’t break out like general-audience hits have done. So I feel like the ceiling of commercial success is a lot lower. (Basically, it’s easier to get started / reach a part-time income, but just as hard if not harder to break out into full-time with team numbers.)
  3. Supply (Future?) – Adult gamedev is starting to catch on. A lot more people are starting to get into it, which is great for the community but also has worrying implication for the future. Will we see another race to the bottom in pricing like so many other gaming ecosystems in past?
  4. Payment processing is much harder since some companies like PayPal or AMEX or any number of merchant account providers don’t want anything to do with you… even if you have better fraud metrics than general-audience games. (They consider it high risk for political reasons outside your control)
  5. Deplatforming is a real risk as the political climate of what is kosher is always shifting.
  6. It’s hard to put on a resume since employers will want to see & verify it. At least if a regular startup fails, you still come out looking great to employers for taking a risk and learning something. This can leave you with a resume gap if you go full time on it and it doesn’t work out.
  7. If your identity leaks, depersoning is also a real risk — adult performers have had stories of having their personal bank accounts shut down, getting blacklisted from regular employment, etc. Hasn’t happened in gamedev yet, but the stigma is real (and pretty unfair tbh).
  8. Harder to find people willing to work on your project as many don’t want to work on 18+ content
  9. Community while getting started — If you’re a new adult dev without an established project, there’s not too many places to network with other adult devs. Once established, there’s several great ones, but adult gamedev scene does tend to be a lot more insular and protective. This may make it a more challenging place to be for a first game project.
  10. Virality – most people don’t tell their friend networks about adult games. And a lot of social media (Twitch, Facebook, etc) would ban linking or streaming them. You basically should expect to have to do 100% of the marketing yourself, which can be quite exhausting at best, and ineffective at worst. (Probably this is another reason why fewer adult games break out into big numbers)

So, anyway, my best advice is to make whatever project you feel passionate about. Since most projects do fail (commercially), at least at the end of it you can say you enjoyed the journey of making it.

And if that’s a general-audience game, maybe try to take some of the lessons from the adult gamedev scene and leverage them to your advantage (subscription, mature audience focus, unique positioning, etc)

But if you just want to make money, FYI it would be easier and more profitable to just get a job at FAANG.

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I make furry games for adults! My main expertise is in engineering and writing.