Indie Platform Itch.io To Introduce Open Rev Sharing

Indie marketplace and distribution site, itch.io, will be introducing open revenue sharing in order for the platform to start generating money and “have a sustainable business model”.

Games on itch.io are priced using a pay-what-you-want-above-the-minimum approach. That means some are free of charge but with an option to donate to the developer while others have a minimum charge and the option to add that same extra donation on top. Currently itch.io doesn’t take a cut from that – as per the blog entry by founder Leaf Corcoran that option was disabled for the Ludum Dare October Challenge in 2013 and never turned back on because the site costs were manageable.

The new strategy will take effect from 23 March and will allow developers to set a revenue split for their game on the site at anywhere from 0-100%. The default rate will be 10% with an option to switch to “industry standard (30%)” which is the percentage Valve gets for things sold via Steam and a slider for anything else.

As part of a separate post explaining itch.io’s mission Corcoran explains:

“You might be saying ‘well that sounds pretty risky, what if everyone sets [the slider] to 0?’ We think that’s a risk we’re willing to take in the spirit of encouraging the generous and supportive community that’s already developed around itch.io.”

In case you weren’t aware of the site before, I head to itch.io most days just to see what’s appeared. Sometimes there are gems, sometimes reruns, sometimes bafflement and nonsense. Currently I’m wondering if I can play as two people for long enough to get Itty Bitty Trainwrecks to work.

13 Comments

  1. jrodman says:

    Is the idea of nonprofit a global one? I wonder if it would work for itch.io?

    • pepperfez says:

      I’ve thought for some time that game-focused nonprofits could really help the (good parts of the) industry. A nonprofit itch.io could, with some poking around for grants and donations, set itself up as a combination storefront and incubator for indie devs. That would be a very interesting challenge to Steam.

    • ostrich160 says:

      I dont think so. If you work hard on something, you want a bit of money in return. Or at least most people do.

      • pepperfez says:

        My understanding is that itch.io is primarily intended as a service to the indie games community rather than a moneymaker (as evidenced by the operator just not bothering to turn revenue sharing back on after he turned it off), so if becoming a nonprofit made it more secure and accessible to starving indies then I suspect Corcoran would be pleased, even if it meant trading away the chance of being bought out by Facebook for $gazillion. He would still be paid to act as chief executive, which is what he’s doing now; it’s just that he’s also paying business taxes the site’s revenue.

  2. TillEulenspiegel says:

    I think they’re sort of missing the point that the 30% stores are also handling all the sales tax and a lot of other bullshit (eg, fraud) for you as well. Basically, you give them a license to sell your software, and they send you a 70% royalty. Very simple, very clean. This is HUGE for tiny indie developers who don’t want to run a real company and hire an accountant familiar with tax laws in every country in the world.

    With itch.io or anything else where you’re accepting payments directly, YOU are responsible for all of that. It’s not fun.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Oh, and I should mention that BMT Micro also does this and charges only about 10%. So it can be done without massive fees. If itch.io wants to become the merchant of record and handle all the sales taxes / VAT and only charge 10-15%, they could be a very big deal.

      • MOKKA says:

        As far as I know they offer developers to handle VAT for them. Was kind of a big deal a few weeks ago with all this VATMOSSS stuff going on.

    • khalilravanna says:

      While that’s a huge boon it seems to me like the main thing you’re handing a sizeable cut to Valve for is the promotion. Handling fees and what not doesn’t seem that difficult at all when you consider things exist like Stripe that (apparently only recently) work globally and have even started accepting bitcoin. Promotion and visibility in an enormous marketplace is well worth the cost if you pay 30% to increase sales by 100s of percents. (Note: this is all going off of the rather large assumption that Steam successfully markets your game for you well at all.)

      • DrManhatten says:

        Nah Steam are just money grabbers same way as Apple is. They just adopted Apple’s royalty scheme and blasted their DRM on top of it. A lot of people still are blinded by Valve and think they are the good guys but they are not they are just about money.

        • El_Emmental says:

          Ha, ignorance.

          1) Steam always tries to keep their new releases down to a reasonable size (no more than x games per 2 weeks) so indie games gets a minimum of exposure. They run special sales dedicated to indie games on a regular basis, especially during season sales (winter, christmas, summer, spring, fall, halloween, etc).

          2) Steam always provided their services at no initial cost and without asking any rights on the IP or exclusive distribution rights. Unlike all other publishers/distributors (before Steam clones showed up online). Retail distributors ask for IP rights, distribution exclusivity and exclusive DLCs, and will offer less than 70% royalties if you’re an indie devs that has very little alternatives.

          3) The Steamworks DRM is not mandatory at all and it’s 100% up to the developers to choose to use it or not. If one of you favorite developers is using the Steamworks DRM, you can contact them and ask them to remove it.

          There is a list of games not using the Steamworks DRM here: link to steam.wikia.com

          4) Steam provides an online store with nearly perfect uptime, worldwide high-speed CDN with no extra cost if the game size is extremely large or if the developer is pushing out large updates on a regular basis. On that note, Steam provides a filesystem that allows developers to reduce the size of updates (no longer need to replace the entire file).

          5) Steam provides a billing system that handles VAT, CC and all the fraud/issues related to it. That’s a major selling point for devs here, tons get scammed on their websites and have to cover the costs of it.

          6) Steam provides an unlimited amount of Steam keys to developers selling their games on Steam and elsewhere, without any additional charge. If I buy a game on the Humble Store or through the Humble Widget, developers can give me a Steam key so we can both benefit from all the services provided by Steam, even if Steam received $0 from me or the devs.

          7) Steam provides a vast array of services: Steam Workshop, Steamworks trackings & stats, multiple Beta system, DLCs system (for devs), Steam Community (discussions, groups, events), Steam ingame VoIP, Steam matchmaking/serverbrowser, Steam Cloud, Steam VAC. All that, for no additional cost.

          So for 30% of the price, you implement the Steam features once, then you can just push the updates to your game and let the system handle the rest. No server maintenance, no nights spent fixing/upgrading servers to keep online features (forum, mods, patches, masterserver/matchmaking, announcements) up, no weekends spent on the phone with banks to cancel fraudulent transactions.

          Your playerbase doesn’t have to use external VoIP servers (out of their wallets) to communicate ingame, nor have to manually backup their saves all the time, nor have to manually hunt down patch files (downloading at slow speed on release), nor have to uninstall then reinstall the whole game when it no longer work (instead of using the “Verify Game Files” feature on Steam).

          All these things are extremely valuable services for developers, who then no longer have to waste several days and weeks on these issues not directly related to the development of the game and its updates. That problem is especially affecting indie devs, who don’t have the money to hire people specialized in all these very specific issues, so they waste more and more time learning everything from scratch and doing a poor job at it (because of the stress, fatigue and lack of time).

          But noooo, Steam is evil because you, as a user, can’t be arsed to turn on the Offline Mode to play when your Internet access is giving up, just like you can’t be arsed to turn off Auto Update when you’re on a Gb-per-month quota. All these settings are available for a reason.

          That doesn’t mean Steam is perfect for developers, but it’s far better than what was and still is offered to indie devs at the moment.

          nb: I buy my indie games on the developers’ websites whenever I can, to make sure they get 90%-95% of the money. That doesn’t mean I pretend Steam or other digital distributors are not providing useful and valuable services.

    • ostrich160 says:

      It seems like a very fair deal to me. At the end of the day 30% cut is a hell of a lot, especially for a small dev. Sites that just put the game up wont succeed, if your forking over just less than a third of your revenue, you dont want to have to do much work about it

  3. Don Whitaker says:

    I’ve had a game for sale on itch.io for about 8 months, and now on Steam for 1 month. Itch provides nearly all of the same services and I’ll happily be giving them 20% of my sales. As TillEulenspiegel says, itch doesn’t offer as much in the way of accounting and tax issues – but they do handle VAT, keep track of customers, and deal with pretty much all of the other busy work involved with the actual sale. They also offer pay what you want pricing, easy setup for sales and bundles, key redemption (inlcuding Steam and other stores), community features, analytics, DRM free downloads, sales widget, and streamlined administration of your games. I’d be surprised if Leaf didn’t add more tax and business related features as the site grows, he’s constantly adding features and improving the site.

    Steam certainly has the ‘Millions of Eyeballs’ advantage, but that doesn’t guarantee massive sales numbers. I saw a nice boost in sales for my game when I released on Steam, but so far I’ve made more on Itch. I think by the end of March it’ll be about 50/50. I’m sure over the long haul I’ll sell more on Steam, but I’ll definitely keep using Itch.

    Biggest advantage of Itch.io? You can put your game on there right now with no hassles.